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Academy for the Performing Arts

Hillary Parnell, Owner of the Academy for the Performing Arts, Inc., (APA) in Apex, North Carolina, describes their dance studio as a home away from home, a place to grow as a dancer and a young person, and a it also happens to be THE dance studio for exceptional dance training in the area. They want their dancers to feel so comfortable here that they come early for class, stay late after class, and never want to leave. APA is a safe place when school or home is stressful and draining. The Academy puts a lot of effort into creating a community feeling that is loving, nurturing, and inspiring.

APA is big enough to offer the amenities of a large business, but small enough to be community-centered and still know most of their students and their parents by name. They offer so many ways to get involved that both their competitive families and their recreational families feel equally involved and important. They have a large class schedule with tons of different options for every age group and a large office staff that is available almost every weekday from 9 AM to 9 PM so that they are always able to take care of their customers.

Hillary says that she has had too many proud moments as a coach to pick just one! Of course, she is very proud when their dancers score well at competition or they win a local business award. However, it is usually the little moments in class that mean the most to her. Moments like when a dancer has an “ah-ha” moment, or repeats back to her a critique she has been harping on all year – Oh, or when the kids cheer each other on in class. She just loves that.

In her opinion, the biggest mistake dancers make is comparing themselves to someone else. Parents are guilty of this as well. Just because your “friends” can do something does not mean you should be able to as well. Just because your friends move to a higher level class, does not mean you will automatically move as well.  Hillary has seen so many dancers take different paths and those paths do not always line up with your friends. Some dancers peak early and then plateau, some are late bloomers. Just keep working hard and trust your teachers.

APA’s main goal is to continue to build their presence in their community. When they started 15 years ago, their town was small and they were the place to go. Now, Apex, North Carolina is the #1 Place to Live in America, according to Money Magazine, so it’s changed drastically. They have to make sure they’re still well known in a community full of new people moving in everyday. They focus a lot on community performances and local service projects.

According to Hillary, she started Academy for the Performing Arts for a selfish reason. She has to admit that she had only worked one year out of college and HATED wearing a suit.  She really hated everything about the corporate world. Her company closed; she was laid off; and she moved back in with her parents. She had always assumed that she would open a studio, but she had planned on doing it later in life. She is so glad the stars aligned, because she NEVER would have had the energy to start from scratch now.

Hillary says that some of the best parts about owning a dance studio is getting the opportunity to help so many young women learn about leadership, achieving their goals, self-confidence, and finding their path in life. They, as dance teachers, are lucky to have many of their students for 10 to 15 years! Hillary and her teachers take the responsibility of mentoring very seriously. They provide health and nutrition classes, help writing resumes, internships, and training for young dancers to be teacher assistants, choreographers, and one day teachers. They provide opportunities for their dancers to organize and participate in service projects throughout the community and to help with marketing and fundraising for charitable causes. Dance is about so much more than dance. At APA, they strive to do their part in helping raise young people to become valuable contributors to society and all-round awesome people.

APA has programs for everyone: Recreational Dance, Competitive Dance, APA Performance Group, Mommy & Me, Afterschool Dance Programs, Preschool for the Arts, Girl Scout Badge Program. There are also a variety of classes starting with Mommy & Me Dance and Mommy & Me Music classes for 18 month to 30 month old students.  From pre-school to 12th graders they offer classes such as pre-dance, movement, Tumbling, Tap, Ballet, Acro, Hip Hop, Jazz, and Contemporary.

Their Recreational Dance Program offers the most styles of dance and the most diverse schedule options in the area. Even if your dancer is not sure if she would like Hip Hop, Contemporary or Tap, APA suggests you should try they all with no pressure and no commitment so that you can see what you like before you enroll.

Their Competitive Dance Program, otherwise known as “Company” is made up of dancers between 5 and 18 years of age who have an interest in taking dance to a higher level. There are five different groups and the dancers are placed based on age and skill level. These groups practice 2 to 5 days a week and compete 3 to 10 times per year..They compete throughout the Southeast and are highly regarded on the competition circuit.

APA’s Performance Group is for students who love to dance and perform but are not interested in the time or financial commitment of “Company.” They give back to their community and doing charitable service for their neighbors. The performance group has more opportunities to be on stage throughout the year instead of just at the recital. These dancers practice multiple routines to perform throughout the year at local and community events such as the Apex and Cary Christmas parades, local arts festivals, nursing homes, malls, and school fairs.

Their Mommy & Me Program offers special Music and Movement classes geared specifically to 18 month olds to 2.5 year olds. Parents participate by assisting and encouraging their little one. Toddlers are taught skills in a fun and open forum that allows little ones to explore movement at their pace and comfort level.

APA’s Afterschool Dance Programs offer Dance as an after school club at several local schools. If your child attends a local school and you are interested in setting up an after school dance class, let your principle know and APA will gladly offer dance to your school. After school dance clubs are a great way to dance more, have fun with your school friends, and are super convenient for parents.

Preschool for the Arts is a half-day academic preschool for children ages 2-5 with a focus on the fine arts. Not only do they prepare students for Kindergarten, they also introduce the students to the fine arts through daily “specials” in Dance, Music, Art, and Tumbling.

Their Girl Scout Badge Program provides the opportunity for Girl Scout or Brownie troupe to earn a badge.

If you would like more information about the Academy for the Performing Arts, visit their website at­­­­­­, email them at ­­­­­, or call them at­ 919-367-7210.  You can also email them from their webpage or email their office staff directly: Recreational Dance –, or meredith@apanc.comCompetitive Dance –, Preschool for the Arts –, Performance Group – Additionally, you can “Like” them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and check them out on Instagram and view them on YouTube.

Anyone who has danced at Academy for the Performing Arts, with Hillary Parnell or with any of the other instructors at The Academy, is invited to comment on their blog.

. . . some of the best parts about owning a dance studio is getting the opportunity to help so many young women learn about leadership, achieving their goals, self-confidence, and finding their path in life.

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