TDF in the Spotlight
POCATELLO — When Gina Underwood first started The Dance Factory 27 years ago, she was fresh out of high school and teaching out of a small storage unit on Arthur Avenue in Historic Downtown Pocatello.
Now, she owns a 10,000-square-foot building at 5026 Brook Lane in Chubbuck, maintains nearly 400 students and recently had several of her dance teams win top awards at a national dance convention in Anaheim, California.
In July, two of Underwood’s dance teams took home several platinum awards and several first- and-second place awards at the Hollywood Vibe National Dance Convention. Her Vibe Team’s dance “Gone Too Soon” took home first place contemporary, first place overall in line and production, and won the Vibe Award, which is the convention’s highest award possible. It was also one of five chosen out of hundreds of studios across the nation to compete in the Battle of the Stars, where they took home second place in their division.
“(Hollywood Vibe) is huge,” said Underwood, who runs the studio with her daughter, Jaida. “It’s nationwide. … We qualified in Utah and then we went to Anaheim for their nationals … and in their age category they won one of the top scores. And then they were put to a battle round with four other dances. And they got second. … It was above and beyond. I’m super proud of them.”
“Gone Too Soon” was choreographed by Chelsea Thedinga, who has danced with Travis Wall of So You Think You Can Dance, and has worked with Underwood’s studio for the past 12 years.
In addition to this, the Vibe Team took home first place in lyrical and won a platinum award for their dance “If I Be Wrong.” One of their dancers, Olivia Harker, made top 10 in her division for Hollywood Vibe’s “Dancer of the Year” award.
Their Inspire Team took home several platinum awards and second place in Jazz Small Group, and together both the Inspire Team and Vibe Team took home two platinum awards and won first place in Hip Hop Line with their dance “Be Like Me.”
“They’ve done awesome,” Underwood said. “These girls have worked so hard to get to this point, especially since COVID, and to recover the way that they have has been really impressive. Especially since they were only dancing two days a week last year. … It just shows their work ethic and how hard they do work when they’re here and how that training helps.”
Noa Lewis, 12, who is on the Vibe Team and has been dancing for roughly nine years, said that when they announced the results of the Battle of the Stars, she was shocked.
“It was crazy,” she said. “I knew we did good, but I wasn’t sure how we would place.”
After the awards, Underwood explained the girls celebrated — by bursting out into an impromptu dance party.
“They actually walked over to Downtown Disney and there was a live DJ and they took over the Downtown Disney area and had a huge dance party,” Underwood said. “By the time they were done, there were probably fifty people just standing around to watch them. It was the coolest thing, and they had so much fun.”
The Dance Factory itself received recognition on a local level when it was voted Best Dance Studio by the community in the Idaho State Journal’s 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards. It has been voted as one of the top dance studios for the past 15 years, Underwood said.
The studio provides dance classes and exercise recreation programs from ages 2 to adult and offers a wide variety such as ballet, jazz, hip hop, acro/tumble and more. Recently Underwood also had dancer and choreographer Ricky Malouf, whose choreography has been showcased at many national-level events, come to the studio to work with two of her advanced teams.
“We have big, big people come to our studio and not a lot of people know about it,” Underwood said. “And a lot of people will go, ‘who are these people?’ But in the dance world, they’re huge.”
In addition to bringing in skilled dancers to teach her students, Underwood explained she strives to teach them diverse styles of dance.
“My big thing as the owner that I’ve always had since the beginning is that I want to make them well-rounded in everything,” she said. “I don’t want them just to be good at one dance form. And a lot of people say, ‘No, you should specialize,’ and that’s fine if that’s your niche and what you want to do. But workability wise, if they want to go to college and do it or if they want to one day own a studio, they need to be well-versed in everything to be successful.”
While Hollywood Vibe’s convention was one of the larger events The Dance Factory planned to do this year, Underwood explained that they do have several events to perform at before the year ends. Such events include Idaho State University’s homecoming parade in October and the Festival of Trees Breakfast with Santa event in November, although the studio is always happy and open to performing at community events.
Currently, the Dance Factory is holding sign-ups for new members. For those interested, visit dancefactoryid.com for more information.