Dancing Grounds was founded in March 2012 by Laura Stein and Jessi Donley. The two women shared a common vision for bringing high quality, accessible dance education and performance to New Orleans. Laura and Jessi sought to build community through dance and raise the visibility of dance as an art form in the city.
Dancing Grounds incubated in Laura’s Bywater home. She converted her living room into a dance studio with mirrors, the kitchen and bedrooms into an art gallery, and the backyard into an outdoor performance space. Laura taught a beginner adult Hip Hop dance and fitness class once a week. By word of mouth alone, her classes at “Speakeasy Studio” were packed with over twenty people. Within six months, Dancing Grounds started offering eight classes a week, in styles such as Contemporary, Ballet, Modern, African, Aerobics, Yoga, and more. Dancing Grounds’ Pop-Up Shows, co-produced with the New Orleans Society of Fly Ladies, and Dances in the Rough, a works-in-progress event for local choreographers, attracted hundreds of audience members.
Fueled by the high demand for Dancing Grounds’ classes and performances, Dancing Grounds started looking for new space. Laura stumbled upon a guardian angel, a local property developer with a vacant shotgun at 3705 Saint Claude Avenue. Dancing Grounds worked with the owner to build a state-of-the art dance facility, with two dance studios and a performance space that opened in March 2014.
Now with four classes daily, five days a week and a youth program that involves partnerships in local schools, summer and afterschool classes, Dancing Grounds is touching the lives of more than 1,000 young people and 1,300 adults. The organization hosts monthly Second Saturday events as part of the Saint Claude art walk, and continues to expand its support of local choreographers through works-in-progress events, festivals and other performance opportunities.