MU sophomore Abbie Ries is a current scholarship recipient at Dancearts. She says the organization has given her the opportunity to continue to pursue her hobby.

When former Dancearts owner Dodie Holmes started her business, she made sure to leave the door propped open for eager college students who might be short on cash. Because of that, nearly 40 years later, MU sophomore Abbie Ries is up to something you won’t find many other industrial engineering students doing two weeks before finals — expressing her creativity by rehearsing for her group lyrical dance.

Since its opening in 1979, Dancearts, a local dance studio on the corner of Tenth and Walnut streets, has offered scholarship opportunities to college students interested in taking dance classes. It is a tradition current co-owner Marie Robertson has kept alive, and it allows students such as Ries to continue dancing. The number of scholarships varies each year, but there is no limit on how much money is given out. Robertson says Holmes recognized that there were students who might have an interest in dance but nowhere to pursue it. Now Robertson estimates that there are around seven undergraduate and graduate students in the program.

Holmes also acknowledged that for college students, money is tight. To draw in dancers, they would have to help with costs. Depending on the length of the class, tuition for a 16-week semester at Dancearts can cost between $160 and $240 for one class per week, according to the studio’s current rates.

Students attending a college or university in Columbia can audition to have half, or even all, of their tuition covered. The only stipulation is that the student participates in at least one dance in the spring recital at the end of May.

Getting into the program starts with an audition. Robertson offers students the opportunity to take a class or two for free; then, she and the teachers observe the student in class and can make an offer based on their evaluation.

Scholarship recipients can take any number and variety of classes. The scheduling flexibility is something Ries mentions as a benefit of the program. “I really like to dance, but I didn’t want to do something that was as huge of a time commitment as a team or something at Mizzou,” she says. “You can take as few or as many classes as you want, and you can pick what fits your schedule.”

Breezy Grotzinger, a graduate student at Stephens College and teacher at Dancearts, says dancers often use their art as a coping mechanism for the many stresses of life. She remembers how the scholarship program affected her experience when she was an undergraduate at MU. “Sometimes you’re frustrated and angry, and you go take a dance class, and you feel so much better,” she says. “So just coping with the stress of transitioning, it really helped.”

Kennon Sheldon of MU’s psychology department agrees. “People have psychological needs, and anything that brings in a stream of satisfying experiences is likely to be helpful,” he writes in an email. Based on the self-determination theory, there are three psychological needs — autonomy, competence and relatedness. Autonomy is the ability to do what you choose and want. Competence is doing it well. Relatedness is connecting to others. Sheldon writes that to an extent, participating in the classes could increase those experiences.

Dancing can reduce depression, according to an article on the blog website The article cites a study that monitored 100 teenage girls suffering from anxiety and depression. Half of the girls were placed in a weekly dance class while the other half were not. The girls who were in the classes experienced improved mental health and reported a boost in their moods.

Grotzinger recalls feeling similar benefits by continuing to pursue her passion for dance during college. “You forget how much your body needs this movement to stay happy and healthy,” she says.

In college, it’s easy to lose touch with hobbies you once held, which is where Dancearts comes in, helping ease the transition by offering a creative avenue and a community. 

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