“May we all dance through life!” is the personal motto of Maria Verdeja, though to say that is what she does each day almost seems like an understatement. If this celebrated choreographer, dance school owner, teacher and mentor is dancing, she is working very hard and moving very fast.
Verdeja is about to open her fourth school for the arts. And building her new Pinecrest studio off U.S. 1 comes on the heels of celebrating 25 years of growing young performers.
“We now teach over 520 hours of classes a month in four studios — Coral Gables, Pinecrest, Kendall and Key Biscayne. And we presently teach in seven after-school programs,” Verdeja said. “With over 600 dancers, I only hope to reach as many children as I can and introduce to them the beauty of dance.”
Among her many honors are a Latin Woman of the Year Award from the national Association of Women Business Owners, and a National Leadership Award from the Business Advisory Council. But finding ways to make dance help others is at the core of her mission at the Maria Verdeja School of the Arts.
For the last three years they have presented her production, “A Whoville Christmas,” at the Dade County Auditorium for over 3,000 public school children. And her students also participate with the Cultural Arts Society of South Florida to bring the arts to underprivileged children in the community. Her performers have participated in the Coral Gables Holiday Tree Lighting for over 20 years.
Dancing and sharing the gift of dance is at the heart of it all.
“Our studio offers more classes than anyone for children ages three and up, in ballet, pointe, lyrical, jazz, hip hop, tap and flamenco. We also offer ballet and Zumba for adults,” Verdeja said. “There is an honors program for the aspiring dancers who perform in competitions and represent MVSA in benefit and community events.”
Verdeja, a resident of Coral Gables, started dancing at age 5. As a young performer she danced with many prestigious schools around the country and in Europe. She decided to stay in her hometown and, after graduation from the University of Miami in under three years, she was chosen by Edward Villella to be part of the founding 19 company members of the Miami City Ballet.
Today, her company is a thriving business, with a team of over 40 teachers and support staff. The MVSA has grown into The School of Dance and The School of Music. Verdeja said over 5,000 students have passed through the doors. Many have gone on to professional careers in dance companies. Some have even begun their own dance studios, and some are involved in dance programs in magnet schools.
She said the MVSA Elite Team recently won the highest score overall in National Competitions in Las Vegas, “the first time we have gone to Nationals.” The school recently started a new Petite Team for young up-and-coming dancers of the future, and Stellar Tappers for students “strong in rhythmic tap.”
But with all the success Verdeja said the core value that she wants to instill in her students, teachers and staff, is the importance of supporting the community.
“It is the goal of our studio to help our students grow both artistically and personally. Teaching them that their dreams can come true, and happiness can be achieved, by loving and sharing our gift of dance with others.”