Meet Verve Dance Studio: A Learning Choices Network Partner

By Megan Mills Hoffman, Learning Choices Network/cover photo by Lisa Ellen Cooper

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This coming Saturday, September 28th, and every last Saturday of the month, dancers gather at Verve Dance Studio (910 Main St. 3rd floor, 7-11:30pm, $5) with their friends and family for Battle @ Buffalo.  As the city’s first all-ages urban dance competition, people from all walks of life come to the school to experience breakdancing culture and community. Since it’s start in 2005 with a dedication to the art of b-boying and hip-hop culture, the school has transcended dance and has grown into a robust community center. 

Verve recently celebrated their third annual Under the Lights event sponsored by New Era Cap, created as an extension of their monthly Battle @ Buffalo events. Each element of hip-hop expanded within the ten-hour event, with dancers and artists from across the country contributing as b-boys, MCs, DJs and graffiti artists.

As the host site for LCN’s recent Best of Buffalo Urban Immersion summer program, we spoke at Verve with founders and happy couple Heather Russell and Shane Fry to learn about what drives them as working artists and parents.

What inspired you to start Verve?

We are always looking for ways to enrich our local culture. An entrepreneurs and parents, we are passionate about the various ways that education takes place in everyday situations. At Verve, we use dance classes and community events as a platform to develop a network of individuals who care about the value of education, and help to spread that culture through the self expression of different art forms.

A recent Saturday night Battle @ Buffalo at Verve Dance Studio - photo by Seamus Gallivan

A recent Saturday night Battle @ Buffalo at Verve Dance Studio – photo by Seamus Gallivan

Why are you passionate about alternative options for learning and education?

The strength of any team, company, community is in the diversity of talent amid the group. Having one style of education for our children caters to the development of one style, leading to large gaps in learning skills sets. We want to see more diversity in the types of people who have the opportunity to learn and excel at their individual levels, so that we have stronger communities. Everyone values out-of-the-box thinking, critical thinking and problem solving abilities, yet, when you only give one type of person the opportunity to educate themselves in a supportive way, you are closing the door to numerous solutions, inventions and choices that could and would be developed by other styles of thought.

What types of experiences do you want to provide for your kids?

We work hard to provide our children the opportunity to discover the world, make mistakes and learn to communicate and work with people of all different nationalities, beliefs and ages. We have homeschooled our children, as well as sent them to private schools and public schools. We have allowed them to be an active part in planning, creating and feeling responsible for their own education. We look at the education of our children as our family responsibility and use as many resources as possible to accomplish this such as traditional and non-traditional schooling, community volunteer work, dance, music, art, athletic and nutritional education, and travel. We believe it is very important for our children to have a good sense of the world and the variety of people and places in it.

Shane Fry & Heather Russell - photo by author

Shane Fry & Heather Russell – photo by author

What was your experience in school like?

Heather: My school experience started with getting sent to the Principal during kindergarten orientation. I could already read and write and was bored playing. This led to a series of intelligence tests, skipping kindergarten, and a special teacher to give me one-on-one instruction from 1st through 6th grade. It was a wonderful time of exploration and project-based learning, centered on my interests. It involved and promoted critical thinking, planning and execution of ideas from start to finish. I returned to a traditional 7th grade in a public school setting and attempted to do the same for 8th grade. It was hard for me to concentrate and care about what I was being asked to do because it was such an abrupt change in atmosphere for me and I was expected to not ask questions or have ideas. I was expected to memorize and repeat information that was relayed to me and I became discouraged and depressed until I decided to be home schooled after 3 months of 8th grade. I finished 8th through 12th and graduated at 15.

How has your experience of school affected how you raise your kids?

Our experiences have helped us to see the importance of not relying on “the system” to teach our children. This experience has given us the confidence to trust ourselves in knowing our children and working with them to discover what does and doesn’t work for them. Our end goal is a peaceful, pleasant and productive member of the human race.

Shane and his B-boying were featured in the 2013-2014 Buffalo Niagara Visitors Guide’s Forward Thinkers

For more information about Verve Dance Studio, Battle @ Buffalo, or Under the Lights, visit

To learn more about Learning Choices Network, visit

LCN's Urban Immersion students at Verve Dance Studio - photo by author

LCN’s Urban Immersion students at Verve Dance Studio – photo by author



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