Donna Rathe was a dancer up until her 20s, but when an injury sidelined her, she put her love of dance to the side for decades. But, at 50, she opened Tiny Dancers to pass on her love of dance to young children. Today, the nearly 20-year-old studio has locations in Old Town Alexandria, Mosaic District and the city of Fairfax—and it’s one of NoVA’s most popular spots for a birthday party.
Why did you open Tiny Dancers?
I grew up dancing. I started dancing when I was 3 years old. I was what they call a “studio rat.” I did ballet, tap, jazz. I lived in the studio. I absolutely loved it. I danced until I injured myself in my 20s and I thought it was the end. I got married, had children, had a career. But at about 50, I decided I wanted to combine my love of young children and dance, and Tiny Dancers was born.
How have you changed your classes during the pandemic?
We were online within just over a week [after businesses had to close], offering virtual classes. We have a number of classes being offered online right now. We were able to be open for some camps in the Alexandria and Mosaic studios, but because dance studios fall under the umbrella of indoor exercise space, we have to have 10 feet of space between each person. We can only fit three kids in Alexandria, and four kids in Mosaic. But the in-person classes [of that size] are selling out. They have their temperature taken and wear their masks. [The students] are doing remarkably well.
What are birthday parties like at Tiny Dancers?
We’re doing virtual parties right now. It’s held on Zoom. We can entertain a guest of honor and her friends with a ballet-based, hip-hop or musical theater party. We choreograph a dance for the kids to learn during that 90-minute party. We have a basic package where each parent supplies their own craft materials. Or you can upgrade, and we deliver tutus or swords and craft packages for the party host to distribute to guests.
Why does Tiny Dancers only teach young children?
We specialize in young children and give them a strong foundation for when it’s time to send them to a larger studio. A lot of studios serve all ages and their focus is not on the little ones. Our studios are small and intimate. It’s a one-room schoolhouse for the little ones. That’s much more comforting for them, and we feel like we can give the children much more of our energy and attention when we’re dealing with them in a small studio.