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Parents of shuttered dance studio file complaints with Sheriff's Office

PORTERDALE — A number of parents whose children danced at Starbound Performing Arts have filed police reports claiming that the previous owner has not refunded any of the money she collected for costumes and recital fees when she suddenly closed the studio just days before the recital was to be held.

Newton County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Cortney Morrison said seven parents had filed reports as of Friday afternoon, all claiming they had paid the owner, Valerie Odom, on average, about $200 for the costumes and fees.

“Complainant stated a recital was to be held at the end of May 2014 for the children. Complainant stated fees were being collected for their costumes in December 2013 as well as other fees, such as recital and ticket fees. Complainant stated even up to May 27, 2014, the studio was collecting fees from parents with no mention of closing,” an incident report filed Wednesday stated.

On Wednesday, May 28, parents at the dance studio located in Porterdale, received an email from owner Valerie Odom who wrote that the studio was closed “effective immediately.”

A handwritten sign was also posted on the door of the studio that simply stated, “Closed. Please review your email. -Mgmt.”

In the email, Odom assured parents that “all costume orders will be cancelled or returned once they arrive. Refunds for costume fees and any pre-sold (recital) tickets will be forthcoming, I am just not able to give you an exact date for that at this time.”

Parents also learned that a location for the recital had not been booked by the time the studio closed.

Odom told the Citizen at the time that she was financially unable to keep the studio open and that she had accepted a job out of state.

At the time, parents’ primary concern was for their children who had been preparing for and looking forward to a recital. They worked with local businesses and put together an ad hoc recital anyway.

However, by Wednesday, the parents, who have said they have been unable to reach Odom, contacted the Sheriff’s Office and the Porterdale Police Department.

“Complainant stated that no fees regarding the recital have been returned to him nor has any attempt to refund his money been made by the owner of Starbound Dance Studio,” the incident report states. “Complainant stated phone calls and emails to the owner of Starbound Dance Studio have not been returned.”

Morrison said on Friday that the Sheriff’s Office is getting “an influx of parents coming in.”

“They are all providing the same statements, and are seeking reimbursement for their costume fees and recital fees,” she said.

Morrison said one report will be compiled from all the complainants and investigators will be looking further into the matter.

Wanda Rosado, who has two daughters who trained at Starbound, contacted the Citizen to report that new owners will be taking over the dance studio, teaming with another studio, Rhythm Elements Dance Studio.