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Mia Bella’s Dancers: From Non-Existent to National Champions in Seven Months

| July 29, 2010

mia bella dance studio palm coast city walk marketplace

Alex Seard has reason to soar soaring during his hip-hop class at Mia Bella dance studio. (© FlaglerLive)

Eight months ago there was nothing more than an empty storefront in Suite D201, an upstairs corner-store at City Walk. Seven months ago, Brie Valenti opened Mia Bella, a dance studio for children as young as 2 and as ambitious as Baryshnikov. Four days ago Valenti took her competition team to Gatlinburg, Tenn., for the national Celebration Talent Competition, where they competed with 800 dancers from 26 studios.

Yesterday (July 28), Valenti and her students returned national champions in the rising star category, and Valenti herself won best choreographer overall. “For a studio that’s been open for half a year, you can imagine the possibilities,” Valenti says, sitting down for a quick recap of the last few months and days. She took her breather at Venuto’s, the ground-floor pizzeria, while hip-hop instructor Alex Seard was conducting a class overhead.

For Valenti, who’s just 28, dancing is what she’s done since she was 7. It’s in her blood and her soul, she says, her tongue twirling on the pun. She credits her grandmother, who danced in the 1930s until marriage and more crimping values put an end to that. Not at the Mia Bella Academy of Dance, where the words on the wall are about “changing the world one dancer at a time.”

Valenti, an artist-in-residence at Matanzas High School—she’s choreographed and managed dancers at the Backstreet Boys’ Howie Dourough club in Orlando, appeared as an extra in Adam Sandler’s “Water Boy” and has studied or danced with the Moscow Ballet and the Orlando Magic—wanted a one-stop dance studio in Palm Coast that offered as many styles and to as wide an age range as possible. Mia Bella is it: ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical or contemporary dance, along with—brace yourselves, all you purists out there—musical theater and pilates.

brie valenti palm coast dance mia bella studio

Brie Valenti.

The studio itself is “tailor-made to a little girl’s dream: it’s pink and zebra,” Valenti says. That’s no understatement. The place is a cross between the set of something girlish on Nick Jr. and a doll’s house (absolutely, positively not Ibsen’s), though the dance floor itself is almost all business—polished wooden floors, wall-length mirrors, balance bars and the unobstructed view of the latest storms brewing outside, or what’s turning into the county’s most varied artist colony: J.J. Graham’s Hollingsworth Gallery is a few pirouettes across the City Walk lot, the Art League’s gallery is moving in in a matter of days, Fred Astaire has one of its franchise dance studios in another building, and who knows what may be next. City Walk’s foreclosure status may soon be as much a memory as its name, which will soon switchto something like Palm Coast Marketplace.

Mia Bella itself is having its own growth spurt. The studio started with 20 students in January, 14 of them in the competition team. The studio now has 75 students, 30 in the competition team, despite opening in what’s considered the middle of the dance season in January. It’s enrolling for the fall and will soon hold try-outs for the competition team.

A few basics: the studio is open Monday through Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are six instructors, including Valenti. The studio’s students get to perform in two public recitals a year at Matanzas High School, including this coming Dec. 5 and 6 and again in June (that date yet to be set). The details are all at the website.

Trail classes are always free. Beyond that, it’s not cheap: the cost per class ranges from $25 to $40, depending on how many classes students register for and how many children from the same family are enrolled (the more, the cheaper), but there’s also a $135 to $155 rate for unlimited classes per month.

To Valenti though, “it’s very much not just a business,” she says. Her students have birthday parties and sleepovers there, off the clock. And there is that matter of trophies , which are beginning to crowd out the pink and the zebra.

A quick look at the winners:

  • Alyssa Waldman: High Gold, 1st overall high score petite lyrical solo, 2nd overall high score all petite solos
  • Jazmyne Valenti: High Gold, 5th overall junior high score solo
  • Alyssia Ziegler: High Gold
  • Nicole Ziegler: Gold
  • Alyssia and Nicole Ziegler, Senior Duo: High Gold
  • Ashley Schoendorf: High Gold, Celebration Scholarship
  • Allie Flagg: Gold, 1st overall high score teen solo
  • Russell Tanenbaum: High Gold, 1st overall senior lyrical solo, 1st overall senior solo
  • Allie Flagg, Ashley Schoendorf, Russell Tanenbaum, “With or Without You,” Senior Trio: High gold, 1st overall senior lyrical trio, 1st overall senior trio
    1st place National Showcase Finale Champions
  • Brie Valenti, Senior trio: 1st place Choreography Award

