Diamond Dance Studio helps students shine

A Pine City High School graduate has created a home for dance in Willow River. Madeline Jahnz is the head of Diamond Dance Studio, and the young business owner said she is amazed to be going into their seventh season.

“I was a dancer my entire life,” Jahnz said. “It is just something I always did – it was my thing. It’s an art form, it’s a release, and it’s a way to get my creativity into something.”

She said that the Thorvig family of Sandstone helped encourage her to pursue a teaching role even as she was graduating from Pine City High School.

“They knew that East Central was looking for someone to teach dance,” Jahnz said. “They told me to check it out and I did. It just kind of happened.”

Soon she was attending college at University of Wisconsin-Superior, and was also teaching dance two days a week at East Central.

She said that Tom Jensen – the father of one of her students – helped her find the building that currently houses Diamond Dance Studio. At the time, she wasn’t quite sure she wanted to plunge into the business of running a dance studio.

“It was still scary taking it on as a full-time career,” Jahnz said. “[Tom] came to me and said, ‘I have this building for you. It’s perfect for you. Let’s work together.

“He just gave me the opportunity,” she said. “It just kind of blossomed from there and I was able to make a career out of it.”

‘The excitement is so much fun’

Jahnz said she was happy to move more into teaching, and to discover that her greatest talents lay in areas other than dance.

“I wasn’t a strong dancer, to be honest, but I’m really good at organizing and the business side of it – and connecting with people.”

Jahnz said her specialties are the jazz and open styles of dance, but she also teaches ballet, lyrical, tap, hip hop and musical theater. Her students range from ages 2-18. Many of her dancers are from the Willow River, Sandstone, Finlayson and Askov, but she has some coming from as far away as Hinckley, Pine City and Barnum. She said that she has had many dance students who are able to do things she was never able to accomplish at their age.

“When they get a skill ... it is really cool,” she said. “That is the best.”

Diamond Dance Studio usually holds its public performances at East Central High School.

“It is kind of a central location for all my dancers,” Jahnz said. “And the auditorium is really nice.”

In a normal year the studio would hold two recitals a year and then have competitions from February through May. Of course, 2020 is anything but a normal year. But Jahnz  said that when the COVID-19 shutdown was announced, they were able to pivot quickly.

“We started doing Zoom [lessons] right away,” she said. “I was really shocked, because everyone stuck to it. I lost maybe a handful [of students], but not many people dropped.

“It’s a lot of one-on-one time. I’ve been posting a lot about different tricks we’ve been working on, like a no-handed cartwheel flip. Oh my gosh, the excitement is so much fun. I literally have goosebumps ... just seeing them accomplish something.

“There was one week where we learned a new skill – a really advanced skill. It’s called a knee drop. You jump up into the air, land on your knee and roll out of it. It’s hard. I was never able to do that when I was a dancer. And we taught it virtually, so that was pretty cool.”

Jahnz laughed, thinking about the whole effort to teach dance over streaming video. “Not everyone enjoyed it, but everyone kept to it and we got through it. We ended our season at the end of May and we took a break for a while, and now we’ve just been doing the private lessons.”

‘I just see the potential in all the kids’

Jahnz said she feels her dance studio has found a home in Willow River.

“The locals have really welcomed me in,” she said. “And with COVID happening, they are the reason that I am able to continue.  If everyone had just dropped off, I wouldn’t have been able to make it as a small business.”

Jahnz said that in the end, her biggest satisfaction comes from challenging – and supporting – her young students.

“I just see the potential in all the kids,” she said. “I just know if they work hard enough and push for it, then they’re going to get it. The kids just need someone to say, ‘That was really good,’ and ‘You can do it.’ All they need is for someone to believe in them.”

Diamond Dance Studio is located at 8093 Highway 61 in Willow River. For more information email diamonddancemn@gmail.com or call 218-289-6888.

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