Dena Morley was a full member of the Toledo Ballet Company by age 16 and, among other productions, performed in the country’s longest running Nutcracker series for 11 years. But after she injured her back in a car accident, Morley decided to stop dancing professionally and instead dance for the joy and fun of it. She earned a degree from Miami University in elementary education, taught for a few years, then decided to stay home with her kids.
But by 2010 her love of teaching had combined with her first love, dance. She’d begun teaching at Cincinnati Ballet, when Morley was also asked if she’d be willing to start a ballet class at Lads & Lassies Community Preschool. “It was a class of eight little girls, and I loved it,” remembers Morley. “It blended my love of dance and of teaching. I had been a stay-at-home mom, and this just really filled my heart.” When her students moved up to kindergarten, they still wanted to dance, so Morley found studio space in Springdale.
One class turned into two, which turned into some time at the Wyoming Fine Arts Center, classes at Wyoming Middle School, then onto the Wyoming Recreation Center—with the program growing all along the way.
Over the intervening years, Morley’s modest program would grow into a large dance company featuring many of Wyoming’s children and young adults. She hired more teachers and offered more dance styles. Last year’s Alice in Wonderland performance, for example, needed to be split between two casts and four performances, because demand for roles and tickets to watch all 180 performers was so high.
With each production, she sees students overcome fears, learn poise and technique. “It’s just so cool to be giving children these opportunities,” says Morley, “whether they do one season or they go on to dance professionally.”
The trouble was, until now her program didn’t have enough studio space to incorporate a professional track for young dancers, and she’d started to lose students looking to really immerse themselves in technique. Her dream was to offer a program for everyone—something for those who want to dance for fun, exercise and cross training, and something for those who want to prepare to dance professionally.
To make her dream a reality, Morely recently transformed a new facility on Compton Road in Finneytown behind the plaza where Humbert’s Meats and Papa John’s Pizza is located. The new location will feature three studios, and this fall, Beyond the Barre will be offering more than 50 classes per week for children and adults. There will still be a few select classes held in Wyoming – a jazz and hip-hop adult class at the Wyoming Recreation Center, and two Tiny Dancer classes at Lads & Lassies preschool.
The new facility enables Beyond the Barre to offer a variety of new classes, including yoga, lyrical/modern, Pilates, tap for children and adults, and ballroom dance for adults. Morley will be introducing BtB Fit, a blend of strength, toning, and stretching that is gentle for adult bodies. In addition, Wyoming resident and teacher Spring Pillow will be teaching musical theatre, acting/voice and an acting/improv class for adults. Beyond the Barre will also offer progressing ballet technique (PBT)—a worldwide program that trains muscle memory to help dancers achieve their personal best in classical ballet. (Beyond the Barre is one of very few studios in the area that offers it.)
This year, students’ classes will focus on technique training, with a separate Performance Company for students who wish to perform in the Nutcracker and spring performance, Peter Pan. Additionally, all students will have the opportunity to show off what they’ve learned at a spring showcase.
Whether her students leave standing up taller, feeling stronger or finding a career, Morley considers one of her main goals to be maintaining a supportive culture. She realizes some dance environments can be competitive and catty. She won’t tolerate it. “Even though it’s not a team sport,” she explains, “I want them to feel like a family. I want them—if they’re having a bad day at school, for example—to know they are going to the studio and they’re going to feel better… have a team of friends that are going to support them.”
Classes began this week, with a celebration and ribbon cutting Friday, September 20. For more information, go to https://beyondthebarre.co/.