Arkansas Dance Center on Frontage Road in Bryant is one of Saline County’s flagship dance and acro studios. Owned and operated by Brooke Finley since she was in college, the location is focused on building confidence through proper training. Says Brooke, “What makes us unique is the environment we provide to the students of this community. I’ve always wanted to not only teach different styles of dance, but also reach children’s hearts, make them laugh, smile, and gain their trust.”
Everything about the studio is personal to Brooke, who graduated from UALR with a major in Theater and Dance. She knew before she started college she wanted to earn a living doing what she loved. But it took a little bit of time before that came to pass. According to Brooke, “My mother and father both wanted me to attend college after high school. However, all I wanted to do was perform, dance, act, and sing. Respectfully, per their wishes I went to college one semester. I begged to move back home and I went right up to the UALR campus, and let’s just say I was home sweet home. I told both of my parents, “I will go to college, but only if you let me major in Theatre and Dance. And if you do, I will open my own dance studio in Bryant and earn a living doing what I love.” They said, “Go for it!”
When asked what offerings set Arkansas Dance Center apart from other studios in the county, she replies, “First, my college degree, which I’m very proud of. I grew up dancing and singing since I was three years old, but the experiences and training I received in college and after took it to the next level. I began working professionally as an actor and dancer at Murray’s Dinner Theatre in Little Rock, while attending college.
“The professors and teachers who passed on their knowledge to me were impeccable. And I’ve made so many friends along the way. As the Owner and Director of the studio, I’ve brought on a team and staff with similar training that includes professional experience, and union and accredited teachers who’ve traveled the United States, taught master classes, adjudicated competitions, and worked for major dance companies and competitions.”
Brooke’s passion for performing arts was apparent at a very early age. Brooke shares, “I was brought up in a home full of music and entertainment. That’s what we did. My mother was stricken with polio in 1944 just at around a year old. She endured years and years of surgery each summer growing up, so that she could just walk. She put me in dance and a gymnastics class right off the bat and had me singing in church at age three as well. My first solo was ‘I am a Promise!’”
To run a successful studio, it is crucial to develop rapport with students, which is something Brooke learned early in life. When asked what her secrets are for working with and training youth, Brooke says, “I learned so much of what I know about working with children from my mother, who owned a daycare. I grew up there. She showed me how to communicate with a child. She taught me how to get them to like me. She always said that if I could do that, then they would listen. I truly love being able to reach a child and make a difference in their life. It’s not all about dance. Of course, I have my little funny ways of getting their attention, and I love to try new things!”
Saline County has been home to Brooke since 1985, and she plans for it to be her forever home. When it comes to plans for growth for the studio, she shares that she is focused on the community now more than ever. Said Brooke, “I’ve been in business here since 1997. I along with one of my best friends originally opened the studio, before we even graduated college.
I had a thriving business for many years. I became the sole owner around 2004. I was blessed in 2015 to have two beautiful twin daughters, Lainey and Vivi. Now that they are older, I can give more back. I’m on a new mission to focus, continue my work in this community, and build and expand the studio throughout Saline County. I’m still just as excited today as I was 25 years ago.”
As Brooke looks back on her last 25 years in business, she says, “Much of my success as a teacher has come full circle now. I not only get to meet new students, but also to teach my former students’ children and share the love of dance with the next generation. It is so wonderful to have students come back and share how dance has impacted their lives in a positive way, and that’s why I do it. I’m very proud to say that as of May 15th, we celebrated teaching and serving the community and children here in Saline County with our 25th Anniversary Recital. It is one of the most important recitals of my career. It’s as if I get to tell my mom and dad that I did it! My parents have helped me get to where I am today.
“In 2017 my mother passed away, and my only heartache is that I won’t be able to see her beautiful face as she sits in the front row beside my father. She would have thought this was the best thing ever. I know she’ll be with me looking down from heaven and watching her two grandchildren perform on this memorable occasion. I’d like to say, ‘This one’s for you, Momma!’”