 

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21 Responses for “Mia Bella’s Dancers: From Non-Existent to National Champions in Seven Months”

  1. PCer says:

    Congratulations to the kids. I just don’t like that they were standing in front of Publix begging for money to go to the competition. If you are going to fundraise, atleast offer something in return/

  2. Denise says:

    Thanks the kids do deserve congrats they did great. As far a begging for money, this and all the fundraisers are researched for viability before planning the events. The community in general that we spoke to before the event and during the event agreed that they would much prefer to make a donation to the organizations , without feeling the need to “purchase ” unwanted or unneeded items or services. We are thankful that we have such a wonderful community that is willing to support all of our children. Every weekend there is an organization collecting to help their kids fulfill their dreams. Never have I felt like a child is begging me for money. If collecting for a trip, uniforms, or basic needs of a team is begging let them all beg, I will always support the children of my community.

  3. Pierre Tristam says:

    Denise, you’re so right: most fund-raisers, school fund-raisers especially, are crocks. Having to buy this or that pointless item so the school gets trickle-down pennies–it works wonders for whichever business is profiting, but it’s little more than glamorized skimming at kids’ expense, and it leaves crumbs for the schools supposedly getting help. Fund-raisers should be straight-out dollar donations so 100 percent of the dollars go to the school or the dance studio or whoever else is raising the money. No bribing, no middle-business necessary.

  4. PCer says:

    I respectfully disagree. I would much rather give money to an organization that is doing a car wash or providing some other service. When Girl Scouts are selling cookies, I will buy the cookies and give a little extra. If a sports team is doing a car wash, I will always give a little extra. But I never give to the kids that are just standing there asking for money, regardless of the purpose of the fundraiser.

  5. Alex says:

    In many years of being part of school organizations and different sports, I HAVE ALWAYS done carwashes, bake sales, food sales, and etc… BUT, I Have also collected money from the streets.(PLENTY OF TIMES)
    I think it takes great courage and dedication to stand out on the street and ask for money and I think this shows how motivated the kids are about their goals and about their crafts. And I will NEVER ever neglect any kid from money just because of how the ask for it… My Point is…. With so many bad things going on in the world I WOULD always give money to a kid that is using it to follow their dreams and to do something as beatiful as dance NO MATTER HOW THEY ASK FOR IT…………

  6. Liza says:

    I have very happily given money to children outside of stores, etc to help them raise money to support their team.There are many worse places a child could be then outside a store asking for money to help them achieve something positive. As for the kids at Mia Bella, from reading the article it seems they DID give something in return, they brought home a National Championship to our city, quite possibly the first in dance, that I am aware of anyway! Many other awards too including a scholarship and a choreography award. To me that shows that my money was put to excllent use. Why do people always have to take something good and positve and turn it into a negative? Congrats kids, and if you read the comments, just remember, you worked hard and you have quite a bit to be proud of!!!! Good luck to you!! ( and if you are ever outside a store again, I will give you double…one donation for me and the other for the previous poster who dosen’t understand that it is better to give than receive!)

  7. celestinewolf says:

    You know….I’ve heard it said that what you do with your money is an extension of your spirituality….or love, that being said, it’s apparent that some still set conditions on their love….others choose to give of their love and their money freely. Congrats to everyone at the studio. Way to go!

  8. Liza says:

    Amen! Couldn’t have said it any better!

  9. PCer says:

    Not true. Love and money are separate. I do not put limitations or conditions on my love. But I do put limitations on my money. I ask for nothing in retrun for my love, but giving my money away to a private group that did nothing in return for the community is just a bad investment. I wouldn’t walk into a nursery school and hand over a couple of dollars so they can buy more toys for the kids. If Mia Bella (a private business) chooses to take the kids to a national competition, then they should have a way to pay for it. LIke I said before, have a car wash, do a bake sale at a church, put on a performance and sell tickets. There are plenty of things they could have done that would make those students realize that they don’t get to just stand around and ask for money. They did nothing to deserve the money you gave them, and they learned that it is okay to stand around and ask for something while giving nothing in return.

