A mainstay of dance instruction in Hernando County, Serena’s Dance Palace is celebrating 20 years of helping students develop confidence and creativity through dance.
Owner and teacher of Serena’s Dance Palace, Serena Young opened her dance school in 1997. She began dancing at age 11 and most every day can still be found dancing with her students in her Spring Hill dance school.
“It was my mom who encouraged me to start dance classes,” said Serena. “And I’m so thankful she did.”
Serena and her dance troupe will celebrate the anniversary with two performance recitals on June 22 and 23, 2018 at Springstead High School Theatre.
Serena graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with a BA degree in Dance Studies, minoring in Theatre and Business Management. She’s also a nationally certified member of Dance Masters of America.
“As much as I love dance, I started at USF studying Business Management,” said Serena. “I had promised my family that I would focus on my education but I didn’t enjoy the courses at all so I auditioned to join the USF Dance Department instead and I was accepted into their program.”
Serena said she owes her dancing success to her mentors at USF.
“They encouraged me so much,” she said. “They recognized the passion in me.”
Serena was also chosen as Teacher of the Year at Powell Middle School.
“I was so honored to be recognized as Teacher of the Year in a Performing Arts at Powell Middle School that I felt it necessary to mention my USF professors in my speech,” she said.
Once just a dream, Serena’s dance school has flourished and she, along with her other instructors, now teach more than 70 students at the school located on Spring Hill Drive.
“We offer dance from age three all the way up to adult,” she said. “We offer a variety of classes for the young ones and we have discounts to encourage boys to join as well as discounts for families with many children.”
Serena began her dance career as an independent contractor right here in Hernando County when she joined the Hernando County Parks and Recreation Department in 1997 to offer dance instruction.
Back then, Serena first taught her 18 dance students in a double-wide trailer. But, as more and more students joined her school, every few years she would transition to larger premises to where she now leases a building of over 4,000 square feet on Spring Hill Drive. No mean accomplishment in her dance school expansions.
Serena organizes her students by grade and then ability.
“It is so rewarding to see a child learn a new movement or trick in a dance or and they sometimes surprise themselves,” said Serena.
She also has a dance competitive team that regularly trains for competitions and performances around the county and the Tampa Bay area. Including an annual performance in Walt Disney World.
Serena’s Dance Palace is an award-winning studio receiving special judges of words, best choreography awards, most entertainment, and placing high in all divisions all year long.
Just recently she took 10 of her students to a Dance Convention in Orlando. Of those 10 students, seven of them received scholarships and two actually received multiple scholarships and recognition for their hard work during the convention.”
She went on to say proudly that Kara Fortunato received a full scholarship to attend next year’s convention and by “invitation only” a scholarship to attend the company’s Gala in Las Vegas.
“Kara will get the opportunity to work with professional choreographers in the industry and perform during their extraordinary Showcase,” Serena said.
Other students, Emily Merkle and Kendal Kohlas, received $100 scholarship to attend their convention next year and Gina Caridi, also received $100 scholarship and was invited to perform during the Scholarship Ceremony at the end of the Convention.
Serena also mentioned her 8-year-old son, Bryce, received a $100 scholarship.
“These students were recognized and chosen out of hundreds of other dance students,” she said. “I’m so very proud of them all.”
Serena was also awarded a scholarship for “Group Leader,” the only teacher to receive this award at the convention.
“I strive for my students to learn teamwork, dedication and develop social skills, creativity and confidence through dance,” said Serena.
But, Serena stressed, “I feel it is also very important for them to give back to our community and teach the kids to do so by performing for retirement homes, hospice and at community events.”
“Dance is a very competitive field,” Serena explained. “It’s not always about technique, it’s about passion too.”
Serena also spends time helping her students prepare for auditions.
“I want my students to have confidence in the real world, so I teach them about auditioning,” she said.
“An audition is a nerve-wracking experience so I like to prepare them by doing mock auditions and taking them to workshops. Having done so has helped some of her students earn jobs dancing professionally,” she explained.
“We offer ballet, jazz and tap, contemporary and hip hop, which is what you often see on “So You Think You Can Dance,’” she said. “We also offer musical theater and improv, and break dance.”
Serena’s Dance Palace specializes in ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, musical theatre, contemporary, break dancing and acrobatics.
She began a new tradition this year…father and daughter. “This class will take its debut on stage for the first time during our 20th Anniversary recital!”
“I am completely grateful to be a successful running business for the past 20 years in the same county I grew up in. And I have to say this would not be possible without the support from so many people. And for that I am forever thankful.”
When she’s not at her dance studio, Serena spends time with her husband and two children.
Serena’s 20th celebration recitals will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 22 and at 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 23, in the Springstead High School Theatre. Tickets cost $18 p.p. and may be purchased at the door, via social media, or by telephone at 352.796.1991.
IF YOU GO
SERENA’S DANCE PALACE
17049 Spring Hill Drive,
Phone: (352) 796-1991
E-mail: [email protected]
Facebook and Instagram @serenasdancepalace