Craig resident Jeni Jones finds success as studio owner
Dancing is all Jeni Jones has ever known.
But, as a little girl, she didn’t dream of being a prima ballerina or any other kind of professional dancer.
She dreamed of one day opening a dance studio.
She got her chance at 22 when she was working with a dance teacher in Craig who had to leave suddenly in the middle of the season.
“I had to say, ‘OK, do you take on a business by yourself or do you let it go,'” said Jones, now 24. “And I would have just hated myself if I didn’t try.”
Two years later, Just Dance, which uses the studio at Trapper Fitness Club, boasts 90 students ranging from ages 3 to 18 – triple the number of children from her first year in business.
It all pays off at the semi-annual recitals, the most recent of which took place Friday and Saturday at Hayden High School. Almost 400 people showed up to cheer on their children and friends.
“Sometimes you look in the mirror and say, ‘What am I doing this for? This is a lot of stress and a lot of work,'” Jones said. “And then you see them get up on stage, and it’s all worth it. I’m so proud of these girls and how far they’ve come.”
Where the heart is
One of the reasons Jones decided to open a studio in Craig was because of what she considers a lack of local dance opportunities.
While she was growing up, her parents drove her to Steamboat Springs three times a week to practice dance at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.
But, Just Dance doesn’t necessarily employ the same philosophies she learned as a young dancer.
“Growing up, I had numerous dance teachers, and I remember being scared to death of some of them,” Jones said. “And I don’t want to make that impression on these kids. Dance is something that I love. I don’t want them to be scared and have that expectation that they have to be perfect, because that’s not something I’m trying to promote.”
Jones used to run a summer dance program, but was concerned about her students burning out. She wants dancing to be a way to get kids moving and active and socializing with one another.
As a student, Jones danced year round.
The stress on her mind and body caused her to quit for three years before she realized that dancing was where her heart would always be.
“I don’t think I’ll give this up, and I’m not ready to give this up,” she said. “As long as my body holds out, this is where I’ll be.”
But, more than 20 years of dancing takes it’s toll on a body.
Jones has fought off many common dancing injuries like back and hip pain, caused by the repeated stress of teaching a dance class.
She said she teaches about 10 hours per week, but has to choreograph the dances, which means three to four hours of work on her own.
“I don’t care if I’m young or not, that’s a lot of stress on a body,” she said. “My mind is telling me I’m still 16 and I can do the things I used to, but my body is telling me, ‘no.'”
Jones calls herself a “busy bee,” but that might be a bit of an understatement.
Aside from running her own business, she is a full-time student enrolled in 12 credit hours of online classes, and teaches preschool full time at the Moffat County Early Childhood Center.
“I’ve always been goal driven,” she said. “When I put my mind to something, it’s got to get done.”
But, that doesn’t mean owning her own business hasn’t presented challenges.
“Every year there are bumps, but you learn from them and you grow,” Jones said. “I had no idea what I was doing when I first started. And to be honest, I didn’t know if I could do it.”
The main driving force behind her success, however, has been the children she inspires: kids who don’t have to have prima ballerina potential – or even be remotely coordinated – as long as they are having fun.
“I just love working with kids,” she said. “It’s probably the most gratifying thing I’ve done with my life. I don’t want them to be perfect; I don’t want them to be in synch. I just want them to have fun. If the kids are having fun and I’m doing what I love and teaching the fundamentals of dance, then I’m doing my job.”
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