In 2015, sisters Ashley Dempsey and Alyssa Mulligan founded Premier Dance Co. to offer Lansing-area dancers something different.
“When we looked at the entire Lansing area, we didn’t see any truly strong technical programs, and that’s what we were looking at doing,” Dempsey said.
The duo spent five years in Haslett and two in Lansing before securing their current space in East Lansing in 2022. After renovations, the studio’s doors finally opened to dancers in mid-September, with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 1.
“The new facility is amazing. It’s 58,000 square feet, which is just huge for a studio space. We actually have four studios, which is the most we’ve ever had,” Dempsey said.
The move was a major step forward for the program.
“When we were in Lansing, we were just the competitive division, so we didn’t have a full studio offering. We’ve kind of restarted with a full offering of both recreational and competitive dance,” Dempsey said.
The new studio features 16 instructors teaching 78 courses to more than 100 youth dancers.
“What’s really cool about our program is, as our dancers graduate and head to college, we’ve been able to retain a handful of them to still be a part of our staff,” Dempsey said. “The commitment level is so high because they want to see the kids have the success that they had when they were part of the studio. It’s just awesome to be able to come full circle, being able to coach them as a dancer and then as an instructor.”
She and Mulligan began dancing as children while growing up in the Flint area. That’s why, most recently, they’ve capitalized on their expanded space to include younger age groups in their course offerings. They hope to be able to give Lansing-area children the same opportunities they had when they were young.
“Now that we’re in our forever home, we’re really trying to solidify ourselves within the East Lansing community and get the word out. We started a preschool and kindergarten program at St. Thomas, and we work at another local KinderCare right in East Lansing, near Abbott Road,” Dempsey said.
The studio also hosted its first summer camp this year. Dempsey said she and her sister will host three or four more local camps and travel to two or three conventions in cities like Chicago and Detroit over the next year or so, in addition to the competitive season, which starts early next year.
Stylistically, the studio offers many different courses. But some have proven to be more popular than others.
“I would say our jazz is what has been getting us recognized at the national level. We’ve won first, second or third at national competitions with our hip-hop. Our goal is to be very balanced and very strong in multiple areas, but I’ll say, I think what we get recognized for a lot is our contemporary and our hip-hop, and then that’s usually followed by our lyrical and our jazz,” Dempsey explained.
She said the studio also offers free trial courses and designates a week where dancers are encouraged to bring a friend to class. The goal is to expose prospective new dancers to the experience to see if it’s something they’re passionate about pursuing.
“I think, honestly, having it in TV shows has been incredibly helpful,” Dempsey said of popular shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” which she believes have helped bring new dancers onboard.
She hopes continued exposure to dance in popular culture will strengthen Greater Lansing’s dance legacy.
“Our goal is to further immerse ourselves in East Lansing so that everyone knows we’re here. We have qualified teachers and a beautiful facility, but the best way for us to grow is just through word of mouth,” she said.
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