Dance runs three generations deep at Birmingham Dance Theatre. Joni Scofield’s mom Nora Nash started the studio in 1962, Joni took it over in 1984, and her daughters Ally and McCall plan to take its helm it one day. For around 40 years, the studio operated on Highway 31 in Vestavia Hills, first behind Pier One and then across the street. This summer they moved further south on 31, where they have six large dance studios with sprung floors along with a foyer, parents’ lounge and dance store. No matter where they move though, the heart of what they do has remained the same for decades.
What was it like growing up with your mom running a dance studio?
Ally: We lived in our mom’s office. If we were not in class, we were watching and learning, which is what gave us our passion for dance, and now I will hopefully pass it down to my kids, Nora Leigh and Anna Betts. Whenever people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I always said, “I want to own BDT and I want to teach dance for the rest of my life.” McCall always had 50 million dreams, but she’s passionate about it too.
What all does BDT offer?
Joni: We teach tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary, acro, hip hop, audition classes, from age 2 to adults. We also have yoga and adult dance classes. It’s a different kind of workout—a musical artistic kind of workout. They learn a lot and get to sweat, and we challenge them.
What do you mean when you say you teach not just dance but the art of dance?
McCall: We are not just teaching these kids step-ball-change, but where step-ball-change came from. I tell my kids, “When you are dancing you can’t just put your arm up because that’s what you were taught to do. Why are you throwing your are up? Is it because you are mad? Is it because you are relieved? Is it because you are hopeful?” It’s telling a story through our body, which is hard
What draws people to BDT?
Ally: People see how amazing our dancers are and how dedicated they are, and they want to be a part of that. We think of our company as a big family. We are not just their dance teaches, we are their mentors and counselors. If they are having a bad day, they can come in our offices and cry. McCall and I study a lot and know what’s going on in the dance world, and we work out their minds and their bodies.
What else is notable about what you do?
McCall: We have about 100 kids in our company. They are nationally ranked, but we like having rec students who are just in it for fun too. We go to Nationals every other year in Orlando, and we travel around the country and take them to different competitions. Coming into work doesn’t feel like work. You with your family, you are having fun, you are teaching these kids something not just about dance but about life. These kids are our lives.