We had the good fortune of connecting with Toni Ricci and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Toni, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I began dancing when I was 6 years old. When I first made my way onto the stage I had this unfathomable feeling that this would be what I would do forever. It wasn’t long after that I knew that I wanted to own my own studio one day. As I started student teaching and became more involved with dance as the years progressed, the feeling and passion never faded and my desire to own my studio only grew. I had a passion for teaching and I wanted to run my own business with the ethics, morals, and programming that I felt were important to me and the education of a dancer. When fate finally aligned and the timing was right, I was able to make my childhood dreams a reality.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?

This season the Elite Dance Center is celebrating its tenth anniversary! I cannot believe that it has been that long and all the amazing moments and dancers that have come through our doors!

Here in Los Angeles, there are several amazing dance studios to choose from, but the EDC is definitely a standout. This is due to the amazing community that exists within our doors. It is filled with teachers who are truly committed and love what they do, students who are passionate, hard-working, and kind; parents that are supportive of their kids and others, and a whole lot of leadership and heart. Personally, I have given up my entire life for the EDC and commit all of my time, energy, and finances into creating a community and dance studio that will make a difference.

Over Covid, we went above and beyond to continue the dance education of our students. That didn’t just stop at implementing Zoom and hybrid classes but continued into our outdoor dance space that our students danced in for an entire season. We put in the effort to keep the studio alive for them when they needed it most and they showed us how important it was by dancing outdoors in high heat, winds, rain, and all other issues that come with dancing in an outdoor space. It was important to me that I protected our community as best as possible with the circumstances we were given. We made sure that everyone remembered we are “Stronger Together” and we had an unforgettable dance season.

Starting Elite was far from easy. To be completely honest, I had no money and a 490 credit score when I opened the studio. They say, “where there is a will there is a way,” and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I refused to take no for an answer and I pieced every part of it together. I had a couple of friends that believed enough in me to help me get going and I’ll never forget the risk they all took and the support they gave me. My landlord, who is the best, took a risk on me, and I’m so grateful. When I found the space I wanted I showed up every day for a week convincing them I would be a great tenant. I am still there and have expanded the studio three times! The financial struggles were and still are real. I never appreciated growing up low income until I saw how strong it made me. I was always used to not having money. For example, paying something late to pay a different bill, having lots of loans, and credit cards, etc. So while the debt of owning this business is large it doesn’t define my success. There is a cost to everything in life and if you wait for it all to be “perfect” then time will pass and it may not happen. When you get knocked down, you get back up. Owning a business is not easy, but when you have the students in your life like mine… you keep going.

I use my story and strength to inspire my students and to teach them to be strong independent thinkers. You get what you work for! We are all in control of ourselves and how we react to things, work for things, and experience things are entirely up to us. I try to help them understand that life is hard but it is also beautiful and there are no excuses. We are all dealt a different hand but how you play your hand is really the lesson.

The hardest lesson I have learned along the way is that you cannot please everyone. As a people pleaser at heart, that is a big obstacle for me. No matter how much time, energy, and love you put into something, someone will also question it, not like it, or find something wrong with everything you do. I live every day doing the most I can for my students and that goes beyond the dance floor. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for them and when you put your heart out like that it’s bound to get crushed. The kids are my entire world but I have had to learn that this is a business and people will walk away at any point and break your heart. In the end, you have to just know you did your best with the time you had them.

The EDC is a fantastic dance program and community. We have amazing teachers, an award-winning competition team, a thriving ballet program, and a community that is unparalleled!

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.
Well, a friend from out of town would always have to stop at my favorite place, the Elite Dance Center! From there we would hit the beach. The ocean is my happy place, and there is nothing like a day on the beach and then a nice dinner. I’m a creature of habit, so most likely we would eat at my regular spots ….BJ’s and XOC…. Nothing too exciting.

Then of course there would have to be the Hollywood Tour fully equipped with a drive up Beachwood to the sign and then down to The Dolby Theater to walk the block. A stop on Rodeo Drive on the way and drive in Bel Air to look at cool houses.

Some Karaoke is always in the cards and then back to my second favorite place, my home with my two dogs for some Yathzee and Shake Shack! I’m pretty boring when it comes to hosting guests, I prefer to do the traveling!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many shout-outs that are deserved that this will be hard.

I have to shout out to Kathleen Nolan my teacher and mentor from high school. When I felt the world was caving in and no one else believed in me, she did. That one person that stayed in my mind all these years and the reason I kept going.

I have to shout out to my students! My entire reason for being on this earth was to be there for them. They inspire me every day and when the going gets tough, as it certainly has in the past couple of years, they have constantly reminded me why I do what I do. Dance education is such an important and special job and how lucky am I that I get all these amazing little humans in my life to share my passion and dance through life with!

Last shoutout to all the amazing strong women who have and still continue to have my back and helped this journey begin and continue!

Website: www.elitedanepac.com

Instagram: @elitedancepac

Twitter: @elitedancepac

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elitedancepac

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/EliteDancePAC

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