  10. Liza says:

    When my daughter was in dance, the studio, or “private business” as you put it, NEVER EVER paid the way for students to go to any event. I am quite sure it is still the same, the PARENTS foot the bill. If you had checked further, you would have noticed that they did do other things as well, such as a car wash, to raise money. Those kids did certainly do something to earn that money, they worked hard for it, were a dedicated team, learned good sportsmanship, and learned how to appreciate others who share the same love of dance as they do. If you don’t agree with how they raise money, that is fine, we all have our own opinions, you didn’t need to voice it on an online arena where the kids can certainly read it and think they have done something wrong. You could have just stopped with “Congratulations to the kids”. If you don’t like the studio, the parents, or the teachers, fine, don’t take it out on kids who work hard and stay out of trouble. As adults we are supposed to be responsible and raise our children to be good stewards, They did not do anything illegal and there are plenty of other sports groups that do the same thing, but I never read you saying you didn’t like it when they did it . Please PLEASE don’t turn this forum into a bashing session, if you can’t say anything nice, just don’t say anything at all.

  11. PCer says:

    Liza,

    I do not have a problem with the studio, or the kids. I think it is great that they did well at the competition. My problem is not with fundraising, it is with this type of fundraising. As I said, have a car wash, put on a show, do a bake sale. Just don’t expect something for nothing and standing in front of Publix asking for a person’s change as they leave is begging. If it were a homeless family standing out there doing the same thing for food, they would have been run off by Publix or the Police. I do not see a bunch of kids doing the same thing as any different. There are some organizations that do not allow this type of fundraising. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are a perfect example. In this case, the kids did nothing wrong. It was the parents and teachers who allowed them (and probably came up with the idea) to stand outside of Publix and solicit donations. I voiced an opinion, that is my right. If you don’t like it, then that is too bad. I still won’t give to kids (or adults) begging for money outside of stores.

  12. dancemom says:

    As A parent that does have a child at this studio, who’s child participated in this fundraising event, let me share with you my input. As Liza and Denise both stated, our children also do carwashes-One this weekend if you would like to come by since this method of fundraising is deemed acceptable by you PCer, bake sales, talent shows, and plenty of other fundraisers where as you put it, they give something back. It sounds to me by the way you continue to attack our children and most recently in your last post, the teachers and parents that put the kids up to it, that your issue is so much more then just being dis-gruntled about kids asking for donations. I find that sad that you have been so venement about tearing down what the kids did so innocently and with their hearts. I’m sure if you have been so active in this posting you would also take the time to research all the good things these children do for the community, and realize that they are giving back not only by obviously bringing back awards and attention to our community, but by sharing their love of dance with like minded supporters that want to see them succeed in all their endeavors. I will always support my kids, or any other organization, that do ANY type of fundraising, since so many businesses and recreational activities don’t offer that to parents. As previously stated,if you have a problem with the fundraising that is your right. But why post your personal issue on a forum discussing the kids and the awards they won? This article wasn’t about fundraising, so why the need to be so negative, unless you have an alterior motive to slander the children and the studio? I am proud that my daughter has enough self confidence and conviction to stand with her head held high and ask people to support her as she follows in her dreams, I am prouder still that if she ever happens to come upon the hurtful and clearly pointed comments displayed here by PCer, that she will also see the many people who made supportive comments and understand that while we are all entitled to share our opinion, the way we express it dosen’t have to be hateful or rude. Again, congratulations are in order-WAY TO GO KIDS!!! You have everything to be proud of, the first NATIONAL CHAMPIONS for dance in Flagler County! And PCer, I don’t want to engage in a verbal debate with you, you have more then expressed your opinions, and your point has been heard. Please refrain from any more negativity towards our children, as this article was only ever meant to congratulate the dancers on their amazing wins, not their fundraising methods.

  13. First, hardiest congratulations to the children for all the hard work they clearly put in and for being recognized in such a distinguished way.

    I am glad though that there is this open discussion about fund raising. Fund raising is fun for no one. But for most youth organizations they are a must in order to be able to do anything beyond the basics. In my home, if we are asked to buy something for a child’s fundraiser, we chose not to purchase any items, but rather give them a straight cash donation. I would much prefer the program asking for the help get 100% of what I’m giving vs. buying something I don’t need and the program only getting a fraction of the purchase. To me, being charitable means I’m not getting anything in return other than the joy of being able to help a child.

