Dancing into the Future

Part of Shorewood for over 60 years, KMC Dance is poised to keep moving.
KMC Dance owner Shannon Harris leads a class of pint-sized dancers.

For more than 60 years, KMC Dance Studio has been teaching lake-area kids and teens dance moves, from beginning to advanced. The popular family-owned business experienced a change. New owner Shannon Harris, who took over the business in 2016, grew up in Deephaven. She graduated from Minnetonka High School in 1989, and has been involved at KMC since she was a young dancer herself.

“I started taking classes at KMC at age 5,” Harris says. “I became an assistant teacher at 15 and started actual teaching at 20.” When the studio’s previous owners decided to retire, Harris leaped at the opportunity. “They were my second family,” she says, “and they were very helpful in the transition.”

She notes that part of the studio’s draw is its unique set of offerings. “Usually a studio is either competitive or it’s recreational,” she says. “We do both, which is unusual.” This is KMC’s heritage, and it’s something Harris wants to continue. “I don’t plan on making many changes,” she says. “We’re proud of what we’re already doing.”

That means that students ages 3 to 18 will still have the opportunity to learn ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary and pointe, and can choose to become a member of a competitive team or simply study dance for their own enjoyment. “We choose one national competition each year,” Harris says. “In 2015, that was Las Vegas. In 2016, it was Ohio, and we had two soloists take first place. But we’re equally proud of our students who don’t want to compete but love to dance and want to work it in around their other interests.”

Harris does plan to make a few tweaks, including the addition of contemporary dance classes. “This is a more elite dance form,” she says. “You have to have strong ballet and jazz backgrounds, but you also need emotion. We can create emotional dance performances, whether it’s to raise awareness [about an important topic like bullying or mental health] or to honor someone. It’s meant to move the audience.”

One of KMC’s strong traditions is community service. “We’re happy to perform free shows,” Harris says. “We’ve performed at nursing homes, at the Hope Chest, and for the Make a Wish Foundation. If a group would like us to come in, they should just give me a call.” She feels this is an important part of dance education for young performers. “The lessons you learn from giving back stay with you for your life.”

Something else that sets KMC apart from many other dance studios is that parents are not only allowed to stay and watch their offspring dance, but they’re encouraged to do so. “We feel parents should be allowed to see how their kids are developing,” Harris says. “Besides, I have the wonderful opportunity to get to know all their children. I have students who walk in the door at age 3 and they’re with us for 15 years. It creates this family and community feeling in our studio, and the parents should be part of that.”

September through mid-May is the busiest time of year for KMC, coinciding with the school year. But for students who want to keep practicing, there are classes offered in the summer, too. There’s also Dance Camp: a special trip to a campground in Cannon Falls that serves as a dance-intensive away-from-home adventure. “Campers need to be enrolled in the summer if they’re going to take the camp,” Harris says. “Some students dance all year just to be able to go to camp.”

It’s just one of the factors that has made KMC part of the community for so long. “We’re a close-knit, family-oriented studio,” Harris said. “We try to get to know each child individually, and each family.”