The Tri-Cities’ only flamenco, ballet and martial arts school is open for business and accepting new members.
Find Your Center’s mission is to make dance and martial arts accessible to everyone, regardless of age, ability or background.
A Pasco retiree said she feels more graceful and balanced after taking ballet classes created just for senior citizens.
“The ballet for seniors class on Friday afternoons is a great way for retired folks (to) keep their minds and bodies active and express themselves artistically,” said Kate Robins, who owns the studio with her husband, DeShawn Robins.
Janet Tubito of Pasco said the class has been perfect for her.
“Kate shares her expert ballet knowledge in a gentle, creative, respectful and fun way. This is my first dance class ever and I don’t feel at all like this is beyond my ability because Kate focuses on making ballet accessible,” she said.
Tubito also tried the martial arts class called capoeira (pronounced “kapoo-ay-rah”) during the drop-in “roda” class available to Find Your Center members on Saturdays.
DeShawn, who teaches the class, said the Afro-Brazilian martial arts form was developed by African slaves in Brazil seeking freedom from their oppressors. Capoeira combines music, dance, acrobatics and fighting, which the slaves used to express and defend themselves.
“Before I met DeShawn I didn’t even know what capoeira was,” Tubito said. “And now I get to learn something new, again, with another caring teacher who is an expert at what he does.”
DeShawn discovered capoeira as a teenager growing up in Michigan. He took classes with his brother at the YMCA, training in the art form for eight years as he worked on his college coursework.
Part way through graduate school, he felt the need to take a break from academics and his chosen career path to pursue his passion in martial arts. He moved in with master capoeira teacher, Gary Williams, who had recently come to Detroit. Under his tutelage, DeShawn embraced an intensive training schedule, practicing six hours per day.
It was at a salsa dancing class that he met his future wife, who was rediscovering dance after several years of focusing on her academic studies.
From a young age, Kate had participated in competitive ballet. During her teen years, she performed with a company in lead roles, but ultimately decided to pursue university coursework instead of a career as a professional ballerina.
“I took dance classes at the University of Illinois and realized I could still enjoy ballet through teaching,” she said.
The couple realized they could bring together everything they’d learned on their respective journeys by opening their own studio.
“We found that despite the cultural distance between ballet and capoeira, we had essentially the same training in recognizing and striving for excellence. We knew the constant everyday work that it takes to center yourself, lose your center and find it again,” Kate said.
In addition to ballet and capoeira for all levels and ages, the new school offers lessons in flamenco, sevillanas, capo-ballet and conditioning.
“We decided we wanted our own place in spring 2015,” DeShawn said. “We were both kind of stressed in our work environments. It caused us to rethink things and prioritize, and we decided to start something new. We didn’t really doubt it; we knew we wouldn’t give up until we got the studio open, and here we are.”
Kate said they were attracted to Pasco and the greater Tri-City area because of the region’s rapid growth and the opportunities opening up for new business owners. “It sounded like a good place to open a studio and raise a family,” she said.
The couple contacted the Downtown Pasco Development Authority, and Executive Director Luke Hallowell recommended the 1,400-square-foot former “everything” store space in suite E at 411 W. Clark St.
“We knew right away when we walked in that it was the right fit,” DeShawn said.
After helping the building’s owner make improvements to the interior and exterior, Find Your Center opened in mid-January.
“It’s going really well,” DeShawn said. “Slow but steady growth.”
The couple said they’ve had several people take advantage of their $20 trial class offer, with eight becoming members and more considering membership.
As Find Your Center works to establish itself, DeShawn continues his work as geographic information systems administrator for the city of Pasco, while Kate runs the studio. Eventually, they both want to teach full time at the studio.
In the meantime, while class sizes are small, students benefit from more one-on-one teaching. Kirsten Grace of Richland, a Pasco High School teacher in her 60s, said she started teaching herself ballet a year and a half ago.
“But I had reached the limits of what I could learn from YouTube,” she said.
Grace had been on the hunt for a studio to take classes but struggled to find any in the area that offered adult classes.
Since joining Find Your Center’s novice ballet class, she said she’s improved a lot. “I couldn’t have gotten as far without Kate,” she said.
Grace said the lower impact nature of ballet was a big plus, especially since she has wrist issues that make other forms of exercise difficult. She noted improved balance and flexibility as other benefits.
Find Your Center’s basic enrollment package starts at $70 per month for one year, or $77 per month for six months. Members also can opt to pay for one-year or six-month memberships up-front for greater savings.
The price includes 80 to 90 minutes of instruction per week, 10 hours per week of shared practice space, a one-hour capoeira roda practice per week, and a complimentary exercise journal.
Membership plans for those looking for increased studio access also are available.
Other member benefits include $5 off all special workshops and a 10 percent discount for family members who join.
“Find Your Center is about finding a community and discovering you can do things you didn’t know you could do,” said Kate, who added it’s more important to her and her husband that students feel a personal sense of accomplishment.
“When you achieve something, it’s a confidence booster … it’s so empowering and I want to share that with the community,” DeShawn said.
The multilingual couple speak Spanish, French, Portuguese, Quechua and English.
Find Your Center is at 411 W. Clark St., Suite E, in Pasco; 509-302-4866; findyourcenterpasco.com
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