Rachel Moraw had spent most of her professional life dancing and teaching her art at dance companies and schools across the Fort Worth-Dallas area.
It was a traveling business that kept her on her toes -- and putting off her dream of building a place where her business would come to her.
Until March, when she and husband, Patrick, opened the Family DREAM Center in Mansfield.
“When I looked at the business plan, I thought maybe it would be too much work,” she said. “Honestly, it was a step of faith.”
The result is a 4,200-square-foot studio in a shopping center at 2200 FM 157, Suite 200, just north of U.S. 287. It was built from an empty shell of lease space, with help from family and friends in the building business.
Moraw expects to get crowded at the studio as she works to fulfill the promises of its name – DREAM, an abbreviation of Dance, Recreation, Education, Art and Mentoring. She wants the center to become a destination for the entire family.
Taya Hunter, a fitness instructor whose 4-year-old daughter Jett takes classes there, says the goal is to create a “kind of a one-stop shop – a place where you can get everything you need for your family.”
The “D” and “R” parts, so far, are bustling.
“Obviously, because of my background, dance is our largest program right now,” said Moraw, 37.
She has classes of girls, from 2-year-olds to high schoolers, who take dance lessons for enjoyment, but she also coaches four competition dance teams.
“Some of these kids are up here 12 to 13 house a week, sometimes more,” Moraw said.
And this isn’t a girls-only club. Some boys participate, mostly in the hip-hop dance class, she points out.
“We focus on clean, fun street hip-hop,” she said. “We want the parents to feel like they’re in a wholesome environment.”
Recreation is coming along, especially the elaborate birthday parties, with themes ranging from princess tea parties to DJ dance parties. The center conducts summer camps and field trips.
The education platform so far is a four-week etiquette and character-building class and a weekend workshop on the subject. Moraw has two teachers for that, including her mother-in-law, Sandra Sommerfruct, a former English, Latin and the Bible teacher.
Moraw says that because of her and her husband’s strong faith, the DREAM center is a Christian-based program. But the direct study of biblical scriptures occurs only in the etiquette and character program, where kids learn about a litany of social manners, including appropriate attire, posture and eye contact, listening skills, phone manners, table manners, patience with others, etiquette in home and sports, manners for school bus, carpool and other transportation.
“In order for kids to know etiquette and character, we teach that it can’t be apart from the word of God,” Moraw said. “It helps those character traits sink into the child.”
Art is building a following. Group and private lessons for piano, guitar and voice are offered, as well as a two-hour workshop every other Saturday night, where students try their hand at painting, drawing and sculpture. She hopes to expand that into a weekly program.
Finally, mentoring, which currently is just a vision.
“Under our mentoring, we’d like to get into more specialized classes for parenting, life coaching and other educational programs,” Moraw said. “But it’s one of those things that’s going to have to be a little more down the road.”
The center has already taken a step toward involving parents. Noticing that moms who drop off their kids at class have to sit around for an hour or run errands, Moraw launched fitness classes. She added three fitness instructors to help her with the classes, which now are mostly women-oriented barre exercises.
“But we’re definitely a kid-oriented business,” said Moraw, who first got into dance herself at age 3.
For 11 years before opening the DREAM center, Moraw taught a Christian-based children’s dance program that she created, called Kingdom Dance Kids.
Moraw drew some of her inspiration for the Family DREAM Center from her Kingdom students, who wanted a place to go for dance.
When she opened the center, Moraw and fellow instructor Kelly Norman, whom she coaxed into joining the venture, tried to handle all the teaching – 16 classes apiece.
Since then, she has added 11 instructors of dance, music, art, tumbling and etiquette.
“Everybody on staff that I hire is degreed in their field and have performed professionally in their field,” Moraw had.
Lacy Passmore, 11, is one of the reasons Moraw will soon be looking for more instructors. She has been taking dance since she was 4, but only recently signed up at the center. Lacy, a fifth-grader at Texas School of the Arts in Fort Worth, likes being put to the test.
“It’s challenging. Different, because we’re learning more stuff, and it’s harder,” said Lacy, who enjoys her instructors. “They taught us fouetté. I learned triples, and calypso.”
Her mom, Lisa Passmore, pays about $250 a month for all the dance classes and the art workshop Lacy takes, plus $85 for the dance company fees, costumes and other requirements. She’s glad to pay it.
“That was the big thing for us – is she getting professional training,” Passmore said. “From what I’ve seen from the DREAM Center, they’re positive and know what they’re doing.”