Before opening her own dance and yoga studio, Stephanie Woodbeck was in New York working on her associate’s degree in massage therapy. She was struck by a story one of her professors would tell about a butterfly, and how when it comes out of its chrysalis, its wings are wet and droopy, and if that butterfly doesn’t begin flapping its wings and start moving, it will die.
The metaphor wasn’t lost on her then and has continued to influence numerous aspects of her new small business. Throughout the two open and airy studios at Monarch Movement Co. in Hillsborough are about a half-dozen large colorful, metal butterflies. The space is large with high ceilings, offers plenty of room to spread out, reach high, stretch out, and most importantly, move.
But along with her plan to get Hills-borough moving, Woodbeck hopes to build something more than a place for people to dance. “Beyond the physical location, we’re trying to be a dance, fitness, movement, yoga community,” she said. “We want people to be excited to see people they dance with when they’re at the grocery store, at the farmers market or out in Hillsborough. We want to be a big fixture in people’s lives. We think movement and art and creativity are huge, no matter how old you are. Doing all of those things with other people, compounds the impact of having those influences in your life. If we can make ourselves strongly rooted in Hillsborough, strongly rooted in Orange County, then those impacts will carry off way beyond the actual classes here at our buildings. We’re definitely a dance studio, a yoga studio, but we’re trying to put the power behind the people and not the building.”
In addition to herself and her Assistant Director, there are eight other teachers leading a variety of movement styles. There are 33 kids dance classes, kids’ yoga, two family dance classes, and 14 adult dance and movement classes.
“We have family hip-hop class where parents and their kids can come, and it is to die for,” Woodbeck said. “It’s a blast.”
Classes with the youngest students last 30 minutes, while classes for older kids run 45 minutes. For students in the more advanced dance classes, like advanced ballet, times can run an hour and a half.
Monarch Movement Co. has been open for about a month, and Woodbeck said the response has been extremely positive. “People are really enthusiastic. I’ve met a lot of people I’ve never met before and finding people from other places in my life, who are interested in at least giving it a try. A lot of movement is greatly impacted by how you feel about the instructor and the style of how a person teaches class. I try to offer a wide variety. That’s why it’s important to have a bunch of classes that I don’t teach because I’m not going to be everybody’s cup of tea, especially with something like a yoga class. You may really vibe with how a person speaks and guides a class, or you may not. I tell people just because you’ve tried one class doesn’t mean you’ve tried all the classes. Come and try something else,” she said.
Woodbeck said she’s been dancing
since she was 6-years-old, starting at a studio that largely focused on ballet. She attended the N.C. Governor’s School in high school as a dance focus.
“And that was the first time I did modern dance, and I did yoga, and that was transformative for me,” Woodbeck said. “I always loved ballet, but for better or worse, I did not feel like ballet held a real future for me. I’m not quite 5 ft. 3 inches. Not especially long and stereotypically ballet as a teenager.”
She attended UNC-Greensboro on a full academic scholarship, and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Choreography. Woodbeck dabbled in massage therapy, worked as a physical therapy assistant, a personal trainer, and is Pilates certified.
“I feel like I had a great dance upbringing, but I didn’t have the science behind it,” she said. “That’s something I can offer my kids and it’s something I can make sure is available for adult students, as well. I’ve been teaching dance for 17 years, off and on, and then a devoted dance teacher for about 10. I actually started teaching adults then started teaching college, then high school and actually trickled down to the babies, which built up my confidence in knowing that what I’m teaching is safe and effective.”
Woodbeck is married and has two daughters, both of whom love to dance.
In December, Woodbeck said she is planning to offer a program for children and adults with special needs called Miracles in Motion. Woodbeck is working with Katie Tompkins, who started Miracles In Motion to provide dance classes to children and adults of all physical abilities in a way that is appropriate.
“I want to be clear that Miracles In Motion is not a thing that I’m creating, but I am hosting,” she said. “I want to bring them to Hillsborough. I know we have quite the community in Hillsborough and it’s easily accessible to Durham and Chapel Hill and Mebane.”
Monarch Movement Co. has benefited from adults anxious to shake off some of the immobility of the pandemic and get their blood flowing again. But Woodbeck recognizes that some parents are sensitive to letting their children take part in classes with regard to Covid-19.
“We follow all the mandates with mask ordinances, temperature screenings, hand washing,” she said. “Everyone here on staff is vaccinated for COVID-19, but everybody has to find their comfort levels.”
Woodbeck said one of her favorite parts of the studio is the large, rolling garage door that she keeps open most days to allow for air circulation.
“That rolling door could be a reason we don’t shut down. The high ceilings and bringing in all the fresh air. It just felt like a really fun thing.”
The Family Dance Party — “Attitude of Gratitude” — is Saturday, Nov. 20 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and raises money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Registration is on the studio’s website at monarchmovementcompany.com.
Miracles in Motion is Saturday, Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. for elementary aged dancers, 3 p.m. for middle and high school aged dancers, and 4 p.m. for adults. Registration is on the studio’s website at monarchmovementcompany.com.