January 24, 2013
Dance class is a highlight of the week for 8-year-old Ella Gregory.
"I like that we get to do dance games and fun dances," said Ella of Winter Park. "We do cool things like hip hop."
Ella's hip-hop dance class is taught at the Winter Park Community Center by Nichole Rose Genchi.
"She is fun to dance with," Ella said of her teacher. "She has a lot of good dances to teach us."
Genchi, a south Florida native, moved to Winter Park in 2011, giving up two jobs she loved.
"I had a dancer's dream job in South Florida," Genchi said of her job as director of the Florida Panthers Ice Dancers, a dance team that performs during Florida Panthers' hockey games. Genchi also taught dance at a private school in Boca Raton.
"I loved it, but I was dating my boyfriend, and he moved to Orlando for law school," said Genchi, who recently became engaged to that boyfriend, Jon. "I didn't want to have a long-distance relationship, so I moved with him."
Genchi said it was scary to move to a new city with no job lined up, but she looked at the transition as an opportunity to pursue another dream: Opening her own dance studio.
"I missed dancing so much when I moved here," she said. "I would drive around looking for a place where I could open a studio."
What she encountered was high rent for decent locations and bad locations for reasonable rental fees.
"I wanted to have my studio in a family-friendly, safe place," Genchi said. "And I loved Winter Park, so I wanted to find a place here. It was just so expensive."
Genchi's luck changed when, by chance, she drove by the construction site for the Winter Park Community Center.
After doing some research, Genchi discovered that the building was the city of city-run Winter Park Community Center, and that it did have a space for dancing.
"I saw it as a miracle," she said. "It was a dance studio already built for me. I wrote a proposal to the city about offering dance lessons at the building, and it worked out."
When the community center opened in October 2011, Genchi started offering dance classes for children and teenagers.
"It was slow getting started, but soon we had 50 kids enrolled in classes," she said. "Now, we have about 100."
Genchi's dance studio, NRG-Dance Studios LLC, has not only offered Genchi a unique opportunity to have her own studio in Winter Park. It also has offered dance lessons to some children who otherwise might not have had the chance.
"Because the lessons are offered at the community center, the children are eligible for a scholarship program," Genchi said. "If they are on free or reduced-price lunch at school, they qualify for a 50 percent discount on recreation programs offered by the city. This allows so many kids who wouldn't have been able to afford dance classes be able to take them."
That all-inclusive attitude is part of what has made Genchi's dance classes a success, said Ella Gregory's mother, Jennifer.
"Nichole offers such a positive, but challenging, environment," Jennifer Gregory said. "She makes it fun for the kids, and it's something that Ella really looks forward to coming to."
Genchi offers a variety of dance classes ranging from hip-hop to classic ballet. Class registration is free through the end of January.
The Winter Park Community Center is at 721 W. New England Ave. Visit NRG- DanceStudios.weebly.com.
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