From Chasing Stars to Rising Stars
Everyone needs a creative outlet. Something that gives them a sense of purpose and allows them to feel inspired in a way that opposes the normal anxieties and stressors that come with everyday life. Using art as a way to express one’s feelings and emotions often provides chances to be a happier you. There is even opportunity in pursuing that outlet as a career- combining the two. Though I believe there’s a balance to be had between what is considered work and what is considered a passionate hobby, it’s still important for all of us to have a means of creative expression that works for us.
For Suzanne Rodriguez, that medium of expression has always been dance. From the age of 12, Suzanne says she began attending Broadway shows with her mother and instantly knew that musical theatre was for her. Though dancing was always something she enjoyed, it was around that time she discovered she was truly passionate about the art form.
“It was like an alarm went off in my head that I could do this for a living,” Suzanne told me, adding that she was fascinated with this idea that while onstage she could transform herself into someone else. Her mother had encouraged the passion from the start, reminding her that she could do whatever she put her mind to. So, she did.
Suzanne began dancing at Joffrey Ballet at nine-years-old. From that point, she had the blessing of working with who she says are some of the most important teachers in the dance world, even those taught by one of the greatest choreographers and modern dancers, Martha Graham. She also was taught by the prima ballerinas from Bolshoi Ballet in Russia and even had the opportunity to perform at Lincoln Center with a modern dance company at 15-years-old. She attended High School of Performing Arts, a prestigious arts school in New York City and went on to major in dance at Marymount Manhattan College.
When Suzanne was a teenager, she expressed to her parents that one day she wanted to own a dance studio. Together, they opened Rising Stars in Queens, New York where Suzanne danced and taught lessons. But once her mother retired and ownership of the studio became hers, Suzanne felt it best to not only change the name of the studio but move locations as well.
From there, All That Jazz dance studio was born. Since the birth of a new studio brand, All That Jazz has won countless dance competitions, both regionally and nationally, placing high gold and platinum. They’ve received awards for Studio of the Year, Best Costume, Director’s Choice, and Best Choreography, traveling all over the United States. The studio also takes pride in participating in community affairs.
Suzanne says, “I love the dance studio to perform in the area. It lets the kids just enjoy dancing without any pressure, and it gives back to the community.”
I danced with Rising Stars growing up, and some of my favorite childhood memories took place under the roof of that studio. I can speak firsthand in saying that the environment provided by Suzanne and her mother were much more like a dance family than a dance company. And Suzanne says that’s the most rewarding part about owning a studio.
“When I leave my home to go to ‘work’ I’m really going to my second home. I never consider going to the studio ‘work’ which I know is a blessing.”
The biggest lesson Suzanne has learned in owning her studio is the importance of never giving up on her dreams. Though she says the biggest challenge is balancing home-life and studio-life, she knows this has always been her path. Despite late nights at the studio only to come home to do more work, she believes this to be the most humbling work she could do.
“I have literally seen families grow in front of my eyes. I’ve taught mothers and daughters. It’s beautiful to be a part of a person’s life for so many years,” she said
What’s more, is that Suzanne believes that being a dancer, owning this studio, and having this passion has made her a better mother. She is proud of her entrepreneurship and is confident that she is paving a way for her young daughter to see her mother pursue her dreams as a strong, independent woman. “I also think that having an outlet to express my creativity is good for my daughter to see.”
For her, all of this is just proof that with hard work and determination, you can achieve anything. She says she’d tell a young girl who has the same passion that despite how challenging the work is, it is equally- if not more- rewarding.
“The hours that are put in are endless but when you are backstage watching your show come to life there is nothing else that compares to it.”
Suzanne currently lives in Ozone Park, New York with her husband and daughter. Through her incessant desire to always keep her passion close to her, she is a prime example of the accomplishments that will come out of that diligence. Though it may not always be easy to keep things on-beat, she knows she still plans to be doing pirouettes around the dancing world for years to come.