Dancing Queen: Leah Queen marks seven years of studio success
By Jesi Livingston
Photos by Jodi Hyde
September 2013, Leah Queen opened Shining Star Studio of Dance on Sparkman Street.
Queen grew up in the Hartselle area and took dance lessons at Kim’s Dance Studio from the time she was 6 years old until the end of her high school career. After high school, Queen went to Huntingdon School of Dance and obtained a degree in instructing dance pedagogy.
“I knew when I was about 10 years old that I wanted to teach dance and in high school that I wanted to open a studio,” Queen said. “It took me awhile to be able to do it, but it was always my dream.”
Although 6 years old might seem young to discover a life–long passion, Queen actually started her dance career even younger – when she was about 2.5 years old. “I originally started in a fine arts program in a church, then I moved to Kim’s School of dance all the way through high school. I was on the competition team and was there almost every day,” Queen said. “After I got back home from college, I worked at Kim’s School of Dance until I got the opportunity to open up my own studio. I actually taught one of my instructors, Hollie Fuller.”
Fuller and a third instructor, Marissa Johnson, join Queen in teaching the shining stars at the local studio. Like Queen, both Fuller and Johnson grew up dancing and boast many years of experience to drive their instruction.
Queen’s studio offers a range of dance choices to accommodate all ages and skill levels. She offers ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, lyrical, modern, acrobatics, hip hop and fliphop, which combines tumbling and hip hop, as well as Zumba and barre fitness. On top of the classes Monday throught Friday, the studio also participates in community events, recitals and dance competitions.
“Our students are at the studio between five and eight hours a week,” Queen said. “We want them to be well-rounded dancers.” She said most take ballet, tap, jazz and contemporary dance classes. “We wanted to fill a need – you can do everything at one place and not have to drive to multiple places. We provide it all at one place.”
Shining Stars accepts students from 18 months through adult, and enrollment is always open. Prospective students can choose to attend trial classes available at the studio before committing to a contract – two classes for $10.
Although Queen has found great success in her past seven years operating Shining Star Studio of Dance, 2020 brought unprecedented challenges. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the studio closed down for the month of May but was able to reopen in June. Like so many, Queen and her staff sought out innovative solutions to continue offering lessons to their dance students.
“We were one of the first studios to go virtual,” Queen said. “We finished the month of March on Facebook Live. We learned about Zoom, and we did April on Zoom. It was getting harder and harder to get on time, we were at a point where – Zoom was very stressful; the whole system of Zoom was overwhelmed. As a studio, we had a terrible experience with it.”
Shining Star students even did their spring competition virtually, instead of traveling to competition. Their mini-duets won first place in the virtual competition.
Although virtual avenues helped the studio maintain normalcy to a certain extent, that wasn’t a foolproof solution. The studio’s end-of-the-season recital, set for mid-June, was canceled.
“We still did a little drive-through awards for them,” Queen said. “They all got their shirts they would have gotten at the recital, and we gave trophies to the 3-year-olds and up and passed out ribbons for the others. They could get out of their cars and take pictures with us and stuff.”
The dance studio has 20 students actively enrolled. Queen said she is thankful for the continued participation despite the pandemic; she and her staff weren’t sure what to expect after they were forced to close.
Visit the studio’s Facebook page @Shiningstardance or stop by their location on Sparkman Street, across from World Harvest Church, during business hours.
PHOTOS – Two sisters in the other room doing a new class called Fliphop.
Team dancers were doing tricks in photos