CELEBRATING 35 YEARS OF DANCE
According to world-renowned dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham, “Dance is the hidden language of the soul.” And Sandy Young, owner and director of Young Dance Academy (YDA) in Oak Creek couldn’t agree more, as she describes the way dance has been an integral part of her soul for her entire life. Over the years, it was dance that catapulted her to prominence as an award-winning choreographer and then as proprietor of a highly successful dance studio – one well known for sending its dancers onto national acclaim.
Young’s love of dance and her dream of owning her own dance studio actually began in her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. where she began her dance training. Ultimately, life changes brought her to Milwaukee and in 1983 she founded Young Dance Academy. YDA had modest beginnings in a room at Faith Presbyterian Church on Rawson Avenue, but two relocations and about 15 years later, Young purchased the Academy’s current building at 181 W. Marquette Avenue. Today, YDA is proud to be celebrating its 35th season!
Young Dance Academy welcomes students age three and older, regardless of their level of experience. Classes in ballet, jazz, tap and hip-hop, as well as lyrical, musical theater, combo programs and yoga are all part of its dance curriculum. There is also a technique intensive program that accepts dancers by audition only, plus a competitive dance program that sends dancers to compete in regional and national conventions/competitions, and a progressive dance program for children with special needs. But regardless of level, “Our goal is to have all our students experience the enjoyment of dancing,” Young says.
Distinguished Faculty and Staff
YDA’s season runs from September through June. Its four spacious and fully equipped dance studios come complete with raised wood flooring, essential for the prevention of injury. Also, there is plentiful parking, a spacious and comfortable lobby, and helpful, friendly front desk staff. But its excellent, highly qualified staff of more than a dozen teachers, whose love and passion for dance and for teaching children of all ages, are the hallmark of the academy. Some of them have been with YDA for decades, and some even started their own dance training there when they were toddlers themselves. Not surprisingly, their lifelong commitment to dance and their years of experience have resulted in lengthy resumes packed with regional and national awards.
Owner Sandy Young’s daughter, Jenna Engen, who is also part of the YDA team, literally grew up in the dance world. In fact, one could say she has been dancing with the company since before she was born. After touring, teaching and performing internationally with the performance group The Young Americans after high school, she returned to Milwaukee and YDA where she enjoys being an instructor.
Young has collected her own set of top honors over the years. Her resume includes choreography featured at Summerfest and in shows featuring Bob McGrath from Sesame Street, Kinderconcerts with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and a back-to-school advertising campaign for Milwaukee Public Schools. She also co-choreographed the opening act for Danny Gokey’s album release concert in June 2014.
Not only does YDA provide fun and rewarding classes for children and adults who love to dance, it also provides the best training for those who want to pursue a future dance career. “Some of our students come from as far away as Germantown, Waterford and Sturtevant to take classes,” explains Young, “and many have gone on to excel in national and international dance companies.”
According to Young, dance is becoming more popular than ever, thanks to the emergence of TV shows that feature dance. “My son Nick auditioned for FOX’s, ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ and made it all the way to the Top 20 as one of the only tap dancers in Season 8,” she shares. “As interest in dance continues to grow, more and more people are discovering dance as an art form and as a way to stay in shape, both mentally and physically,” she adds.
A Family Affair
While Young Dance Academy’s commitment to excellence in dance education since 1983 has led to its outstanding reputation, Sandy Young is quick to attribute much of its success to the strong support of her family. “My husband, Bob, and my family (daughter Jenna and sons Nick and Zack – and now my son-in-law Shane and grandson Caleb) are my biggest supporters,” explains Young. “Bob does the majority of renovations and repairs at the studio,” Young says, adding, “even before our kids were dancing, he attended conventions and competitions in support of my dream. My kids all grew up dancing at the studio which allowed me to be with them during after-school hours – the prime operating time for dance studios.” YDA has definitely been – and continues to be – a family affair!
Young’s daughter Jenna relays how dance has shaped her life as well. “I began dancing at a very young age and always knew dance would be a part of my future. Although I never thought I would end up back in the Milwaukee area teaching at YDA, I cannot imagine being happier anywhere else,” she admits.
Young Dance Academy has been a dance destination in Oak Creek for decades, and Young is especially grateful that the community is such a supportive one. “I have always considered the City as my dance studio’s home. I especially love the new Drexel Town Square, which is within walking distance to the dance studio,” she says.
Giving Back to the Community
It’s easy to see that Young Dance Academy is invested in the community and takes great pride in giving back. Currently, YDA is collecting nonperishable food items for Feeding America. But YDA’s community support is ongoing. For example, The Muscular Dystrophy Association is a favorite charity, and to date, YDA has raised more than $50,000 for its benefit through an annual gift basket fundraiser. YDA has also donated funds raised for other charities such as Aids Walk Wisconsin, the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation, the Ronald McDonald House and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It has also hosted end-of-year events for children with special needs and their families from the Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District.
Thanks to YDA for its many contributions and for helping our children realize their dreams of being dancers!
Note: Looking to plan a unique birthday party for children? YDA is available for booking parties on select Sundays throughout the year, from either 11 a.m.-1 p.m. or 2-4 p.m. Cost is $15 per party attendee (min. paid 10 guests) and includes decorations, paper goods and utensils, snacks and juice, games, face painting, a balloon for each guest, and of course, dancing. All you bring is the cake!