Whether you are new to Mellado Dance Elite or a long time student, we hope you have had the chance to meet our Owner and Director, Carla Mellado-Robertson. Carla keeps very busy teaching classes, producing shows, and running the studio seamlessly; but she LOVES taking the time to get to know the families at MDE. We thought you might enjoy getting to know her a little better! We sat down to ask her a few questions, learn some FUN facts, and explore Mellado Dance Elite’s history and exciting future.
What is your dance background?
I think I started dancing straight out of the womb 😉 I was lucky to have parents that put me into my first dance class when I was 6 years old. I started out with tap dancing. Even as an adult, I remember some of my first memories as a dancer were from around this age. As I got older, it became more and more apparent that I loved to dance. I tried many sports growing up but always ended up wanting to spend my time dancing. I quickly enrolled in every dance form I could get my hands on, I loved it all. I ended up completing examinations in tap, jazz, ballet and acrobatics. My life was dance and I loved that. I was hungry to learn from as many people as I could. I spent extra time in the studio alone anytime I could. I practiced dance all day, everyday. I participated in workshops, master classes and took class at professional training centers. I was a “sponge.”
Did you always know you wanted to own a dance studio?
YES! It was something I knew very young that I wanted to do. My mom said that when I was around 10 years old, I would often tell people that when I was older I would own my own studio.
When did you open Mellado Dance Elite?
October 1999. I was 19 years old. To be honest I did not know a ton about owning a business but I had a passion for working with dancers and a willingness to learn as much as I could. We started out small, only a handful of dancers/families. I truly believe the families who were a part of MDE in the early years were one of the reasons that Mellado Dance Elite exists today. They were/are some of the most supportive and loving people I have ever met. They did nothing but support me and believed in MDE right from day 1. During the first few years of MDE I was the only teacher, and worked a full-time job at the Bread Garden in order to make ends meet. When I look back and knowing what I know now, I wonder how I managed. But I have always been a driven and hardworking person which I think was a big factor as well.
What was your path to studio ownership?
I opened Mellado Dance Elite almost straight out of high school. During our 6th year I was approached by a local studio owner who was looking to retire and wanted to discuss having me take over her studio (which was also a family based studio). I purchased her school and we merged the two studios together under my direction. In our 10th year, we designed our current dance home. I worked with architects, designers, engineers to create the dance space of my dreams. It was one of the hardest challenges of my life. I am so proud that I was able to overcome all the obstacles and learned so much along the way.
What are 3 words to describe your studio?
Family, Love/Acceptance, and Growth/Development…. sorry it’s so hard to narrow it to only 3.
What makes Mellado Dance Elite different than other studios in the area?
I feel we are a studio all in our own. We have been around for 18 years under the same director. We have a beautiful state of the art dance facility, unlike anything you have seen. We have many teachers that have been with us for over a decade. This allows our dancers and teachers to really bond and get to know and trust one another. We have programs for everyone…from a beginner dancer to a serious competitive company dancer. We do not require an “all in” mentality for all dancers. We understand that some dancers are going to want to dance with a committed group without the huge financial or time commitment. Our programs change and adapt to what the dancer’s needs are. Dancers are going to grow and change and we want programs that are flexible to help support a dancer based on their goals and current position. Our dancers grow up with MDE as their second home. They often spend more time at the studio than they do at their own home. We designed our studio to accommodate the needs of our dancers. We have a kitchen, places to do homework, along with girls and boys changing rooms. But most of all, what makes us different is the entire family dynamic that we have had here for the past 18 years. We are a true team! Every member is equally valued, whether you are a 3 year old taking 1-30 minute class a week or a competitive dancer taking 20+ hours a week. We take part in community events (which all dancers are encouraged/welcome to participate in), we hold Christmas parties, and Parent Night Out Events. These events allow our dancers to socialize with other dancers/teachers that they might not see during their weekly classes.
What is your favorite thing about owning a dance studio?
I feel so incredibly lucky to have the chance to make a difference in the lives of our dancers at Mellado Dance Elite. To be able to give them a place that they can be proud of and call their own. To help create a safe, positive environment for dancers to grow and be themselves. To create long lasting and important relationships in their lives. And to provide a place where families can gather to celebrate and support one another. I know that owning a dance studio gives me the rare opportunity to be part of a student’s life for many years. Many dancers start when they are as young as 3 years old and continue dancing till they are 17 or even older. Many of our dancers are now staff teaching classes at MDE. It is amazing to have the chance to see students develop not only as dancers but as individuals and to be apart of their accomplishments within the studio and outside as well, celebrating the good times and supporting them through the hard times too.
What have you learned about yourself throughout your studio ownership journey?
That I love my students with my whole heart. I hold every one of my dancers in my heart for my lifetime. That sometimes putting yourself out there for something that you believe in can be hard. Not everyone will understand your reasons or path but I have learned to believe in myself and go in the direction that I feel is best for our studio, students and teachers. That even in those moments that I feel alone, overwhelmed and exhausted that I am not alone. I have learned that I have some really, really amazing people who support me and my vision for MDE. I am forever grateful.
What is your most memorable moment with Mellado Dance Elite?
Oh wow! There have been WAY too many. I have a ton of memorable moments with MDE. I think some of the best have been when we have had the opportunity to travel together. Las Vegas x2, Oregon x2, LA etc. It seems that anytime I am with MDE we are creating memories. Some of my favorite have been just the days that seem ordinary but leave my heart so happy. Watching my/our dancers on stage has always been a huge highlight for me. Seeing a student achieve something for the first time when you know exactly how hard they have worked to achieve it, that never gets old 🙂 Oh and when I brought in Hayden to meet our dancers for the first time. She was only a few days old and seeing her with my students, who I love so much, was just so special. I am so incredibly lucky to have all of the dancers in not only my life but in little Hayden’s life too. She loves all the “big girls.”
What is your most embarrassing and goofy moment while directing your studio?
Well…I have to say I am a pretty goofy person, anyone who knows me well knows this. We are constantly playing tricks on each other. I am not sure which moment would be the most memorable. I used to often get kicked out of the teachers lounges at competitions because they assumed I was a student, never really embarrassed me, it was more funny. Around my dancers is when my true goofiness comes out! Oh and I love a good high five!
What is in store for Mellado Dance Elite in the future?
To continue bringing the highest quality dance instruction to our dancers. To provide our families with the meaningful experiences that they have come to expect. To grow and evolve our programs year after year. And to have teachers who continue to grow their craft and a have a willingness to share their love for dance with their dancers.
We hope that you enjoyed getting to know Carla as much as we did! I loved hearing her talk about the moment her dancers met Hayden. SO sweet! I think it is pretty obvious that she LOVES dance, her studio, and her students and studio families. Her passion is evident in everything she does at Mellado Dance Elite. The studio would not be what it is today without her direction. Do you still have questions for her, something you just HAVE TO know?! Next time you are at the studio, don’t be afraid to ask away! Thank you Carla for taking the time to let us learn a little more about you and your studio. The future at Mellado Dance Elite looks very bright!