Felicia Alvarez Verdick: Inspiring Youth Through Dance
The dance studio at Inspire School of Ballet in Chula Vista is empty and quiet during the early afternoon, something that will likely change when students arrive for their Monday lessons.
Owner and Artistic Director Felicia Alvarez Verdick smiles and shares that classes start at 3 p.m. so there is time to speak before the young dancers arrive.
The Chula Vista native opened Inspire School of Ballet in 2015, and although uncertain at first if her vision would be a success, the school now has over 200 enrolled students.
Inspire School of Ballet has put on multiple productions, including The Nutcracker, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid. It also has a company, a type of dance group, and a junior company.
Alvarez Verdick has taught dance for over 10 years in various dance studios in Chula Vista and San Diego, yet this is her first time operating her own studio.
“I have a passion for the arts and for sharing that with children and families, and making it accessible,” she said.
Through her own experiences with dance, Alvarez Verdick learned that it teaches children more than just dancing, that it provides an opportunity to grow, she said.
“It’s not just about the steps and the technique, it’s about the character qualities and the skills that you learn while you’re dancing, the teamwork, discipline, dedication, (and) perseverance,” Alvarez Verdick said. “I want kids to learn that.”
The oldest of three children, Alvarez Verdick, grew up with parents who encouraged her to follow her passions, especially her mom who danced ballet folklorico at a young age.
Alvarez Verdick recalls that her mom allowed her to try different styles of dance like tap and ballet as well as sports, however, she decided ballet was the right fit for her and she was “hooked.”
She began dancing as a five-year-old and took a break. She started dancing once again when she was nine years old and never stopped.
Alvarez Verdick attended Southwestern College and then earned a degree in business from Liberty University, all while dedicating her time to dance and being an instructor.
When she was 18 years old she taught her own class at the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet where she also helped establish a program that allowed students to take classes during the day when the studio was empty, and an outreach program that provided dance education to title one schools.
After teaching at several classical ballet schools in San Diego, Alvarez Verdick took her savings and opened her own dance studio.
“It was scary but it was something that I wanted to do and I know if I didn’t do it, I would always think what if,” she said.
Taking a chance proved to be something that has given her a lot of happiness because she does what she loves and has the opportunity to see her students’ accomplishments and witness how they support each other.
Alvarez Verdick said they try to have a nurturing environment in the school and encourage students to support each other as opposed to seeing one another as competition.
“I tell them, ‘you’re competing against yourself’,” she said. “It’s not if you can do better than her, everyone in here has a different body, everyone in here has a different skill set, and you need to be the best that you are.”
They are currently preparing for their next production, Sleeping Beauty, on May 20 at Coronado High School where students ages 3 to 18 will perform.
Alvarez Verdick hopes that Inspire School of Ballet will continue to grow and be a blessing for the community and students.
“I feel really blessed to be in this community with the families I get to serve,” she said.