Female Feature Friday: Sophia Gallo
It is no secret that I am passionate about women's empowerment and women in leadership positions. As women's history month ended in March, a new series emerged here at The Honest Mama blog. Each week throughout April and May, Female Feature Fridays will spotlight local female entrepreneurs in Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities.
Meet Sophia Gallo, a family dance studio owner and instructor who inspires students from ages 2-18!
Name: Sophia Gallo
Business Name: Gallo Dance Studio
Tell us about yourself!
I am a single working mom just trying to create a beautiful life with my two year old son, Leo. I own a dance studio in St. Joseph with my mother, Jan Gallo. We offer dance classes to students ages 2 & up! I have many creative hobbies, including apparel design and floral arranging. I also enjoy gardening and have way too many houseplants!
When did your family open the studio?
My mom opened the studio in 2008 while I was in college at the University of Illinois. Our previous location was much smaller, but at the time we only had around 60 students. I started helping a couple nights a week and slowly became passionate about dance again, and made it my full-time career!
What made you decide to open the studio?
My mom has always taught baton and dance classes, and is still one of the most talented baton twirlers in the midwest. She opened the studio after I graduated high school, when she was no longer coaching the SJO high school dance team. We outgrew our old space pretty quickly, and found the perfect building for a much larger dance complex in 2013. The renovations were pretty extensive, and we are currently making plans to expand again. We are excited to be able to offer three classes simultaneously in the future!
Gallo Dance Studio is truly a family affair. What is it like working so closely and building a business with family members?
It is very rewarding and exciting, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. I feel like we are all very passionate about what we do, and sometimes different perspectives can feel personal, but there is always a lot of love involved.
How has the studio evolved since it first opened?
We have grown so much! We have added three very talented dance instructors. We also have two amazing ladies in the office, one who is my sister-in-law and the other is one of my closest friends.
Also, the number of performances our studio showcases has increased dramatically. At our first recital, we had only 10 groups performing, and one short recital. This year, we have 65 different dance routines performing in multiple shows!
What age groups and styles of dance do you teach?
We accept dancers ages two and up, and this year we have three students who are graduating from high school. At our studio, we offer ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, contemporary/lyrical and baton twirling. My favorite styles to teach are jazz, hip hop and contemporary.
People may not realize how much time and physical effort you put into what you do. Describe what your weekly schedule is like at the studio during the busy season.
Due to our classes being held in the evenings, I am able to stay at home with my two year old son during the day. I am so thankful that my job gives me the flexibility to do a lot of work and planning at home while taking care of my son. My Monday-Wednesday nights are pretty busy at the studio. Mondays are technique nights and I teach our competitive dancers from 3:30-9pm. On Tuesday evenings, I teach our recreational dancers and have 7 groups back-to-back. Wednesday nights, we meet with our competitive teams again to work on their routines.
When I am not teaching, I keep pretty busy planning studio events and creating all of our studio apparel. We have our annual recital next month, which is very exciting due to us needing to cancel last years due to Covid. We will hold a small summer session, and two different camps before we begin back up with our main 9 month long session beginning in September, so we keep pretty busy year round!
What motivates you to continue doing what you do?
I really enjoy the connections that we are able to make with our dancers and their families. It is so special watching all of our students grow and mature both on the stage and off! We truly have the best dance community and we are so grateful and proud. I feel my happiest when I am creating and making a difference. I am very thankful that my job keeps me inspired and gives me purpose.
What are the biggest challenges you face within your industry?
Covid definitely brought new challenges to our business and we are so thankful to have been able to work with each new guideline and keep the kids safely in the studio.
Prior to Covid, I feel like one of our challenges is finding a balance between working hard and having fun. We want to push our students to progress as dancers, but also want to offer a fun and safe environment. Finding that balance can be tough with our competitive teams, but I think we’ve managed to still have fun this season while working hard and following all the new guidelines.
How do you stay current with the changing trends in dance, and where do you look for inspiration when you’re feeling “stuck” creatively?
We all watch a lot of dance videos and get a lot of our inspiration from following our favorite choreographers and creators online. We also love to watch other teams while we are at competitions. Music is probably my biggest source of inspiration, and I am always on the lookout for interesting music or songs that induce emotions.
How do you balance “mom life” with a toddler and putting in so many hours at the studio?
I like to believe that I am pretty good at multi-tasking. I am always brainstorming and planning in my head, whether it is for new routine ideas, or problem solving for events or schedules. My son has been a contact-napper from day one, so a lot of my recent ideas have originated during nap time! We have such a great staff at the studio and I have an amazing support system that is so helpful when I am at my busiest.
I could personally talk for hours about the benefits that being a part of a dance team has on kids! What would you say are the top three benefits that kids and families can anticipate to receive from being involved in dance?
Learning to overcome obstacles and work towards end goals. I feel like I am a very goal-oriented person, and I am certain it comes from always being involved in team sports. It is so exciting to watch our students meet their goals in the studio and on stage!
Dancing and performing helps so much with confidence! It takes a lot of courage and confidence to get up on stage and perform for an audience. I am always so amazed to watch how poised our dancers are under pressure. Also, dancing improves coordination, which helps with posture and presence.
Dancing sparks creativity and expression, and improves memory! Dance is a unique sport because it combines activity and movement with art and story telling. Remembering dance steps is very much like remembering the words to a song. Most dancers have the ability to recall many of their dance routines from decades prior.
*We are now registering dancers for our summer session and dance camp!
Our 2021-2022 recital session will begin the week of September 7th! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org you have any questions.*
You can find Gallo Dance Studio online at gallodancestudio.com and on Instagram @gallodancestudio and @gallodancecompany