MAPLE SHADE – Dana Randolph got pregnant at 19 and divorced at 21.
She loved her daughter, but the pressure of raising a child on her own and trying to figure out her life was often too great, she said.
Randolph, now 30, suffered from depression throughout her 20s.
One thing always brought her back to the center: dancing. She gave dance lessons after work and danced alone in her living room. She wanted to stop dancing several times but could never bring herself to do so, she said.
Today, Randolph also teaches younger girls to dance.
The Maple Shade resident owns Amped to Dance, a studio located at 4 N. Fork Landing Road. Specialized lessons in ballet, jazz, hip-hop and other types of dance are available for children aged 2 to 17, as well as additional lessons for those 18 and over.
In January 2020, Randolph, then program coordinator for the Police Athletic League, walked past the then vacant space on a date with his daughter. Randolph stopped dead and couldn’t help but gaze into space, encouraging his daughter to do the same.
She called her husband later that day.
“We are opening a dance studio,” said the longtime teacher.
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Randolph signed the lease, hired six part-time instructors, and built a class roster of 13 kids. Then the coronavirus pandemic struck, forcing the studio to close before it even opened. Randolph also lost her day job as a program coordinator for the Police Athletic League.
But she was determined to keep the lights on, making payments with her personal savings, her husband’s money, and a $ 5,000 grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
Amped to Dance finally opened in July, after New Jersey lifted its stay-at-home order, with a nine-week summer camp, attracting at least eight children a week.
Parents said they were encouraged by Randolph’s commitment to keeping the program safe, with a mask warrant, social distancing and hourly cleanings.
Over the summer, fall and winter, Randolph has built its clientele of about 60 children and 20 classes. The owner works full time at Amped to Dance, and while she’s not making a profit yet, she’s close, she said.
“I can’t wait to know when this really happens and I can get paid to do what I love,” Randolph added.
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Township resident Rebecca Masserini-Cooper sends her 13-year-old daughter Alexa to Amped to Dance. Alexa started in September because she was fed up with staying home during the pandemic, her mother said.
Now she takes four classes a week and spends her Saturday teaching young dancers. Even before the pandemic, Alexa would have hesitated to take on the role of teacher, according to Masserini-Cooper.
“You can see the confidence,” the mother said.
Township resident Aminha Howell also sends her 6-year-old daughter, Arielle, to the studio. Before starting summer camp, Arielle was down, according to her mother. She missed seeing her friends at school and other activities.
“She was asking why the schools were closed,” Howell said.
Now Arielle gives back-to-back classes every Thursday night, modern then hip-hop. When she arrives home, she wants to show Howell all of her moves. At extended family gatherings, she dances for the crowd.
“She came back to herself,” Howell said. “Bright light.”
Randolph needs around 30 more clients to turn a profit, and she’s confident she can make it happen, she said.
She gets emails and sees reviews from Google (her studio has a 4.9 out of five rating) on how kids feel transformed after going to Amped to Dance.
Besides Arielle, Howell has another daughter and a niece who attend regular classes at the studio.
“I always say to Dana, ‘You’ll see them grow up,’” the mother said.
If you are going to: 4 North Fork Landing Road, Maple Shade, 856-452-1028; ampedtodance.com
A local sports and news reporter in Pennsylvania and New Jersey since 2015, Jarrad Daniel Saffren joined the award-winning Burlington County Times local news team in October 2019, adding business, educational and municipal features to the coverage. . Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @JarradSaff. Help us support local journalism by subscribing to the Burlington County Times.