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FLEX Performing Arts co-founders reflect on lifelong passions in dance while celebrating new studio's grand opening 

click to enlarge ARTISTS AND ATHLETES "The thing I love so much about dance is it is the marriage of athleticism and art. You can feed your body and soul with one beautiful activity," FLEX's co-owner and artistic director Brianna Deveraux-Allen said.

Courtesy Photos By Tracy Waitkus Photography

ARTISTS AND ATHLETES "The thing I love so much about dance is it is the marriage of athleticism and art. You can feed your body and soul with one beautiful activity," FLEX's co-owner and artistic director Brianna Deveraux-Allen said.

Local dancers and actors of all ages and skill levels are invited to "flex their muscles and point their toes" at a brand-new Grover Beach studio, FLEX Performing Arts, which celebrated its grand opening at the end of August.

It was important for the studio's co-owner and artistic director Brianna Deveraux-Allen, a frequent choreographer for Allan Hancock College's dance department and the Coastal Performing Arts Foundation, to label FLEX as "a performing arts studio and not just a dance studio," she explained.

click to enlarge DANCE FLOOR DUO FLEX Performing Arts, which celebrated the grand opening of its studio in Grover Beach at the end of August, was co-founded by longtime Central Coast locals Brianna Deveraux-Allen (left) and Jennine Dunne (right). - COURTESY PHOTOS BY TRACY WAITKUS PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Courtesy Photos By Tracy Waitkus Photography
  • DANCE FLOOR DUO FLEX Performing Arts, which celebrated the grand opening of its studio in Grover Beach at the end of August, was co-founded by longtime Central Coast locals Brianna Deveraux-Allen (left) and Jennine Dunne (right).

"I want theater to have a big presence at FLEX, mostly because I've seen firsthand the positive impact it can have on young people, especially in terms of confidence," Deveraux-Allen said. "Not to mention it is just so much fun."

Deveraux-Allen became passionate about theater while choreographing several musicals over the past five years, but her original forte was choreographing concert-style dance pieces for shows like Hancock's Dance Spectrum and Dimensions in Dance (both traditionally held at the Marian Theatre in Santa Maria).

"I've always loved working on the Hancock shows. They always have such a fun, positive energy, and the cast for each concert always ends up feeling like a family," Deveraux-Allen said. "I've danced in and choreographed for several of their biannual concerts. That was how I initially met a few of the instructors that are now working at FLEX."

The résumés of current FLEX staffers Kimberly Eaton, Cynthia Valenzuela, Ben Reyes, and Horacio Heredia include roles at Hancock, and one of the studio's acting instructors, Natalia Noriega, is a graduate of the Pacific Conservatory Theatre (PCPA).

Similar to how her youngest students might look back at their first dance memories someday, Deveraux-Allen can't recall a day in her life when dance wasn't part of it.

"I don't remember ever not dancing," she said. "It's hard to quantify what a truly positive impact it had on me as a young person."

Deveraux-Allen added that she can't "overstate the importance of physical activity in the lives of both children and adults," as it "promotes health, fights depression, reduces stress, helps us sleep better, strengthens bones and muscles, the list goes on," she said.

"The thing I love so much about dance is it is the marriage of athleticism and art. You can feed your body and soul with one beautiful activity," she continued. "Not only do we strengthen our bodies, but we strengthen our hearts and minds through creating art. Not to mention the sense of family and community that it brings. It has brought so much joy and positivity to my life and has played a huge role in making me the person I am."

click to enlarge SONIC YOUTH FLEX Performing Arts offers a variety of dance and musical theater courses, designated for all skill levels and ages (children, teens, and adults alike). - COURTESY PHOTOS BY TRACY WAITKUS PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Courtesy Photos By Tracy Waitkus Photography
  • SONIC YOUTH FLEX Performing Arts offers a variety of dance and musical theater courses, designated for all skill levels and ages (children, teens, and adults alike).

The longtime Central Coast resident said she was 4 years old when she first started taking dance classes. Jennine Dunne, who co-founded FLEX with Deveraux-Allen, beats that starting point by about a year.

"My passion for dance has been around as far as I can remember. I began taking ballet at the age of 3 years old," said Dunne, FLEX's co-owner and studio director. "I immediately fell in love with dance and the ability to express myself through dance."

Throughout her childhood and teenage years, Dunne continued taking ballet classes, while adding jazz, hip-hop, and contemporary dance to the mix as well. During high school, Dunne joined the cheer team and a modern dance conservatory group, and "was always first on the dance floor at parties," she said.

While originally from Los Angeles, Dunne has called the Central Coast her home for more than two decades (she currently lives in Arroyo Grande). One of the reasons she wanted to help start a new performing arts studio in the Five Cities area was to give her 10-year-old daughter and friends a place to "do what they love to do," she said.

"I feel especially fortunate that my business partners and I are able to provide this new studio to her and her peers," said Dunne, whose daughter also started dancing at a very young age, younger than both FLEX co-owners.

"When my daughter was about 18 months old, I started her in a 'mommy and me' dance class," Dunne said. "My daughter has always loved music and movement. It feels pretty special to have a daughter that shares the same passion and to watch her grow and flourish as a dancer." Δ

Calendar Editor Caleb Wiseblood is grabbing his dancing shoes. Send comments to cwiseblood@newtimesslo.com.

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