  14. palmcoaster says:

    Congratulations to Mia Bella Academy of Dance. It is nice to hear that there are children in Palm Coast that work hard as a team and have a love for dance. Every day we hear about all the negatives and it is nice to finally hear some positive news about our local children. Keeping children off of the streets and teaching them to be team players will help these kids as they enter adulthood.
    As far as fundraising goes, no one likes to do it but it is a necessity. No one twists your arm to contribute so I do not see anything wrong with these kids asking for donations. I donated when I was at Publix that day. The children were very genuine and grateful. I find that to be wonderful and it is nice to see smiles and hear a thank you. I am glad that I was able to contribute to a winning team. Way to go Mia Bella.

  15. InPC says:

    Good for Mia Bella! But I do have a problem with this article.
    Brie claims that these dancers are ‘hers’. If her studio has only been open seven months, like the article stated, how would her dancers win competition? There is no way anyone, no matter who you are, could train that many dancers from nothing, into something.
    And in the case that these dancers are in fact, not ‘hers’, it means other studios or schools have trained them before her. Meaning that to be completely ethical, she should’ve waited a year to call these dancers her own.
    She is obviously a good teacher and choreographer, as I am sure the other instructers are, but I did have an issue with this.
    That put aside, good luck to Mia Bella in any future competitions and so on.

  16. For Future Reference says:

    For future reference, Platinum is the highest award you can receive.

  17. PCalive says:

    It’s wonderful to hear that a team in Flagler County made it to Nationals, and won! Congratualtions to the kids, of course. And to the teachers because they have also worked hard.
    Although, I do agree with PCer. You don’t have to sell items or useless things, because people don’t usually want that. But car washes or bake sales, or dance shows would be great fund-rasiers. They teach the kids work. I’m not saying people shouldn’t get donations, but the children shouldn’t be outside begging for it.
    I also do have a problem with the fact that a lot of the kids think they are the best in Flagler. Yes, they are obviously very good dancers since they won such high awards. I know there are other dance schools in Flagler, and by the Mia Bella kids saying they are now the best in town, other children are being put down. It’s certainly not right, and the parents should be teaching sportmanship.
    With that, I do hope the team continues on and competes because it’s no doubt that they are very talented dancers.

  18. danceparent says:

    I felt the need to respond to clear up some “ethical” issues. I am the parent of a dancer at Mia Bella. Brie has actually taught “her” students more than a year, as she taught at another studio before opening her own. So actually, if you notice in the article, which is what the comments should be in reference to, the only time the students are referred to as “hers” is from what the author of the article wrote, not a direct quote from Ms. Brie. In the seven months she has been open, she selected the students, choreographed the routine and trained them in the routine. That alone is a credit to “her” and “her” students.
    Platinum is the highest award given out. At this particular event, again the one referenced in the article, there was only one given out in that age division. That particular group was in the dance showdown against Mia Bella, and did not even place in the top 3, but Mia Bella won 1st place. So, they did receive the highest honors, even though it was not a “platinum” award…..( but just to set the record straight, they do have several platinum awards to their credit).
    And last but not least, no where in this article does it mention that Mia Bella students are “the best”.
    The correct comments are that Ms. Brie is in fact a good teacher and choreographer, as shown by the award she received, and the students are good dancers, as shown by the award they received. This article was not written by Ms. Brie or anyone associated with Mia Bella, it was an interview, written in whole by the author. Mia Bella and/or Ms. Brie was not even aware of what was written until it was published. It was meant to celebrate the accomplishments of the dancers and teachers, give our community the attention it deserves to have National Champions, and to motivate other children to dance, no matter where they attend. We as parents appreciate your congratulations and want you to know that we do encourage sportsmanship in our children, we just wish that sometimes the adults had it too.

  19. supportourkids says:

    It is so very obvious that PCer and INPC have some personal vendetta against this studio that has nothing to do with fundraising or whether or not the dancers are “Mia Bella’s dancers” You have got to be kidding me with this nonsense. Why don’t you stop hiding behind ridiculous posts and deal with the people and issues you have directly. This was a great article about the accomplishments of a PHENOMENAL dance studio and dedicated group of dancers. GO MIA BELLA, you’re the best!

  20. VET says:

    I hope PCer did not go to the Golden Corral last weekend. A Vetern’s Motocycle Club was out there asking for donations to help send packages to the troops. I don’t know what she would have done if she gave a donation and didn’t receive a candy bar or cookies in return.

  21. ASH says:

    You know what this is not about winning a money it’s about having fun you just look like you work your kids untill they DIE!!!!

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