After 20 years of serving the community with tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop and other forms of dance instruction, Woodinville Dance Academy will be closing its doors for good on May 31.
The decision to close was not a direct result of COVID-19, but rather the consequence of managing new buildings and huge rent increases. According to studio manager and owner Julie McMurray, the former property manager didn’t raise rent for many years. Now the new management company plans to raise the rent to more than double the previous price to keep up with the market rate.
Lakeshore Corporation, which manages the building along with the dance studio, could not be reached for comment.
“I really fought to keep the studio going and we’ve done really well for 20 years,” McMurray said. “I agreed to leave. It’s just very sad to leave this way.
During the pandemic, McMurray received government assistance and was confident the business could survive until September. She only paid herself two months out of the whole year, she said, focusing on paying teachers and rent.
When the rent skyrocketed, she said various people suggested the dance studio rates should be increased. But costs would have jumped 250%, she noted, and she was unwilling to double all tuition so suddenly. Also, while still in the midst of a pandemic, she doesn’t know when the academy will be able to operate at full capacity again.
Woodinville Dance Academy opened in October 2001 with a single studio near Zip Market on Woodinville-Duvall Road. In 2002, after only one year, the company already outgrew the original space and moved to a bigger space with two studios. The dance academy moved again in 2005 to a more spacious building, where it is now located in the northern industrial district, with three studios.
McMurray started the Woodinville Dance Academy with the intention of establishing a studio without an emphasis on competition teams. Instead, she wanted to focus on the artistic expression of dance. Her teaching priorities are based on progressive teaching and positive reinforcement techniques, she said.
The studio has become known for its annual Nutcracker production, which began as a tradition 15 years ago. Dance groups performed at Disneyland, the Seattle Center, the Bellevue Arts Museum and other local venues, McMurray said. The ages range from 3-year-olds to teenagers and adults, she added.
McMurray said she had hoped to continue running the studio until her retirement, but plans changed. She considered moving the business again, she added, but ultimately decided not to consider “another expensive build” at her age.
“I’m not starting anywhere else. I am not,” she said. “I just don’t want to invest anymore. I’ve done it three times already.
She says several other tenants are leaving the building due to massive rent hikes.
McMurray said she wishes the new owner had taken the time to find out what types of businesses currently occupy the building to see how major rent changes would impact the community. She hopes opportunities for the performing arts will continue in Woodinville as small businesses continue to fight for low-cost spaces to use.