There’s no dancing around it — Fabulous Feet has created a top-tier dance program for aspiring stars in Wenatchee.
Melissa Miller Port started the studio in 1988 after dancing with Greg Thompson Productions for several years.
“I got married and decided I shouldn’t be on the road anymore, because I’d never see my husband,” Miller Port said. “I didn’t know that I would ever teach, and I didn’t want to start a studio in Seattle because it’s so saturated.”
Miller Port consulted a friend who owned a local dance studio. The friend helped her track down a location and Fabulous Feet began.
“From day one, we’ve been hugely successful,” Miller Port said. “I taught over 200 kids in my first year. I never struggled to stay in business.”
A lot of dance students were drawn to Fabulous Feet by the name recognition of Julie Miller, a singer and Broadway actress, and Miller Port’s sister-in-law, who backed the business.
“I think a lot of people came because Julie backed me, and I was certified as a teacher,” Miller Port said. “There really wasn’t a strong tap/jazz studio in Wenatchee, so there really was no competition either.”
Now that the studio has been established, students flock to the studio for the specialized approach to dance classes.
“I know how to get the best out of kids, regardless of whether they want to be professional or just dance recreationally,” Miller Port said. “I deal with kids individually. Each kid is a different story and needs different things. I’ve always worked really, really hard to put the kids first, and you can see the results. We have some really great dancers here.”
Her attachment to her students goes beyond the time they spend at Fabulous Feet.
“I really care about the kids,” Miller Port said. “If they invite me to their birthday party and if I can make it, I go. I want to know about their life, and how they’re doing. Besides teaching dance, we sometimes have more of an effect on them then their schoolteachers because I have students who have been with the studio since they were three and kept on until they graduated.”
The lengthy exposure to her students makes Miller Port more than a dance teacher to them.
“I become a bit of a mentor,” Miller Port said. “Someone to talk to about their problems, and I really think that makes a difference in her lives.”
Miller Port’s mentality is carried through her teaching staff.
“I really wouldn’t hire someone who didn’t just love the heck out of kids,” Miller Port said. “We work hard to do the right thing and teach our kids to do the right things and be proud of who they are.”
She said every student is important, no matter their skill level.
“Some teachers can get wrapped up with the good kids and not pay any attention to the rest,” Miller Port said. “That’s not me. I love to teach good kids, but I love teaching 3-year-olds too… We have to stay humble and think about what’s important.”
The skills students learn when they go through Fabulous Feet’s studio aren’t just dance steps.
“Whether or not they want to be a professional dancer, they certainly learn discipline,” Miller Port said. “They learn that hard work really does get you somewhere. Those kind of values can get you through life. The value you can get from the studio is amazing.”
Fabulous Feet’s lessons also go outside the studio.
“We’ve always made it a point to go to New York or L.A. every two or three years, somewhere, essential to the dance world in order to further their education,” Miller Port said.
Fabulous Feet acts has taken first-place finishes at dance competitions all over the country.
“It’s hard to keep up with studios in Seattle where students dance every day of the week,” Miller Port said. “In Canada, they have dance as a class in school. Being from Wenatchee where there aren’t very many teachers around, it’s pretty special to be right up there with them.”
A large part of Miller Port’s students’ success comes from the unique style of her performances.
“My shows are like production shows,” Miller Port said. “Every single number has a certain look, and I think that every kid that goes up onstage comes off of it feeling like a star. They feel like all these people came to see just them.”
Another part of their success comes from the studio’s endless work to keep up with national dance trends.
“We work at it, and we stay humble,” Miller Port said. “Just because one of our students is amazing doesn’t mean I can sit on my laurels and not try to be better. I continue to study, and all of our teachers study.”
The studio’s unique style and high-quality performances puts its students head-to-head with the Abby Lee Dance Company that’s featured on the Lifetime TV show, “Dance Moms.”
“Last year and the year before, we went to Spokane and competed against Abby,” Miller Port said. “We’ll be standing next to her kids every time. The kids just love being there and they’re really inspired by those dancers.”
Fabulous Feet has produced several professional dancers who are currently working in the performance industry, including Jace Pauly and Piper Gillin.
“Before I came here, I don’t think parents really considered that dance could be a job for their kids,” Miller Port said. “Now they can see that our students are out there working professionally.”
Miler Port’s success stories go beyond the dance world.
“I had one mom tell me that it was because of me that her daughter went from failing everything to straight A’s, because she had started to care about herself and realized how much she could accomplish,” Miller Port said. “I think that staying positive and always remembering that every single child helps.”