Larisa and Ryan Eronemo have focused the past year on a shared commitment to develop Glass House Dance in a fresh training model that focuses on developing “positive culture and a deep sense of community”. The Sammamish, WA, studio “is devoted to developing world-class dancers with a strong technical foundation”, while recognizing “that our responsibility is something much greater”. The husband and wife team and their approach to training is earning accolades from their community. The couple candidly remarks, “This first year has been crazy! We’ve grown to well over 300 students, developed amazing partnerships, gained sponsorships from other local businesses, pulled off our first non-traditional recital and launched our studio’s performance teams. It’s been a wild ride, but we think the biggest success has been creating a healthy, happy dance family with zero drama, that has a great vibe you sense from the moment you walk in our door. We have amazing faculty, families and dancers who all contribute to that.”
The Glass House Dance philosophy includes a loyalty “to aiding students in developing their craft but also with guiding their character development into becoming successful and responsible adults”. When asked how they are able to bring people together through dance training, Larisa responds, “We just go to work, and we do it together. People from different nationalities, genders, backgrounds, languages, disabilities, orientations, ages, skill levels, political affiliations and religions. We make it happen every day. The culture we aim to create is one where everyone is treated with respect, acceptance, and everyone is important and equally valued. We work together to move forward in a direction that is for the betterment of everyone involved with us. That means compromise. We try to use our differences to strengthen us, and through that celebration of our differences, we protect individuality. It starts with the commitment to lead by love and not by fear, and it has to be present in everything that we do. We have to constantly ‘check’ ourselves to make sure that we are adhering to our guiding principles. It is so easy to say, ‘Well, this is what we are going to do, and this is what we stand for.’ But do we actually? Do we practice what we preach, or are we being ruled by our ego? Our philosophy has become a litmus test for everything that we do.”
The Glass House Dance philosophical litmus test has certainly been put to the test this year, thanks to the studio’s rapid rate of growth. The program now includes 63 regularly scheduled, weekly classes, and about 40 percent of them are full and on waitlists. The couple credits word of mouth as the biggest thing that brings people through the door. “We do a ton of marketing, both social media and traditional,” Ryan explains. “We try to engage the community by volunteering with the city of Sammamish’s Arts Commission, sponsoring events at local schools and donating time to help out with the high school dance teams in the area. We consider all that just a reminder to the public that we are here. What brings people in is the positive affirmation they hear from our current customers. What keeps families with us is our philosophy. We don’t just preach, we practice. Everyone is greeted at the door or in the hallway by instructors or staff. Talking to families and building genuine relationships with parents, dancers and siblings is important because all of these people are important. We aim to create an experience every time a family walks in to dance with us, and it does not stop with the classroom experience.”
One of the most impressive aspects of the Glass House Dance training model is the equality of instruction experienced by recreational and pre-professional students. All students at Glass House are equal and receive the same quality of training. Ryan says this allows them “to hold a high standard to level advancement because advancement doesn’t get you a better teacher; it gets you harder techniques and patterning to master. The level or age of a dancer does not predicate which instructor they train with.”
In fact, Larisa adds, “Glass House Dance does not even consider hiring an instructor who cannot teach both our very youngest and oldest, as well as our most beginning and most advanced dancers.”
The faculty at Glass House Dance includes three former studio owners, a dance critic, an author and working professionals who are active performers with various companies throughout the booming Seattle arts scene. “Every faculty member holds a bachelor’s degree, or higher, and possesses a humble, accessible demeanor,” Ryan says. “They work off the same syllabus, per genre, age division and level. This syllabus outlines what techniques and overall concepts each dancer should be working on to master before advancing. There is no right or wrong for when a dancer is ready to advance. It is solely based on their individual need and readiness. [The syllabus] allows there to be cohesion within our programming as a whole and from one instructor to the next. Leading by love and not fear is important so dancers feel they can fail and be vulnerable. They should fail, but it’s the response to those failures that we are most concerned with. The way our instructors offer correction while guiding and encouraging the dancers to try again that reinforces that kindness and the pursuit of excellence can coexist in the dance classroom.”
The studio’s programming even includes scheduled time for rest. The studio does not hold rehearsals during the last weekend of every month. According to Larisa, “Dancers who are mentally and physically rested work harder and are more productive. Too much of a good thing is bad, and it is important to have built-in opportunities for dancers to connect with their friends outside of dance, have time for vacations with their families, or just sleep without the fear of missing rehearsals. Having dedicated time off allows families to appropriately plan and utilize that time without the interference of rehearsals. It also gives our parents a break. They work harder than anyone and deserve to have a weekend free of dance obligations.”
Relationships, community and service are clearly the foundation of Glass House Dance. A couple of notable accomplishments in building a strong foundation this year have been the PORTH Master Class Series and the Glass House Ball. “The PORTH (Personalized Orthodontics) Masterclass Series pays in full to fly out, house and pay for world-class master teachers from around the country,” Ryan explains. “Every three months, a new teacher comes into Glass House and teaches masterclasses for our students at absolutely no cost to our dancers. It is completely free to our families and the community. This is something we love – connecting local businesses and our family. It’s a way to connect businesses in the community, give students opportunities they may not typically have and add value to the dancers and families who call Glass House their dance home.”
The couple even reimagined their year-end recital. Having hearing years of feedback about how long and boring traditional dance recitals can be, they launched a year-end performance experience known as the Glass House Ball. “We brought in our own stage, lighting and sound,” Larisa reflects. “We were able to partner with local bakeries, coffee houses, restaurants and breweries to provide dinner, desserts, beer and wine for free. Tickets were also free. The set-up was very different than a traditional recital. We rented an enormous barn, set up auditorium seating in the front and tables in the back. We encouraged people to move to the very front when their dancer was dancing and move back to the tables to relax, eat and drink and get to know other parents when their dancer was not on stage. This gave every parent a front row seat when their child was performing but allowed them the opportunity to sit back and enjoy the rest of the performance in a more casual atmosphere. We also decided to have an emcee at the event. We flew in one of the best who we met during our work in the competition world, and he was the glue that held it all together. After the event, we received hundreds of emails and text messages from parents thanking us because this was the first time they had honestly enjoyed themselves at a dance recital.”
The positive feedback from families is reassuring to Larisa and Ryan. They see a “ripple effect” being created by living out their philosophy to teach dance in a safe and positive environment that fosters a deep sense of community. To them, Larisa says, “ensuring that dancers, whatever future career path they take, are kind humans dedicated to lifting up others and finding joy in hard work, while continually bettering themselves and those around them” is their philosophy in motion.
They promise the studio’s second year will be as exciting as the first. “We always have something crazy planned for the future, and there are a couple of things coming down the pipeline that will be pretty wild,” Ryan reveals. “We are incredibly excited for them, and, once again, we are trying to create something that has never been done in the dance world!”
For more information about Glass House Dance, visit www.glasshousedance.com.
By Emily Yewell Volin of Dance Informa.