February 29, 2016
Christina Schreivogel’s impressive dance career began at a modest studio, since closed, in downtown Hendersonville. But at 15, her family moved to Milan, and she got the opportunity to take her training to the next level. She returned stateside to attend the Virginia School of the Arts, leaving once again to complete her final year in London and travel abroad. After graduation, with a world—literally—of experience under her belt, she decided to “do the whole New York thing.” She worked at the city’s premier studio, Steps on Broadway, and booked side jobs as an extra in movies. Then, Europe began calling her back. Until fate stepped, nay jetéd, in.
She landed a spot performing in the Sacramento Ballet, where she met her husband, Benjamin, and put down roots: They danced there together for more than a decade. Then children came, and she began dancing less, teaching more, and thinking of home sweet home.
From Performer to Entrepreneur
“We moved back to the area in 2011,” she says. “We tried teaching, because we wanted to pass on our knowledge: We’ve had this whole fun experience—we’ve both danced internationally. But we just weren’t finding the right environment to grow the kind of dancer that we were accustomed to being groomed as.” So, they decided to go it on their own. They began dreaming up a studio in late 2014, and by early 2015, River Arts Ballet was born.
Christina enrolled in the Business Planning Class at Mountain BizWorks, offered by our partner Birds Eye Business Planning & Consulting, and quickly determined she was going to need a loan to move forward with her ideas. “I’m an artist and dancer and teacher, and I don’t know all the other stuff,” she shares. “So I needed to go to a place that would support that.”
She met with our director of business finance, Patrick Doran, to create a loan-ready business plan, and she was awarded the capital needed to build her business from the ground up.
“I got a small business loan to help me get mirrors and flooring,” she explains. But not just any flooring: a state of the art, shock-absorbing, nonslip dancing surface the size of a performance stage. “We thought, if you build it well and then you put out a good product, they will come.”
Standing Out in the Corps (Crowd)
And they have. The studio just celebrated its one-year anniversary; in that time, they’ve grown from training six ballerinas in private sessions to teaching more than 100 dancers—from ages three to 68!
Christina acknowledges that the area is “saturated” with studios, but says its River Arts Ballet’s uniqueness that’s propelling them toward success—a story she’s learning to tell with the help of Mountain BizWorks marketing coach Sheila Neisler.
“I don’t think anybody does ballet like we do ballet,” Christina shares. “We survived and thrived in a business that’s very physically demanding for over a decade. A lot of people have taken ballet or know ballet, but they haven’t had our experience.” But, she stresses, “If they don’t want to be a ballerina, that’s okay. Everyone deserves good, quality training.”
The studio offers other types of dance, including modern and hip-hop, as well as yoga classes—Christina and her husband have brought on seven teachers to create their core team. They’ve also recently opened up the space for rent to other teachers in the community for a variety of offerings, including the new fitness craze Bokwa. That means jobs and opportunity.
In fact, that’s her biggest advice to fellow small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs: “The more you can collaborate, the better.” It’s all about cross-pollination, she says, listing off countless exciting plans to work with the greater community in the future. “We’ve created River Arts Ballet to be a supportive environment, like the center of a kaleidoscope for artists and students to collide.”
Western North Carolinians will have a chance to see River Arts Ballet’s very first public performance this spring: their original ballet The Twelve Dancing Princesses. “We’re hoping this first show will let people see what we’re capable of doing—in a short amount of time.” For information and tickets, visit eventbrite.com. To learn more about the studio, and Christina and Benjamin, visit riverartsballet.com.