Dancing in the dark? – Grand Rapids Business Journal

An “adults-only” dance studio has opened in the Monroe North business district. The two-year attempt to open the business kept the owners Hannah Miko and Paige Gaber on fingers.

It all started with a porch fever session in Eastown in 2020. Miko and Gabbert, both dancers, they were fed up with some discriminatory practices they witnessed at another dance studio. They wanted to belong to an inclusive community of dancers and joked that they would just have to open their own.

The idea caught on and the women decided to push it.

Miko’s day job is in the environmental non-profit sector and Gabbert is a photographer by trade. They knew they would need help navigating the process if they were going to go through with it.

The duo began seeking help from business coaches, the Michigan Small Business Development Center at Grand Valley State University, Opportunities for Women in Grand Rapids and other professional organizations aimed at fostering startups.

“Liz Hoffswell was very helpful,” said Miko, referring to a business consultant at the SBDC. “And the Monroe North Business Association, the support we’ve gotten from them has blown me away.”

They formed an LLC, held a fundraiser, searched for a long location and eventually settled on 1140 Monroe Ave. NW, commercial building with ample parking near bus lines and major intersections with bike lanes.

By May 2021, the two had managed to raise a decent amount of seed money and it was time to start renovations for Midwest Movement Collective LLC. They engaged a contractor and were really getting into the business ownership channel when they discovered a misstep.

“He asked us who we hired as an architect,” Miko said. She and Gaber were dazzled. Somewhere along the way, through all the coaching sessions, business development, planning and budgeting, this vital step in the process was missed.

“We thought it was their job.” Gaber said, referring to the contractor.

Gabbert spends his days (and evenings) tending to the front desk. “Every day was something new for the whole two years,” she said. But they stayed grounded and persevered through it. The studio opened its doors on June 12.

It features three separate spaces that are available to the public for hire when not in use.

The largest room is named after Josephine Baker, an American-born black burlesque singer and dancer who became famous in France in the 1920s. In this room, silks and sturdy pillars are attached to an extremely high ceiling.

Smaller group classes are held in two additional rooms; a yoga studio with a floor-to-ceiling window to the west and a room named after transgender ballerina Jayna Ledford that is used for smaller group classes.

The studio offers instruction at every skill level in ballet, contemporary dance, pole dance, aerial silks, tap, yoga, improvisation, belly dance, fluid movement, and more. Classes are offered at night, after hours to accommodate working people.

Flexible memberships allow dancers to choose different classes. People who would like to rekindle an old hobby without making a long financial commitment are encouraged to participate.

In keeping with the original mission, the staff is trained in inclusiveness, ensuring that dancers are free to be themselves in a judgment-free zone.

“This space is accessible to people who are socially conscious,” Miko said. She would like to see this become a permanent part of the community and is interested in partnering with other like-minded organizations and philanthropies. “However, Midwest Movement Collective is a for-profit LLC.”

“Yes, we have to make money,” Gaber added.

Midwest Movement Collective is co-owned and co-founded by two single women and is an intentionally inclusive space for people of all identities. Opening hours are from 16:00 to 21:00 on weekdays and from 11:00 to 21:00 on weekends. Learn more about the studio and upcoming events at midmovecollective.com.