Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda, CAN! Adult dancers can learn new steps at Lines Vermont Studio05/26/2021 04:19PM ● By Kristie L. Smith Nikitin
Ballet photos by Luke Awtry Photography
Once upon a time, two little girls took dance lessons. Megan Stearns liked creative movement class when she was six. June Buechner Carney enjoyed ballet class in elementary school. Both women were enlivened by rhythmic activity and began years of formal training. In June of 2019 they opened Lines Vermont Studio. Their dream was to host a space where all skill levels could study side by side and have fun. Lines welcomes adults, encourages all to participate at the highest levels of the occupation, and provides tutelage by leading professionals in their respective fields.
“[It’s] like a gym for dancers,” says June. With a wide variety of classes from ballet to burlesque taking place throughout the day, students can drop in on a session—like at a health club. The structure allows parents to pop in after a long day and accepts last-minute bookings because… life happens In addition to offering classes for adults at all levels, Lines offers supplemental training opportunities for younger dancers enrolled elsewhere. There’s a boutique that specializes in apparel, shoes, and accessories for clients at every level. Lines for the Body, established in 2008, was the prequel to the Lines Vermont Studio and Store.
Outside the Box Step
The market for traditional instruction was somewhat saturated in the Burlington area. Thinking outside the box step, Megan and June wanted to offer an experience beyond tutus and recitals. June says, “We want to give the opportunity of dance to those who grew up wishing they could have, and never did, or those who danced in the past and miss it, or those who currently dance and want to stay in shape being a teacher or current professional.”
According to Megan, “Lines is the first drop-in dance studio in Vermont designed primarily for adults. We wanted to create a space where adults could feel comfortable—even as total beginners—with a model that accommodates their busy, unpredictable schedules.”
Historically, ballet has been rife with racial discrimination and other obstacles that keep gifted dancers from pursuing their dreams. “We wanted to acknowledge and rectify the racial inequities that dancers of color have faced in the professional dance world.” Working with a consultant, Megan and June streamlined ideas and clarified goals to help remove barriers faced by BIPOC dancers in ballet. With this in mind, Megan and June forged the Diversity in Dance Scholarship Fund to help level the stage for those who identify as BIPOC. The fund offers Black and Indigenous people of color access to training, audition resources, and mentoring at no cost. Many other Vermont businesses and organizations have stepped up too. Since its inception in 2020, there has been one scholarship recipient who will use the financial award for private coaching at Lines, attending classes at Lines, and having an audition video made by Lines. (Her parents are paying for her to attend a prestigious summer program.)
Bringing the Footlights Home
The Diversity in Dance Scholarship Fund isn’t the only way Lines is different. Lines offers clinics taught by notables in dance from outside the state. The performing arts community in Vermont can feel very isolated. To bring the footlights a little closer to home, they created the Master Class Series. These seminars “give Vermont dancers access to some of the best dancers and teachers in the world, outside of Vermont,” says Megan. “Before the pandemic, we brought in teachers almost monthly in ballet, hip hop, jazz, modern, and other dance forms.” The COVID-19 pandemic has stunted the series and made offering these opportunities a lot more challenging. “We’re hoping that will change over the summer,” Megan says.
Master Classes weren’t the only sacrifice of the pandemic at Lines. The studio closed for two months during 2020 but Megan and June were able to move many of the groups to an online format, working only for donations. They invested in the technology necessary to provide quality online options. Megan says, “Fortunately, our wonderful clients stuck with us!” Lines reopened in June of 2020 with strict safety guidelines, and it has remained safe with no known transmission of the virus.
After being deluged with a pandemic in year number two of operation, Lines is still poised to do well. Their adult classes, coupled with the BIPOC scholarship and Master Class Series, simultaneously grow the craft and encourage a following for generations to come.