We had the good fortune of connecting with Marsha Aligo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marsha, what do you attribute your success to?
There are a multitude of factors that play a role in the branding of New World Dance Academy over the last 23 years. It would be difficult to pick just one.
First and foremost, our studio is known for its family-like atmosphere. New customers have told us that, when they first walk into the studio, they can already feel the family vibe that is different from others. We pride ourselves in being a “second-home” for so many dancers over the years, so much so that even after they go off to college, they still come back to us, any chance they get, to visit and take classes. I, myself, like to say, “I used to have just three kids and now I have hundreds” because I feel like each and every student is family to me and watching them grow up has been very fulfilling for me and for all of the staff. Dance brings people together that maybe otherwise wouldn’t be together. It erases all color lines, It allows us to express ourselves when verbal expression is difficult. We tell our stories with movement. It’s an outlet that bonds us together. You never forget your dance family.
Second, our studio provides a versatility that is difficult to find elsewhere in that we have various teachers for each genre of dance. So you are always getting a well-rounded dance education. We have a unusually large staff of dance instructors (in comparison to most other dance studios) in order to give our dancers the versatile training they need to go anywhere else in the dance world and be able to keep up, whether it be in a dance company, a dance crew, the dance industry, a professional dance career, college training, or even if they just take a recreational class at another studio. We try to give them all the experiences they need in order to succeed in their individual dance goals. If we see that our students don’t have training in a particular area of dance, we bring in specialized instructors to make sure they get that experience. All of our instructors work so hard to help each student, which makes it even more special to witness.
Third, we provide free professional videography at our studio. I was a wedding and dance videographer prior to becoming a dance studio owner and so we have implemented in-house professional dance videos in many of our classes and at all recitals/shows, at no extra cost to our customers! This allows them to gain visual feedback of their training progress and they can proudly share these videos with family and friends. These videos have become a huge part of our branding.
Fourth, we cater to all age ranges. You don’t graduate at age 18 here. We have both recreational classes and competitive dance training for ages 18 months to adult. In fact, our adult classes usually sell out! Again, we are like their second home so it’s not surprising that we have students who graduate high school, attend Universities far away, and drive all the way back to take classes on the weekends or whenever they can! And we absolutely love to see them!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Well I was a dancer when I was younger. When my three children were very young, I completed a master’s degree in Speech Pathology and a Teaching Credential in Special Education. I’ve worked as a Speech Pathologist for over 20 years in schools and medical settings but throughout the years, I continued to try to implement dance into my life, teaching dance and choreographing random jobs here and there. And I made sure my kids recognized dance as an important part of our family life. I danced with them daily (even while cleaning the house) and enrolled them at a dance studio as soon as I could.
As my kids began to get older, I found more time to be able to dip back in to my creative side so I trained as an apprentice under one of the most popular wedding videographers in Los Angeles. Videography and video editing had always been something I loved to do as well and I made the decision to get professional training (just to see where it would lead me). I practiced and practiced and trained hard. I always had a camera in my hand! I then opened up my own wedding & event videography company.
A few years later, the studio owner at my kids’ dance studio decided he was ready to retire from owning a dance studio. Terry Bixler was previously Janet Jackson’s choreographer and had been a dance idol of mine when I was a teenager. We had various conversations over the years as he trained my kids, discussing the dance world and creative trends, and so one day he said to me, “Hey, you wanna buy a dance studio?” Six years later, I still own New World Dance Academy and my life has been even more fulfilling ever since. My kids and I run this studio with the help of our amazing staff. It’s nonstop work but the studio has grown from having 46 students to 350 students today and it’s been an absolutely wonderful journey.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my professional life and career. I get to combine my love for dance with my love for videography and my background in child development as well…all in one. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and am ready to give back to community as well.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
When my best friends come to visit Los Angeles, I take them to Magic Mountain and Downtown Disney. Then I show them around Santa Monica Pier and Malibu. There’s always so many restaurants and lounges to choose from in all those areas and I let them pick whatever they feel like trying out. And finally, I take them to New World Dance Academy so they can watch some dancing fun too!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to dedicate this shoutout to my staff of instructors, directors, assistants, and our wonderful NWDA dance parents! When your staff members and dance families love the studio as much as you do, it makes it so much easier. They have dedicated so much of their time, energy, and love to our students. They are just as passionate as I am when it comes to this studio and it has been a gift, a true blessing to have them with us.