Mother-Daughter Team Helps Dancers Thrive at Premier Academy of the Performing Arts
Writer / Jamie Hergott
Premier Academy of the Performing Arts, owned by Meaghan and Dionne Molsberry, is a gem in Hendricks County. This mother-daughter team prides itself on running a family-friendly and all-inclusive studio. But don’t be fooled – their competitive edge was clear this summer when they brought home no less than 20 trophies from a national competition.
“We were blown away,” Meaghan says.
The dynamic duo took over the academy in 2014, teaching 70 to 80 kids in recreational and competitive dance. The studio offers tumbling and various styles of dance, including tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, modern, pre-pointe, pointe, hip-hop, creative movement, and combination classes for ages 18 months to adult.
The studio team members pride themselves on their accomplishments, and their pile of trophies from nationals includes seven national champions and four big-show winners. However, for Meaghan and Dionne, the studio is much more than a place to win trophies.
“While being competitive is a beautiful place to be, I never wanted just that,” Meaghan says. “I wanted to create a studio where kids could come dance and also do their other things. They can go to church and dance. They can be engaged with their families and dance. They can do sports and dance. Kids can be academic all-stars and dance. I wanted my kids to have that opportunity.”
The studio has grown from four classrooms to five classrooms, plus a study room, lounge and costume room. The number of dancers has swelled to 250 students.
Even in the dance industry, Meaghan and Dionne have had to pave their way with a women-owned business.
“I was asked multiple times when we started if my husband was going to help me do this,” Meaghan says.
Dionne says it took them about five years before they were treated as the sole owners of the business. When they had to get work done, such as flooring, salespeople would wait for boyfriends or husbands to come in to make the decisions. It was even a struggle to be taken seriously at the bank.
“We really felt like they didn’t take us seriously,” Dionne says. “We have finally been able to carve our place so we get the respect a man would have gotten in starting this business. There’s been huge progress in women’s business ownership in the past 10 years. The whole world is changing.”
While these women can’t do it all, they have an incredible and supportive community that helps them outsource certain tasks and projects for quality work.
“We advocate for these kids all the time,” Meaghan says. “We had to learn that advocating for ourselves was another way to advocate for them.”
Meaghan and Dionne thrive on providing the kind of studio Meaghan loved when she was growing up. Their humble beginnings push them to create an organic community of dancers who find purpose and connection at the studio.
“I’ve been dancing since I was 2 years old,” Meaghan says. “My mom took me to a super-tiny studio off 38th Street. I walked in there and never looked back.”
While Meaghan wasn’t competitive, she never had stage fright and basically lived at the studio throughout her youth, going after school and on the weekends. Her mom worked the front desk to help pay for more classes. For Meaghan it wasn’t even just about dance. Dance was a tool to help her cope with life.
“It’s helped me with so many other things,” Meaghan says. “It has taught me dedication, hard work and taking corrections well.”
Meaghan was in the second grade when her father was diagnosed with cancer. At such a young age, she used dance as a getaway so she could cope emotionally with the trials in her family’s life.
Meaghan opted to stay in Indy after college to spend time with her mom and increasingly sick father. She took an opportunity to help a friend teach classes at her studio during that time, and stumbled upon a new discovery about herself – she loved to teach.
“As much as I loved to dance, I loved teaching more,” she says.
The studio owner called her one day to inform her that she was moving, and to ask Meaghan if she would like to buy the studio.
“I saw two distinct paths,” Meaghan says. “I saw my dreams, the ones I always fought for, and I saw the safe path.” She ran the idea past Dionne, who assured Meaghan they should go for it. When her dad passed, he left her the exact amount of money she needed for the down payment.
“He knew I was passionate about dance,” Meaghan says. “I have no doubt he’d be incredibly proud of me.”
Meaghan and Dionne embarked on a learning journey. They visited countless other studios, talked to other studio owners and got advice from people in all levels of the industry. For Meaghan, hiring her mother was a no-brainer.
“We’re a dance family,” Meaghan says. “I wanted to create that family feel and culture here. The most important person here will be the person they see when they walk through that door.”
And Dionne is that person. She works the front desk, jumps in when she’s needed, and supports Meaghan and all the dancers however she can.
“My job at the studio is to hug kids, encourage them and pass out suckers,” Dionne says, laughing. “I get paid in hugs. It’s the best job ever.”
Meaghan and Dionne are in sync with their expectations for the studio, creativity, passions and mutual respect. They rarely argue and they’re together all the time. While Meaghan adores having her mother around, Dionne equally adores watching her daughter soar.
“It’s so cool when we’re at a convention and famous people call my daughter by name,” Dionne says. “I just love watching when she’s dancing or making a name for herself in the industry.”
Each month the studio’s staff members refocus on some of their top values – compassion, kindness, bravery, tenacity and dedication.
“Sure, we bring home a bunch of trophies and that’s great,” Meaghan says. “But trophies break. We are not building professional dancers, but professional adults – kids that know how to get along, kids that have a good work ethic, and kids that have drive, dedication, passion and compassion.”
Meaghan and Dionne not only credit their amazing dancers, but also their families, for helping to create such a supportive atmosphere at the studio. If having an inner circle of support wasn’t enough, they also feel embraced by the entire Hendricks County community.
“We are blessed more than you could ever imagine by these families and our community,” Dionne says. “We try to be really open and draw anyone in who wants a positive dance experience. We are here for the kids on their journey to adulthood.”
For more info, visit premieracademyofdance.com.