Friday, December 1, 2023

Footlights celebrates 25 years of navigating the dance of life

Teresa Novak and Christina Hedding share a dream and passion for dance as the co-owners and directors for Footlights Dance Studio. (Photo by Helen’s Photography)

Sisters Christina Hedding and Teresa Novak could have gone out on their own and opened a brand new dance studio together. As former competitive dancers turned wildly-popular instructors, that would have been the easy thing to do. But there was just something special about this little dance studio in Flower Mound called Footlights.

Christina and Teresa felt it after years of teaching there and pouring into kids. Their students felt it. Parents felt it as they gushed over every performance. Footlights was perfect in every way, and they dreamed of one day calling it their own.

“I mentioned the idea to Teresa eight or nine years ago, and I remember her saying, ‘I’ve been feeling the same way,’” Hedding said. “It was heavy on both of our hearts and minds to do something more. We talked about it a few more times and toyed with the idea. Eventually, we approached [original owner Amy Parsons], and it all worked out.”

It was five years ago that these sisters officially became the owners. And though they’ve certainly put their own stamp on things, the original vision and legacy that Parsons created remains. Today, the studio is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Footlights offers all dance styles for kids as young as 2 years old to adults as old as 99. That means if you want to be classically trained in ballet or Broadway musicals, you can do it at Footlights and learn from the industry’s best. If tap, modern dance, jazz, or hip hop is more your speed, you can do that, too — in a competitive setting with state awards on the line or just for fun with friends and family.

Footlights Dance Studio offers classes for all ages and abilities. (Photo by Helen’s Photography)

With 17 instructors and 135 classes per week, there’s nothing you can’t learn at Footlights. Hedding studied dance at Brookhaven College and the University of Texas, and her teaching resume spans over 30 years. She’s choreographed many special event performances for groups in San Antonio, Dallas, and New York, and she serves as an adjudicator and contest administrator for the American Dance/Drill Team. Novak was a member of the UT Dance Team and has taught for more than 18 years. That includes serving as co-director and choreographer for the Metrocrest Community Theater.

Simply put, there’s no one they or their staff can’t teach.

“At one point, we had a grandmother, mother, and a daughter taking a class together,” Novak said. The studio routinely puts on holiday performances and annual recitals each year and has churned out hundreds of award-winning dancers in all disciplines. “So when we say that we take on all ages, we mean it.”

But if you ask anyone who has taught at Footlights or had a child go through the program, they’ll tell you this dance studio is so much more than that. Beyond boasting the best dancers in Denton County and beyond, the staff is equally focused on the whole student and building up their dancers from the inside-out.

Cinnamon Dilts’ daughter, Ruby, began coming to Footlights when she was in the second grade. Today, she’s a junior in high school and is one of the more well-rounded young ladies you could possibly meet.

“They have grown her into an award-winning dancer, but what is so much more important to me than that is the foundation they build in these dancers,” Cinnamon Dilts said. “My daughter is more confident, self-assured, and poised because she had the reinforcement through Footlights. When Amy started this studio, she started it with a strong foundation of putting Christ first and dancing for his glory. And everyone she hired reflected that.”

She added, “Christina and Teresa bought it, and they have taken that foundation and legacy that Amy created and made it even brighter and more beautiful. It wasn’t missing anything — they just took it to a whole new level that none of us realized it could go. I could talk all day and still not say enough good things about them.”

Hedding and Novak agreed that the studio has always been special. In fact, the biggest reason Hedding got involved with the studio 18 years ago was because of her oldest daughter, Alyssa, who is now in college pursuing a degree in Musical Theatre and Dance. Her youngest daughter, Lynley, is now 12 and a member of the Footlights Performing Arts Academy.

“We are just as much concerned with teaching these kids good dance technique as we are about protecting their hearts,” Novak said. “For us, it really is all about focusing on the whole child. We are also conservative in our costuming, music choices, and the movements that our dancers perform.”

If there was anything that could have hurt all the great things Footlights has done for the community over the past 25 years, it was the COVID-19 pandemic. Like every other business, the studio was forced to stop in-person instruction at the height of the pandemic. But Hedding and Novak were committed to keeping their staff and students engaged and dancing. They offered online dance classes when they couldn’t teach in-person and even went out of their way to make sure each member of their staff had computers and available software to connect with students from afar.

As restrictions were slowly lifted over the next few months, they managed to put on a socially-distanced performance in the parking lot, complete with a full stage, backdrop, and costumes for every performer.

“Our goal was to keep everyone dancing,” Novak said.

They reopened June 8 with their summer program and have been going strong ever since.

“We’ve always loved what this place stood for,” Hedding said. “It’s a faith-based studio, and it’s been in this community for a very long time. We make a great team, and carrying on the legacy here has been an easy transition.”

All in the name of keeping everyone dancing.

Visit Footlights at or call 972-355-8100.

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