Owner of Nine Ladies Dancing sees business as a chance to inspire
Movement and morality come together in Nine Ladies Dancing Dance Academy, a Christian-based studio opening this week at 142 S. Foster St. in Saukville’s River Valley Center.
For owner Cari Allison, the studio represents a blending of her love of dance and her commitment to her faith,
“The program will not only teach children the basics of dance, but will also incorporate lessons based on teachings from the Bible,” the 30-year-old Allison said.
“Dance provides children with confidence, creativity and discipline, but most importantly instilling a strong belief system in God is exactly what children need.”
Allison is the mother of three boys, Kevin, 7, Liam, 4, and Isaiah, 4 months.
You might think that keeping up with such a growing family would be enough of a challenge without tackling the daunting task of starting a new business.
“I have to keep busy. I really believe this is God’s plan for me,” Allison said.
She said she can trace her fascination with dance to her own youth.
“I was 4 years old and I was watching TV while my mother was working in the garden when this dancer came on and did the most beautiful movements I had ever seen,” Allison recalled.
That dancer was a ballerina performing a scene from “The Nutcracker.”
“I ran out to the garden and told my mother, ‘You have to see this. That’s what I want to do,’ and I have been dancing ever since,” Allison said.
Since then, she has been a student of ballet, tap, jazz, modern, lyrical, hip hop and African dance at various studios around Milwaukee.
While attending Milwaukee’s Pius X High School, Allison — who was Cari Bickle at the time — studied dance and performed with the dance team.
After graduation, she was chosen to become a member of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Energee Dancers.
“I was 18 and thought that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Allison said. “I quickly learned why a lot of the girls were picked for the team, and it wasn’t for their dancing.”
That is when she decided to get serious about her dancing career, completing a bachelor of fine arts degree in contemporary dance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts.
On the side, Allison picked up a marketing degree.
She was a performing intern with Oni Dance and Wild Space Dance Company, and performed in Summerdances 2010 and Winterdances 2011 for choreographer Elizabeth Johnson. In 2013, she danced for award-winning choreographer Stephen Koplowitz in Milwaukee.
Since then, Allison has taught dance in West Bend, the Grafton Recreation Department and the Feith Family YMCA in Saukville.
All along, though, she said she had a dream of opening her own studio. Just ask her husband.
“I met Gerald when we were in college. After we had been dating for just a couple weeks, he said, ‘I want to marry you and be there when you cut the ribbon on your own studio,’” Allison said.
Her husband manages the Woodlake Market in Kohler and has lent invaluable expertise to the new studio.
“He is definitely my numbers guy and my biggest cheerleader,” she said.
Although she has been active as an instructor elsewhere, Allison said she realized she could more effectively introduce her strong Christian values to dance only as part of her own studio.
Then, serendipity struck.
While taking her eldest son to taekwondo classes at the recently relocated Lakeshore ATA in Saukville, Allison learned that studio space was available just across the hall.
She met with building owner Peter Kowalchuk, and a lease agreement was drawn up.
The simple studio space sports a large blackboard where students can post drawings and inspirational quotes.
It was a different inspirational source that led to the studio’s unusual name.
Nine Ladies Dancing is drawn from the popular song “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
“I learned that the nine ladies actually represent the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit — love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and modesty. That was perfect for what I wanted the studio to be about,” Allison said.
She said modern dance often strays pretty far from modesty, but students in her classes will be instructed to dress appropriately.
Initially, the studio will only offer three series of classes on Monday afternoons, although the building owner has already talked about the possibility for expansion if the demand grows.
“The goal is 50 students,” Allison said.
The first series of six-week sessions will run from March 7 through April 11, and will offer classes for students ages 4 and 5, ages 6 and 7, and ages 7 to 10.
The six-week program will cost $55 if paid in advance.
An open house will be held at the studio from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26.
Photo Credit: NINE LADIES DANCING owner Cari Allison (top photo) helped her nieces Maria and Hannah Bickle stretch at the soon-to-open Saukville dance studio. At left, the girls left inspirational messages on the studio’s blackboard. An open house is planned for Friday, Feb. 26.Photos by Mark Jaeger