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Amy Hlavaty Belcher of Arabesque Academy of Dancing poses with some of her students. From left to right: Isabella Rinaldi, Finley Culkin, Pia Zangardi, MiraBelle Zangardi and Layla Kaub (seated).

With more than 20 years of dance experience and training, Amy Hlavaty Belcher took a leap of faith to start her own dance academy. Amy’s studio philosophy is to provide personalized dance training in a safe, caring and comfortable environment. Her goal is to work with each dancer to learn proper technique and help expand on their limits and capabilities to achieve their personal best.
I had a chance to speak with Amy to find out more about how she has created such a positive learning environment for her students.
Scranton Chamber: What is the most rewarding part about owning a dance academy?
Amy Hlavaty Belcher: We enjoy working with all of the children and their families. Our goal is to make dance class a great experience for not only the children but also their parents and families. It is wonderful to see how much the children can learn and accomplish in a very short time. Over the years, we have had several children say and do things that make us realize that dance is much more a part of their lives than the time that they spend in class.
SC: After all of your extensive training in various cities, what made you want to settle down and start your own dance academy?
AHB: Northeast Pennsylvania is very much my home, and our location gives me the ability to travel to New York for  classes on a regular basis. I also attend dance conferences across the country to constantly improve what we are doing. The community here is incredible. We have been blessed with incredible clients and also with amazing business relationships that have helped us grow into what we are today.
SC: How do you believe your studio changes the lives of your students?
AHB: Our school focuses on being a positive influence for children. Not only do we operate out of the Elmhurst location,but we also teach outside of the facility at United Neighborhood Centers. The children we have worked with have demonstrated such improvement with not only confidence and self-esteem, but also managing learning disabilities such as ADHD and autism. It is amazing what the discipline, structure, and focus of dance can do for a  child. Children also build friendships and learn how to work as a group in a non-competitive environment. Dance instills a very strong sense of self in a child and allows them to express themselves in a positive way.
SC: Has teaching enriched your life?
AHB: I cannot imagine my life without our students. They grow up with us, and we are so blessed to see so many of their milestones and accomplishments. They are all like part of my family. I truly love all of them, and I am very lucky to have all of them in my life. I find a lot of joy in the small moments like when a child finally wants to join class without a parent or they are no longer shy and enjoy performing. Sometimes we all forget how much we mean to our students, and then one little ballerina will come up and say that she wants to be a dance teacher when she grows up.
SC: What classes do you you offer?
AHB: We offer classes in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, and hip hop. We also are one of the only schools in the area to offer Combo Classes. These classes combine multiple disciplines into one class. During a combo class, the children take 30 minute segments of each discipline on one day and in one extended time slot. In addition, our school is one of the first schools in the United States to be designated as an official Angelina Ballerina Dance Academy. This means that we offer classes based on the popular PBS television show featuring Angelina Ballerina. Additionally, we are starting  a program this season for children with special needs and expanding our offerings to include dance, exercise, and Zumba classes for adults.
SC: How has the Chamber helped you?
AHB: The Chamber has helped me locate valuable local business contacts throughout the area. We have been able to foster fabulous business relationships with wonderful local partners in the region. In doing this, we have been able to grow our business tremendously in a very short time.

— by Amanda E. Marchegiani, Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce