Meet Ashley Aarts, 37, owner and director of Dance London and one of our 20 Under 40 Class of 2020 recipients
AS OWNER AND director of Dance London, Ashley Aarts invests herself not only in the business and art dance, but also in the wellbeing of her students. Equal parts mentor, guidance counsellor, psychologist and leader of the troops, she relishes the opportunity to enrich lives and better our community.
What would you say is your biggest business achievement?
Our biggest business achievement was when we enrolled 450 dancers for our 2019-2020 dance season. When I purchased Dance London in 2015, we had 165 dancers enrolled and my goal was to one day have 400 dancing with us. Having reached this goal meant that we were ready to expand the business to a larger location so we could keep on growing and impact even more young dancers’ lives.
How have you weathered the pandemic, and what has it taught you?
When we were shut down completely with no income coming into the business and no rent relief, we had to pivot quickly. In a matter of a week — over March break — we recorded virtual class content for over 80 classes and posted them on an app. When we realized that the shutdown would be longer than a couple of weeks, we decided to end our season and not charge our remaining fees. Even though we weren’t dancing together in person, our community supported us, and they were ready to register when we were back up and running.
Covid-19 has also taught me how important Dance London is to so many people. The love and support we received from our community have been unbelievable. I will never forget the messages I received from students missing the studio, or from Dance London parents checking in to see how we were doing during the shutdown. Our community truly cares about Dance London and I believe that is because of the impact the studio has on our students’ lives.
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What advice would you offer to your younger self?
If I could give advice to a young Ashley, I would tell her that it’s okay to ask for help and to make time for family, friends and yourself.
If you weren’t running a dance studio, what would you be doing?
I love interior design. If I wasn’t a studio owner, this is the field I would have pursued. Interview by Kieran Delamont