“My soul is less interested in just teaching dance and really focused on how dance is this extraordinary engagement of energies and everything that goes into a dance experience for a child.” – Sophie
When Sophie Pierce moved to LA to teach dance to kids, she drew inspiration from her own instructor in New York. From the age of 3, Sophie danced in a recreational, non-competitive studio, and worshipped her dance teacher. “I loved everything about her, and her studio was my favorite place,” she recalls. “I ran an imaginary studio out of my bedroom for years. I took attendance, did the scheduling, had choreography notes. After I graduated from Ithaca College, I knew I wanted to open my own studio.”
What started out as private dance lessons for kids grew into four studio locations, nearly 40 instructors, and some 2,000 students. Sophie Dance on 3rd and La Brea opened 13 years ago, and was followed by three other locations — three of them with now with co-owners . “Sophie Dance has taken on a life of its own,” Sophie says, laughing. “Our clients and students really steered this ship. One of the reasons we opened on Wilshire , in Santa Monica, was because some of our parents had moved to the Westside and begged us to be over there.”
For Sophie, it’s not difficult to understand why parents and students remain drawn to her studios and the philosophy that drives her business. “We provide a place for children to feel great about themselves, challenge themselves, and have fun in a safe and nurturing environment,” she explains. “We have excellent retention, and seeing the dancers come back year after year allows us to watch them grow. Often they start out in diapers, and before we know it, we’re getting invited to bat mitzvahs and sweet 16s. I’m so proud of the confident, respectful, kind people they’ve become.
“The friendships the dancers form is a huge bonus,” she continues. “And the parents form friendships too!” She relates one family whose parents have become as close as their daughters, and they now travel the world together every summer. “I just learned that they all met Saturday mornings in class,” she says.
Since the start of the pandemic Sophie replaced one of her locations with an outdoor tent space to provide safe, socially distanced training. She also created a Sophie Dance On Demand program for children ages 2-8 who are looking to dance from home.
Sophie teaches classes for the the youngest dancers. “We teach tap, ballet and hip hop to children 18 months to 16 years old,” she explains, “as well as a variety of other styles. All of our teachers understand the importance of stressing patience, gentleness and teamwork with each age group.” This is especially true for Sophie’s only competitive studio — Studio B — which she co-owns with dancer Brandi Krieger. “Brandi and I opened this level-based, competition studio to serve those families and students who want to participate at that level of commitment,” she says. “In order to make sure our dancers maintain that feeling of confidence in themselves in the midst of competition, we focus heavily on teamwork and bonding. What they get out of that is so much more substantial than a plastic trophy.”
At home, Sophie’s three daughters have taken on the joys of dancing as well. Rory is 10 years old, and dances on the competition team. Coraline and Blaise are 5 and 4, respectively, and Mom is hoping that all three stick with dance. “It’s costumes and dancing all the time! Between them and our pets we stay very busy,” she says, also speaking for her husband, Neil Mahoney, owner of 3PL company, Shipping Butler.
Sophie and Neil’s favorite thing to do with their kids is travel, and Sophie also tries to seize every opportunity to give back to the community. The organizations she’s been involved with the longest are GLSEN, Chrysalis and the Alliance of Moms, which is a membership-based nonprofit that supports pregnant and parenting teens in the foster care system. “Family is very important to me,” she shares. “I love being able to be a mom and teach dance, and get to know all the new families that come through the studio. We try to be a small town business in a big city, and I think we’re succeeding. We enjoy giving families that personal attention, and cultivating substantial relationships with them. The pandemic has left us with a need to rebuild as the world recovers and we are, thankfully, up for the challenge. Much has been taken from our children in this last year and we are honored to be a place that can give it back.”