Sixty-three years and three generations later, Patsy Watson is still dancing.
She just leaves the management of her dance studio to her daughter.
"My mom said that God gave her the gift to dance and teach," says Rhonda Mitchell, owner of Patsy Watson School of Dance.
"And she's still doing it at the age of 83."
After six decades, the south Lansing dance studio still produces some of the area's finest dancers and provides instruction to people of all skills and abilities, ages 3 to 103. In early October, the studio underwent a major change by opening the doors on a new location just a mile or so from its original home. The 3,980-square-foot building at 3808 S. Cedar Street is about 600 square feet bigger than their old location, and features three rooms, waiting areas, and two-way mirrors so parents can watch their kids during class.
Mitchell says the new space allows the studio to continue to flourish and to offer classes like ballet, tap, modern, jazz, hip-hop, ballroom, Zumba and turbo kick. The studio also teaches cheer, acrobatics, mini-gymnastics, and provides after school care for neighborhood kids. About 180 students are enrolled.
"I'm investing in my children and grandchildren by purchasing a building for our studio," says Mitchell. "It's a family business, through and through."
Mitchell says her mother opened the Patsy Watson School of Dance in Lansing in 1951 with $500 and passion for teaching dance. Her mom, she says, was born in Lansing, but her grandfather moved the family to England when Patsy was just 5. Although her family endured the challenges of living in Europe during World War II, Patsy still received a solid dance education that she brought back to the U.S. when she turned 18.
"My mom started all this," says Mitchell. "We're just following in her footsteps."
Like her mother, Mitchell grew up dancing. Her daughter Vanessa did too. And now, Mitchell's infant grandchild, Lola, will more than likely dance as soon as she learns to walk.
"We're using the gift that God gave us," says Mitchell. "We don't charge a lot because we want children to have the chance to dance."
Source: Rhonda Mitchell, Owner, Patsy Watson School of Dance
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor