By the time Mady Richmond was 13, she had lost both her parents to AIDS.
Richmond had been dancing since she was 3, and it was through dance that she coped with the loss of her parents. Eventually, that passion turned into a career. She has danced for the Miami Marlins and the Florida Panthers, and participated in local community shows.
On June 1, Richmond, 28, and her husband Jay, 34, opened Mady’s Dance Factory in Little Haiti where they offer dance classes to kids going through emotional, academic or family difficulties.
Richmond said that after her parents died, she suffered through deep depression.
“I went to a lot of therapists [and] a lot of psychologists,” she said. “I couldn’t find a way out of it. Once I started dancing, I was able to release my emotions and really express myself, and that was the only way I was able to do that. I want to share that with kids now that they have that and have gone through the struggle and that [they] have something to just release as they dance.”
Mady’s Dance Factory has 35 students who take lessons at the studio in the Little Haiti Cultural Center, where Richmond teaches jazz funk, lyrical, jumps, tricks and turns, contemporary, and hip-hop. The program also offers scholarships for students who have financial difficulties, or who have lost their parents.
Richmond’s goal with Mady’s Dance Factory is to participate in community events and have the kids perform.
A group of dance students had their first public presentation at the North Miami Independence Day Celebration this past July. On Nov. 7, they will be performing a show at the 2015 Miami Walk to End Alzheimer’s. They will also be at the AIDS Walk Miami next year.
Richmond, who has a bachelor’s degree in elementary school education, is also a fifth grade teacher at Mater Beach Academy in Miami Beach, where she also founded a dance program.
As a teacher, she strives to create an environment of trust with each child, where her students can feel like they are a family. Many of the kids who joined Mady’s Dance Factory met Richmond while she was their school educator, and later followed her with the project. Others she met through social media.
“I want to have the opportunity to reach out to these kids that may be lost at a young age, and I feel like even with teaching at the school I’m able to have that relationship as a school teacher and not only focus on academics but really bond with them,” Richmond said. “A lot of them come to me for advice and for help. There are two of them that say that I’m their mom.”
Since they met in 2013, Richmond’s husband has always seen her enthusiasm regarding dance and kids.
“I saw what she had done in the past with the school program, and I knew her inner desire was really to have her own company; her own dance studio,” said Jay Richmond, who focuses on the business side of the company. “There’s a lot more control in things you do. So we just launched into this new venture a couple months ago and just seeing how new and fresh it is, but that we’ve already started to generate so much activity of really getting the kids that are already in the dance program at school, wanting to follow her to her studio. It’s really just loyalty and it shows: You cultivate, you put so much into people, and then you start to receive some of that back.”
Zoe Barroso, 14, began dancing with Richmond at her school dance program about five years ago.
“It helps me with my family problems or when I’m upset, because I’ve had a problem at school, or I don’t have good grades,” said Barroso, who was also Richmond’s fourth- and fifth-grade student. “It helps me take that pain away and I let it go. We are like a little family, and she supports us, and she’s always there for us whenever we need her.”
Silvia Garcia, Barroso’s mother, sees the changes in her daughter’s responsibility, discipline and drive since she joined the program with Richmond. And she has also seen improvements regarding her daughter’s academic related activities.
“We always tried to put her in something because of the challenges that she has with her studies,” Garcia said. “We did it to help her excel as an individual and also have a goal, and I never thought it was going to turn out to be the way she’s taken it, and her studies have improved. This is a way for her to not only escape the challenges that she has, but it also makes her really put maximum effort and try in what she needs to achieve in school.”
Follow @CataBalzano on Twitter
If You Go
What: Mady’s Dance Factory
Where: Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Terr.
For more information: Visit www.MadysDanceFactory.com or call (305) 770-6669