Arts & Entertainment

Bachelor & Bachelorette




Food & Drink

Health & Wellness



Mayoral Thoughts



Women in Business

<   Swipe left or right   > 

Jun 26, 2024

Written in the Stars

Barry Kaufman

Photography By

Alliance Dance Academy sparks imagination in young performers

Continue Reading

A single star can sparkle. But a constellation shines.

It’s the same in the heavens as it is on earth. And it’s particularly true in the world of dance, where finding your people has never been more important to making a career in movement.

Long-time instructor Ashlyn LaRiche, who was recently named studio director.

“After COVID you stopped seeing so many open auditions, so it’s really become more about who you know,” said Rochelle Clarkson, owner of Alliance Dance Academy and longtime veteran in the world of competitive dance. “Now it’s just easier to call a choreographer and ask for recommendations rather than hold auditions, so it’s really important for a teacher to know the choreographers and be able to introduce them to your kids.”

It’s a new reality in the wider dance world, but from the start Clarkson has built her studio and her dancing life on forging deep connections. Ask any parent whose child attends Alliance and they’ll tell you – this isn’t a studio, it’s a family. It’s a cohesive bond formed between parents, children, teachers, and students that truly sets Alliance apart. Or, at least, it’s one of the many things that sets Alliance apart.

“That’s part of what happens here,” Clarkson said. “If you’re a teacher, you’re all in. You have to be a part of our culture, because we all believe the same things and we’re all here for the same reason. Lord knows parents have plenty of choices in dance studios, and this is the studio that’s a family.”

Long-time instructor Ashlyn LaRiche, who was recently named studio director, knows that better than almost everyone. She joined Alliance during its second year in operation, leading Saturday classes part time after coming down from Ohio where she danced and taught. Today, she teaches various styles of classes as well as classes at local daycare centers, while keeping that standard of cohesive instruction held high. 

Rochelle Clarkson, owner of Alliance Dance Academy and longtime veteran in the world of competitive dance.

“One of the most important things that Miss Rochelle taught me was to lead with love first. It’s about leading from the heart, understanding why we are doing this,” LaRiche said. “The goal is, we want everyone to find their passion. Maybe not everyone will find that with dance, but we want them to find that.”

LaRiche found her passion in cultivating the familial atmosphere at Alliance, following the model that Clarkson established. 

“Ashlyn is just great at what she does. And she reminds me of me – we have the same love for what we do and the same joy in sharing it with our kids,” Clarkson said. “And she has all the energy in the world. She’s always coming up with new ideas, which is great because it’s good for expanding what the studio offers, but more so because it’s great for the kids to have the benefit of her energy.”

Long-time instructor Ashlyn LaRiche, who was recently named studio director.

One of the new endeavors that LaRiche spearheaded is Alliance’s Teacher Apprentice Program (TAP). The idea behind this project is to give students the tools they need to find a career in dance outside of learning steps and techniques.

“We’re mentoring our older students to be student teachers, so that they when they get to college, they can find a job in a studio doing whatever needs done, whether it’s teaching or working the front desk,” Clarkson said. “Not only will that give them a higher-paying job during college, but it helps them build their post-graduate resume while continuing to enjoy their passion.”

For the young stars who stay the course, this program provides a clear path to finding their constellation. Giving students those opportunities has always been a crucial part of Alliance Dance Academy’s philosophy, helped immensely by Clarkson’s extensive history in the dance world. 

Through her connections, she has brought in some of the world’s most sought-after choreographers to work with her dancers at the Bluffton studio. She has connected students with a wider network, allowing them to pursue their dreams. And she has nurtured instructors like Ashlyn LaRiche, passing on her uncanny ability to tie a child’s ability to their passions, thus allowing them to shine.

Both instructors feel more like proud parents than teachers.

“Family here is everything,” LaRiche said. “I want to come in on weekends because I love being here. Because Rochelle has taken my own family in and taken them under her wing. We mesh very well and we end up doing life together.”

“She’s a mini-me,” said Clarkson with a chuckle.

Together, they are giving kids a chance to shine on their own, nurturing their passion for dance or simply helping them find where their passions may lie, then pointing their way toward the heavens. And when these stars finally shine for themselves, they’ll do so as part of a family, a constellation if you will, that will continue to support them no matter where their starlight takes them.  

Related Articles

Top Dawg Tavern’s

If you’re not going to be the first to the party, you’d better make the biggest entrance.  Top Dawg Tavern proved that when it opened in Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina three years ago, becoming the latest addition to the growing family of restaurants.  The new...

read more

Tiki Hut Renovation Preserves Its Iconic Vibe

It can be daunting to mess with an icon.  For years, The Tiki Hut, the sprawling outdoor bar on the sand behind Beach House Hilton Head Island, has occupied a singular spot in Hilton Head Island’s heart. For visitors, it’s that place they dream of during those long,...

read more

Enjoy the Breeze!

It’s nice to reduce our carbon footprint. It’s nice to have fewer vehicles on the already crowded streets. It’s nice not to have to rely on navigation. It’s nice to have a designated driver when you need one. It’s nice to share a piece of nostalgia with our kids. It’s...

read more