Let’s Dance!

Suwanee mother brings background of international professional dance experience to The Royal Dance Academy

BY: Rachel Fasig

Suwanee loves and appreciates its mothers, whether you are a working mom, stay-at-home mom or soon-to-be mom, we understand and value everything you are investing in and sacrificing for our future generation.

And, Sarah Haslock-Johnson, Owner and Director of Ballet at Royal Dance Academy in Suwanee and Cumming, is no exception to this! On any day of the week, Haslock-Johnson can be found: teaching a rigorous schedule of dance classes, choreographing dances that may ultimately land her students a scholarship, traveling for performances across the country, speaking and fundraising on behalf of her nonprofit organization, managing the operation of a full time dance conservatory program, driving kids to soccer practice, making dinner, helping her girls with homework, tucking them into bed and spending quality time with her husband and daughters.

“I subscribe to a philosophy of taking one day at a time. When I do have time off I’m with my girls 100%. But, if they need to come in while I’m teaching and just sit with me, I want them to always know they can do that,” she said on balancing family and work life. With three daughters: Kalliyan (10), Sophia (7) and Josalin (4) and a seemingly nonstop schedule, it can be difficult to find that balance. But, over twenty years of experience in the dance industry, has prepared Haslock-Johnson to be a working mom in more ways than she can even comprehend.

isWatermarkedShe is a “second mom” to many of her dancers as well. “Sarah is truly a second mother to my daughter,” said Mary Norris, mother of Royal Dance Academy graduate, Carolan Norris. “Had Carolan not met Sarah, her life would have been different. Sarah pushed her just enough, but was always there to support her and believe in her,” Mary Norris continued with tears in her eyes.

Carolan Norris was taught by Haslock- Johnson at Royal Dance demy for four years being recruited and offered a ‘Director’s Scholarship’ at the prestigious Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Massachusetts, at just 15 years old. A difficult decision for any parent to let their child leave at such a young age, Haslock-Johnson sat down with Mary for a heart-to-heart explaining that Carolan has the talent to become a professional dancer and that this was the opportunity for her to do so.

Before attending Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Carolan had been a student of Royal Dance Academy’s full-time Conservatory Program. Dancers are at the Academy, Monday through Friday where they attend dance classes as well as advanced-level academic courses, taught by Haslock-Johnson, in Dance History, Physiology, Nutrition and more. Students then complete their regular online studies before returning in the evening for more dance classes.

“This program certainly isn’t for everyone,” Haslock-Johnson explained. But, for the 10-15 students who are in the program each year, it is everything. “The County has been so supportive of our program, and for them, this is what they want their online schooling to be for…for kids like this that really want to pursue something they won’t find in an ordinary public school system,” she continued.

Haslock-Johnson is a graduate and International Mentor & Tutor of the Royal Academy of Dance in London – one of the world’s most influential and respected dance education organizations. The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) trains teachers, many of whom have gone on to teach at world-renowned production companies. There are only four RAD- Registered Schools in the State of Georgia, including Haslock-Johnson’s Royal Dance Academy in Cumming and Suwanee.

The Royal Dance Academy subscribes to a traditional syllabus that adheres to worldwide standards in classical ballet. “Similar to how public school systems have standardized testing, RAD examinations bring that to the dance world,” Haslock- Johnson explained. Each dancer at The Royal Dance Academy, from primary to advanced levels (whether they are in the Conservatory Program or not), must complete yearly RAD examinations, judged by qualified examiners from around the world.

“Dance has become a big melting pot of different styles, which is something to be appreciated; but as an RAD teacher, what separates us, is that we’re offering a definitive training program,” she said about the curriculum. “And the parents of my dancers love it – they love being able to hear an unbiased opinion and see their child’s scores and feedback,” she continued. It is through this comprehensive program that Haslock- Johnson has led dancers to acceptance into schools and professional companies, including: The American Ballet Theatre, Julliard, Alvin Ailey and Joffrey Ballet, The Royal Academy, Orlando Ballet, Colorado Ballet and various University Dance Departments.

Although The Royal Dance Academy attracts many students who are passionate and serious about making dance a career, it also caters to dancers of all levels and offers many classes beyond classical
ballet. Haslock-Johnson has a deep appreciation for the arts and hopes that all children have a chance to be exposed to that. “Even if you have no interest in doing something with it {dance} long-term, you need to come in and do your best…and at the very least you will walk out this door with an appreciation for the art form,” she said.

Partnering with other local organizations has given Haslock- Johnson the chance to reach more students. The Royal Dance Academy has formed official partnerships with Georgia Express Soccer Club and Ultimate Gymnastics to augment their student’s training programs with dance, in order to increase agility, flexibility, coordination and balance. And with a heart to serve the community, Haslock-Johnson has also partnered with Jessie’s House – giving girls who have come from abusive homes “a chance to find their feet again and allowing them the opportunity to dance and experience something they might not otherwise have the chance to,” she said.

For truly devoted dancers, she has created a nonprofit organization called Program Send, which stands for Support Exceptional Notable Dancers and provides students the resources that are needed to take them to the next level through scholarships. Dancers from The Royal Dance Academy have earned $450,000 in educational dance scholarships in the past two years alone!

The Royal Dance Academy has been open in Vickery Village in Cumming for seven years and opened its Suwanee location in August of 2014, “We wanted to be right in the soul of Suwanee,” she said. It is truly the heart of their mission to be an active part of the community. By being organizers of performances for Suwanee Fest, establishing alternative educational programs for students who are passionate about the arts, providing scholarships for kids in the community to pursue their dreams, and partnering with local organizations – Sarah Haslock-Johnson along with her family and team at The Royal Dance Academy have clearly demonstrated what it takes to serve a purpose in the community we live, work and play in. For more information, visit goroyaldance.com.


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