Black Business Spotlight: House of Modern Dance and House of Theatre

New studio opens in spite of pandemic

Ashley Lauren/MSR News Carmilla Rose Peterson

Upon arriving at Carmilla Rose Peterson’s House of Modern Dance and House of Theatre, participants are immediately greeted with a warm welcome. In an effort to ensure safety due to COVID-19, participants are provided with complimentary masks, sanitizer spray, and rules for proper social distancing. The youth participants were sporting smiles, visibly happy to be involved with the new company.

Peterson opened the Minneapolis dance studio at 6015 Lyndale Ave. S. in June 2020. The modern dance workshops are affordable, safe, and provide high-quality instruction. “You’ll learn something new,” Peterson promised.

Peterson is equipped with over 10 years of experience. Her love of dance began when she was eight years old. At age 18, she started a dance group called “CRP” Dance.

She used to be involved with the Concordia Theatre Camp for Music and Dance and has performed at numerous dance competitions, as well as at Juneteenth, Rondo Days, and even for the late Prince. She recalled, “I got to dance for Prince,” which she found interesting. “You couldn’t look at him, couldn’t shake his hand.” Despite the rules, she was grateful for the opportunity.

During the last three years, Peterson has hosted numerous workshops. Many of her days begin at 5 am as she takes time to meditate. Aside from running a business, Peterson attends Metropolitan State University where she’s pursuing a double major. Her work ethic is matched with an upbeat outlook on life.

Peterson is well-versed in moving to her own beat, and a pandemic couldn’t prevent her from pursuing her dream to open a studio. As for the impact of COVID-19, Peterson said, “I had pre-registration that dropped to zero. Instructors were here to be employed and backed out.”

Another barrier she’s faced pertained to finding commercial space. She had to overcome preconceived notions from those who refused to lease to her. When Peterson reached out to find a place for her dance studio, some property owners have mistakenly assumed the genre of dance she teaches is hip hop. As a result, “I feel like I’ve been redlined,” said Peterson.

Despite the challenging quest to find a location, she finally found a beautiful, spacious studio. Although resistance has been a harsh reality, “Success comes from being talented and not giving up” said Peterson. In the future, she aspires to purchase her own building.

As for the youth, “Students aren’t being taught about fine arts. More funding is also needed,” she said. So the workshops she offers focus on the fundamentals. Attendees are trained on the basics of modern dance and encouraged to live out their dreams. The workshops start promptly, and everyone is expected to put their best foot forward.

Peterson said the growing trend of TikTok, a popular social media app where users create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos, makes it difficult for her to promote modern dance. She said, “[The] TikTok challenge becomes the main focus, but it doesn’t relate to fine arts.”

As for future plans for her company, “I want to be that platform where everyone is welcomed. I want to be an attraction,” said Peterson. The House of Modern Dance and House of Theatre offers student employment, choreography training, and pays dancers who are a part of a production. The studio is currently seeking to hire a lead teacher and theatre director.

As for Peterson’s ultimate goal, the sky’s the limit: “I want to become the largest culturally diverse company in the world,” she said.
Peterson also has a message for our youth: “You are only what you think you are, so believe bigger than your current situations. Live in the attitude as if you’re rich and you’ll become richer.”

For those who would like to support her efforts, Peterson welcomes donations and encourages parents to sign their children up for modern dance workshops. Adults can sign up, too. “When we work together, we can build friendships that will last forever,” said Peterson.

The House of Modern Dance and House of Theatre workshops are usually held on Saturdays from 11 am to 3 pm for youth ages 7-11, teens 12-17, and adults 18+. No experience necessary.

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