Laurel Soderstrom-Davis, MDE

Owner and Director, Laurel School of Dance, Danville Illinois

For 20 years, Laurel Soderstrom-Davis, MDE, has set the curriculum, taught the classes and choreographed the recitals at her namesake dance studio, Laurel School of Dance in Danville, IL. Today, her studio boasts 160 students in a variety of disciplines, including ballet, tap, jazz and acrobatic.

“I like it because I have more control over things,” she says. “I have assistants, but I do all the teaching and choreography.”

Soderstrom-Davis has been teaching for 30 years and has been attending CNADM workshops twice a year since she was 13. “I knew I was going to teach at 13 years old,” she says “I’ve been going to CNADM since then to continue my education.” She formally became a member in 1988, and was recently elected to the Board of Directors in July 2011.

In addition to her CNADM certification, Soderstrom-Davis studied at Illinois State University and Northwestern and studied under some well-known CNADM members, like Katherine Cromwell and Marilyn Nelson Hansgen, MDE.

When she attended her first CNADM conference, Soderstrom-Davis attended the professional sessions, since there were no student sessions at that time. The sessions continue to play an important role in her professional – and personal – life. “Coming up with new ideas is really the hardest part of running your own studio,” she says. “These workshops jump start you ideas, and I look forward to seeing my friends there too.”

Soderstrom-Davis also brings her students to the workshops, which is unlike her early experience with the organization. When she stated in CNADM, there was no student tract, so she attended classes with other teachers. The student-centered activities are so important in a time when her students are involved in so many activities. “You have to work around a lot more activities to keep your older students,” she says. “I challenge them, take them to New York and Chicago to keep them interested.”

In an effort to expand her studio’s offerings – and keep students active and interested – Soderstrom-Davis has started working with the pom teams in her area, bringing them in to the studio to teach them more traditional dance techniques. “These days, the pom teams are hip-hop and dance-based, which is different than when I was in school,” she explains. “But they want to compete at a higher level, and the need to know more dance technique to do that.”

Like most studio owners, Soderstrom-Davis saw a drop in enrolement during the recession, but she does see it improving over the past two years – which is all part of owning and operating your own dance studio. “You have to ride the wave,” she says. She is looking forward to her 20th anniversary celebration on May 26, 2012, when she expects many of her former students to return to Danville – an event that will just further reinforce the benefits and personal sacrifices she’s made along the way. “You have to have the drive [to own your own studio],” she explains, “and just keep with it.”