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Dancers stranded after studio shuts down

A sign telling dance students and their parents that Starbound Performing Arts had closed without notice was placed on the door of the Porterdale business Wednesday. Another sign soon followed announcing a parents meeting Friday night in an effort to organize a recital. (Staff Photo: Alice Queen)

A sign telling dance students and their parents that Starbound Performing Arts had closed without notice was placed on the door of the Porterdale business Wednesday. Another sign soon followed announcing a parents meeting Friday night in an effort to organize a recital. (Staff Photo: Alice Queen)

PORTERDALE — Parents of dancers who took lessons at Starbound Performing Arts are scrambling to find a way to stage a recital following the abrupt closing of the dance studio Wednesday.

Many parents were notified by email Wednesday by owner Valerie Odom, who wrote that the studio was closed “effective immediately.”

“I want to thank you very much for all of your hard work this year and for all that you have done for us,” Odom wrote in the email. She went on to say that the recital planned for Saturday, May 31, had been cancelled.

“All costume orders will be cancelled or returned once they arrive,” Odom continued. “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.”

In a telephone interview Friday, Odom said the studio, which had 60 to 75 students and employed five teachers, including herself, didn’t have enough enrollment to keep operating.

“If I could have made it happen, I would have,” she said. “I fought tooth and nail for as long as I could until I finally couldn’t do this.”

The fact that costumes hadn’t been received and distributed for this weekend’s recital was a red flag for some parents that something was amiss with the dance studio.

Wanda Rosado, who has two daughters who trained at the studio, said she was concerned that all the costumes hadn’t been distributed and that Odom was still collecting money for tickets and program fees as late as last Saturday.

“I personally have been trying to question (Odom) over the past couple of weeks,” Rosado said. “My daughter had previously been at other dance schools — we are from New York — so this wasn’t my first go-around.”

Michele Stephens said she was also puzzled that costumes for this weekend’s recital hadn’t been distributed.

“We had questions about the costumes because in the past you had your costume well before the week of the recital,” she said.

Parents also said they learned that Olive Swann Porter Hall had not been booked for the recital as they had been told.

Odom said Friday that she had inquired about the auditorium last August, but found out at the last minute that the cost was “considerably more” than she had originally understood it would be.

Odom said she regrets having to close the dance studio and said the timing was unfortunate.

“I could no longer afford to keep it running,” she said. “The timing was terrible, and I understand that, but I was fighting to save it up until the time I had to throw in the towel.”

Rosado, whose daughters are 6 and 10, said she had invested about $600 in several costumes, recital fee, ticket sales, program ads and more in advance of the recital. Stephens, whose 7-year-old daughter trained at the studio, said she is out about $165.

Rosado and Stephens said while they’d like to get their money back, their bigger concern was the disappointment for their daughters and the other dancers who had worked hard preparing for the recital. Rosado said there were at least 50 girls ranging in age from 3 to teenagers training for the event.

Rosado said she had explained to her daughters that the recital wouldn’t take place Saturday.

“We sat with them .. and told them that we weren’t sure what would happen going forward,” Rosado said. “We weren’t sure if there was anything we could do to make it happen for them, but we would try.”

Stephens said most of the dancers are too young to understand why the recital has been cancelled.

“I think you just have to try to put on a brave face, at least, because it stinks when it’s your kid,” she said.

Rosado said the owner of Romp N Roll skating rink in Conyers had offered the use of that facility, and parents planned to meet Friday night to discuss how they could make that happen.

“If we do this and we can pull it together, we’re not going to have costumes,” Rosado said. “But they’ve all got dancing shoes and some tights and leotards, and we’ll try to make it as cute as possible for them. It won’t be the same, for sure.”

Odom said she had owned the dance studio for about a year and had taught there for two years. She said she most regretted disappointing the dancers.

“I would never do anything to purposely hurt children,” she said. “I looked at all of my students as my little kids and any time I could I would go above and beyond.”