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Monroe Street Theater Dance center blends faith and business

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MST Dance Center Director Mary Hubbs; Ballet and Pointe Director Georgia Brattin; and some members of their dance team. Photo by Melissa Szymke Adams.

“Let them praise his name with dance.” Galatians 5:22

The Monroe Street Theater Dance Center will hold its Spring Showcase April 30 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Tecumseh Center for the Arts. For more information, call 517-592-4111 or visit mstdancecenter.com

By Linda Hass

Some people pray or sing to commune with God. Mary Hubbs dances.

“Dancing, for me, is the perfect way to communicate with God because it blends mind, body and spirit,” said the 19-year-old director and head teacher of the Monroe Street Theater Dance Center, 101 Monroe St., Brooklyn.

Not only has the award-winning dancer honed her craft, she enthusiastically shares it with over 100 students, said her mother, Marcia Hubbs, who with her husband, Ralph Hubbs, co-own the MST Dance Center. The family resides at Lake Columbia.

“We embrace everyone as our own, like Christ does his people,” said Mary. “We hope that by setting that standard, as well as sharing our love of dance, students will know they are in good hands and in a family-friendly place filled with grace.”

 The teen took a rare break on a busy Wednesday evening at the studio to reflect on the path that led to her directorship as well as the role that faith plays in guiding the business.

Divine opportunities

The graceful blonde said she’s always loved to dance, but it wasn’t until 2014 that she found her calling to ignite others’ passions for dance. The opportunity was prompted when the former owner, Marci Pocklington, closed the theater that year. When Pocklington asked if the Hubbs’ wanted to be given the theater’s costume inventory, they recognized it as an opportunity to help Mary realize her dream of stepping into a leadership role at the dance studio.

There were challenges, however: Mary was only 16 at the time; the existing students had begun searching for alternative studios; and the start-up costs were expensive.

“As we prayed for guidance and direction, answers and opportunities kept falling into place,” said Marcia. Over time, the family decided its savings account was sufficient to pay the rent and make the necessary renovations in the studio building. This news encouraged many students to return.

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The Hubbs family: back row, Mary and Ralph; front row, Jordan and Marcia. Photo by Melissa Szymke Adams.

 Resurrecting the studio

After signing the building lease, the family rolled up their sleeves and got to work remodeling the studio, from installing carpets and hanging mirrors to painting walls. Marcia, who helps with the studio’s day-to-day business duties, said the family’s church – Cement City Baptist Church – also provided many helping hands.

On Sept. 1, 2014, the MST Dance Center opened under new ownership. Mary, the 16-year-old home schooler at the helm, approached the opportunity with fresh enthusiasm, prompting student enrollment to increase from 45 to 80.

By 2015, the young entrepreneur had not only earned her state-certified high school diploma, she had gained real-world experience not found in any textbook.

“God blessed the growth of the studio, showed his provision, and gave us many opportunities to share our faith with this wonderful community of dance families. It’s a sweet place to be in, when you know your work is His work, and His glory is your joy,” said Mary.

Growth Spurt

Today, MST Dance Center enrolls about 105 students from Adrian, Addison, Brooklyn, Grass Lake, Hanover, Jackson, Napoleon, Manchester, Michigan Center, and Onsted. Ages range from 2 to 62.

The studio offers ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, musical theater, contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, technique and conditioning, adult fitness and tap, and acrobatic arts. Classes run Monday through Thursday from 3 -10 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There are 25 classes for recreational dancers; 28 dance team classes/solos/duets; a teacher ensemble class and two adult classes.  All classes are open to both boys and girls of all ages.

As enrollment has grown, so has the staff, increasing from three to 14 today. Most are volunteer or student intern positions ranging from office staff and assistants to prop designers.

“Mary is our full-time contracted director/choreographer. She spends 120 hours in class time teaching per month,” said Marcia. “Then she does choreography, class prep, emails, scheduling, costume ordering, costume alterations, attending her own dance teacher certification classes, and much more.”

Mission Accomplished

As busy as the family is, they never lose sight of their number one goal: honoring God through the gift of dance by serving others with grace and integrity, they said.

“Our goal is not just to teach students how to dance, but to work as a team developing life-long relationships and learning valuable life lessons together, including discipline, respect and good work ethics,” said Mary.

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One of the many classes at the MST Dance Center, Brooklyn.

Based on student feedback, those goals are being accomplished. “Mary pushes us, but in a good way. I like it here,” said Ava Marine, 10, from Brooklyn.  Her mother, Darlene Marine, a volunteer assistant, agreed. “Mary is very insightful; she has a knack for bringing out students’ fullest potential without being pushy.”

Student and assistant teacher Katie Gragg, 16, of Vineyard Lake, described the atmosphere as “family like,” and student Angelica Smetana, 17 of Napoleon, described the studio as a second home.

“This business is not about me; it’s about being a light for Christ,” said Mary. “I hope that by setting that standard, students can reach their full potential in an affirming environment. For us, this is not just a business – it’s our mission field.”

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