Bri’s Dance Place

For Bri’s Dance Place owner, dance is about way more than just choreography.

“Dance teaches life lessons. Providing our dancers structure through dance equips them to be self-confident, kind human beings,” said CEO and founder Brianna Hairlson. “We believe that dance is for all ages, stages and abilities, and we don’t just teach dance, we teach life!”

Brianna’s Merrillville-based studio is home to classes for all ages from 2 to 18 in Ballet, Tap, Acro/Tumbling, Modern and Hip Hop. Her staff includes eight teachers and educators, and her team focuses on age-appropriate costumes, moves and music.

“Our staff members are well-equipped to deposit seeds of greatness in our students. We not only have dance education as a skill, but also we are relatable to their experiences coming from Gary and the Chicagoland area,” she said. “We are also focusing on keeping our children, children, promoting the use of their bodies as vessels of healing and not to be objectified.”

Brianna’s background is grounded in dance as she began at the age of 7 and always wanted to create a performing arts center. She was prompted to open her space after being laid off from her corporate job when she was three months pregnant. She launched a pregnancy dance class in 2018, and she took her Bump N’ Dance Class on tour to seven cities at six months pregnant.

“In 2019, when I went to sign the lease to open my first physical location, my mom had a massive stroke after her cancer diagnosis. She passed away in December, right after our studio had its grand opening on Oct. 26, 2019,” she said. “My mother is my inspiration to continue going and growing the studio. She never walked the studio, but she was the one who always pushed me to pursue my dreams.”

With the studio opening just months before Covid, Brianna offered virtual classes and put on a socially distanced recital at an amphitheater.

“We are a place of love, hope and encouragement, but also a place of tenacity and strength, which was demonstrated in us pivoting during the pandemic and remaining open,” she said. “The support of my family and staff helped us push through so 34 students could participate in the recital, “Good, Good Father’ on Father’s Day to speak to the love of our Heavenly Father as well as my father, who was present for me as we faced the loss of my mom and his wife. I was proud that we made it through. We are now in our third dance season here!

“Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, but it’s well worth it. Don’t despise small beginnings because it won’t always be small. If you just keep dreaming – and believing – you’ll see what you desire in your business.”

Bri’s Dance Place

7891 Broadway, Suite F, in Merrillville