The pandemic this year placed a lot of immediate stress on dance studios, who had to find a way to change their business model during unprecedented times. One dance studio pivoted in such a unique way, the word of mouth about their online classes grew from 68 students to over 2,500 kids in five months.

Lovely Leaps Dance Studio in San Marcos, California has found a way to thrive and give children a creative outlet virtually. Lisa McCabe, owner and founder of Lovely Leaps, realized that an ordinary dance class online wasn’t going to translate well for her young students. She created theme classes with princesses and choreography inspired by Disney Channel’s original movie musicals.

“I admired a character company, Magical Princess Parties, in my area for years and I just never had a reason to partner with them,” McCabe explained. “So I hit them up to appear and perform during the class and she was totally on board and it blew up from there.”

She then took the classes to the next level by involving her older students and developing themes that would appeal to their age group.

virtual dance classes

Photo credit: Lovely Leaps Dance Studio.

“I started creating classes after popular shows, but with simplified dance moves,” she said. “I did a Descendants dance class and had them play a villain similar to what they saw in the dance movie. That’s what catapulted us into the thousands of students.”

The outside-the-box strategy did come at a cost. McCabe wound up teaching four classes a day, six days a week, which eventually caused her to develop spasmodic dysphonia and muscle tension dysphonia. The neurological condition sends signals to the voice box telling it to spasm and making it difficult to speak without sounding hoarse or raspy. The stress of the situation became a business liability and McCabe had to pivot once again.

“I had parents giving me a bad review because of my voice. It hurts my feelings because it’s an extension and a reflection of me. I was a little down, but I thought we could replicate this,” she revealed. “So I hired four or five teachers. I taught them the class and we skyrocketed to 2,500 students this month.”

McCabe is undergoing treatment for her voice and she’s still teaching four classes a week, including two free virtual classes on Thursdays for her youngest students. She has also discovered that her paid classes are where she is seeing the most growth at Lovely Leaps. At just $15 a class and a variety of classes to choose from, it’s become a go-to option for families who want to keep their kids moving and grooving during their virtual schooling day.

Dance class with kids

Photo credit: Lovely Leaps Dance Studio.

Lovely Leaps successfully ran several in-person camps this summer before California enacted a second shutdown. McCabe hopes to offer in-studio classes again once it’s safe to do so. The pandemic has also opened her eyes to new possibilities as a business owner.

“I never thought I would be teaching kids in Australia or Europe. I thought I would be impacting kids and the city of San Marcos. The fact that this was able to happen; the sky’s the limit,” McCabe advised. “Don’t be afraid to spend money in a wise way. We bought an Apple laptop to play music so the kids could hear it and we invested in a speaker system that was four or five hundred dollars. After that, things have been pretty seamless with the technical stuff.”

Despite the unexpected year she’s experienced as a business owner, McCabe is reflective of how this turn of events impacted her positively. It’s given her even more purpose as a dance educator and the opportunity to build a global community.

“I am impacting kids and families, even though that wasn’t the intention,” she said. “I just wanted to teach dance, but now it’s changed to something so much bigger — we’re building relationships with these children.”

Catch more of our interviews over on our World of Dance Studios YouTube page.