TAMPA — Terri Howell has been dancing as long as she can remember. So long that she was more than ready to start her own dance studio at the age of 19, right out of high school.
Howell is the owner of All-American Dance Factory on Dale Mabry Highway. It’s in the back of Carrollwood Plaza and kind of hard to find, but that won’t be the case for long as she is moving to a new location in the Main Street Shopping Center in September.
Since opening her first facility she has gone from a 1,500-square-foot studio to her new 11,000-square-foot site. It’s a big change, but Howell has always known her passion for dance would take her to the top.
She has owned the All-American Dance Factory since 1996 and, actually owned two studios, one for serious dancers, and another ballet school. She has had students dancing all over the world, including on Broadway, on cruise ships, and even at Tokyo Disney.
Howell was born and raised in Tampa and studied ballet at the University of South Florida. She has danced professionally but wants to spend her time teaching.
“I want to focus on teaching and if something goes beyond that, great,” Howell said as classical music blasted away in the background and students at her summer camp took sporadic breaks from dancing. “Some of these kids have a great chance to join professional dance troupes. They have a great chance to get college scholarships.”
One of her students recently finished in the Top 20 on the television show, “So You Think You Can Dance.” Amanda Mitchell is one of the two teachers at Howell’s facility and earned a lot of scholarship offers before choosing Pace University in New York City, not too far from the lights of Broadway.
Howell makes sure her students get plenty of opportunities. She doesn’t recruit colleges; the colleges recruit her students. It’s all about going to auditions, Howell said, but it isn’t as easy as just walking through the door and getting a chance. She takes some of her students to New York every summer just to let them soak up the lights of Broadway.
“It’s a lot like the show ‘A Chorus Line,’” Howell said. “Everybody wants a chance but it isn’t that easy. I give them a chance but it’s up to how hard they want to work.
“Kids are coming in here for discipline,” Howell said. “We set high expectations and they have to. It is ballet, which is a tough thing. They have to want to be the best.”
Howell’s classes start for kids as young as 2 years old. The kids learn to compete at an early age, but Howell said she doesn’t push them too hard unless they are willing to put in the time and effort. She teaches four disciplines: ballet, tap, jazz and acrobatic dance, and the kids who put in the time never get it out of their blood, she said.
For information on the All American Dance Factory, call (813) 908-9086.