The Story Behind DivaDance

Members enjoy taking a DivaDance Class

The concept first originated while I was working as a young music industry executive in New York City. After work one night, I decided to try a hip-hop class at one of the top dance studios in Manhattan. An incredible world-renowned facility, but one whose mission is to help experienced dancers train, refine, and hone their professional craft. I was dancing next to Broadway-bound beauties and aspiring (and actual) backup dancers.

The instructor only looked at themselves in the mirror, it was stressful, and I didn’t have fun. So, on the corner of 57th and Broadway in New York City, I made it my mission to redefine the dance class experience for adults — and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing ever since.

The truth is, dance has been part of my life ever since I was a little kid growing up in small-town Texas — really ever since I could turn a radio dial. I was obsessed with 1980s-era MTV and Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Paula Abdul music videos. I would dream up my own routines in my bedroom and curate slumber party dance recitals with my friends. I was even a tap class dropout because I refused to learn someone else’s choreography — or dance to recordings of classical piano.

Hip-hop and pop music were everything… in fact, my love of dance stemmed from my love of music.  I would tune the dial juuuuust right to be able to get the frequency from the closest hip-hop station in Dallas two hours away and record songs to listen to later.

A photo collage of Head Diva Jami Stigliano dancing on her high school drill team
Head Diva Jami Stigliano dancing on her high school drill team.

It was only in high school that I got the chance to truly formalize my dance experience. Joining my high school dance team was a formative experience — both from a community perspective where I made lifelong friends and memories and also technically speaking, where I learned the fundamentals of dance, along with how to teach, how to learn, the meaning of showmanship, how to create choreography, and leadership through dance.

As with many of you, dance is just part of the fabric of who I am. I’d love for you to now take a pause and watch the (admittedly a little extra) video below that gives you a few highlights from my upbringing in dance!

So, after graduating from The University of Texas with a degree in corporate communication, I packed my bags and moved to New York City for a career in music, which began in the marketing department at the legendary Jive Records. I never had plans to pursue a career in dance — I wanted to be behind the scenes while still working very closely with the creatives. And that’s exactly what I did.

For nearly a decade, I spent my career working in Manhattan at the iconic pop and hip-hop label, where I contributed to the careers of some of the biggest artists (and divas!) in the business. I worked closely with these artists to build their fan base, oversaw music video and photoshoot production, developed global marketing campaigns, managed promotional tours, and experienced some of the less glamorous aspects of the business, as well.

Enter that fateful night in Midtown at 57th and Broadway: I missed dance, and I missed my creative outlet.  So, in 2003, I started renting studio spaces anywhere I could find them and holding my own adult dance classes. I did whatever it took to get people to come to class — and I would race away from my desk job to be there in time to teach one class a week, which turned into many, and soon, I was adding in performance opportunities and more studio locations. I also knew I had to find other people who could help me teach if I ever wanted it to grow.

An early promotional photo shoot for DivaDance in New York City featuring six women doing a chair routine wearing feather boas with their right arms in the air doing a dance move.
One of our first promotional photo shoots for DivaDance in New York City.

People weren’t just coming to classes because I taught them, they were coming for the experience. That’s how I really knew I had something! The clients coming to class just wanted something fun and stress-free… and that’s exactly what we offered them, every single time.

It was only after hosting dozens of private bachelorette parties that came to NYC to celebrate, and they would say, “I wish we had this in Denver, or when are you coming to Kansas City?” that I started thinking… “Wow, I wonder if I could bring this to other cities?”

So, in 2016, I decided to transition out of my 15-year music industry career and take a leap of faith. Could I bring DivaDance to cities all over the country… and maybe even the world? I would need systems, people, capital, and most importantly, a great brand. So, I got to work. That year, I launched the company in my first city outside of New York City: Austin, Texas. I re-branded the company, and we officially launched the “Slaying Is My Cardio” campaign.

I started building my A-team of people, like my founding partner and chief operating officer Sarah Henn — these folks believed in me and the vision. I found a great mentor who helped us develop our franchise concept. And most notably, I just had relentless focus. Not only was I passionate about creating a great dance class experience, but I was and am super passionate about helping folks become their own boss babe — which is why I chose franchising as the way we’ll grow our business.

The story behind DivaDance includes this photo of ten women posing wearing different variations of early DivaDance t-shirt designs including "Slaying is My Cardio," "Eat, Sleep, Slay, Repeat," and "Let Your Hair Down."
The launch of the DivaDance “Slaying Is My Cardio” campaign.

DivaDance has since partnered with amazing ladies to expand to cities across the country, we’ve refined our systems and training operations, we’ve developed exciting multi-week programs and video opportunities for clients, we’ve developed an apparel brand, we’ve been featured in USA Today, People, Brides, InStyle, Refinery29, and even Telemundo.

And since franchising DivaDance in 2016, we’ve had over 300,000 enrollments in our classes across the brand, have thousands of members, have hosted hundreds of private parties, and are now in over 30 cities nationwide (and counting!).

And that brings us to now. A major milestone in our journey has been the opening of our DivaDance HQ flagship studio. The first-ever brick-and-mortar DivaDance location. Truly a dream come true, we now have a home for the brand in Austin, Texas. We have grand plans to keep growing, both in size and in-depth. We also launched our Community Time podcast in 2020, featuring interviews with instructors, franchise owners, members, and more, and our annual Slaycation convention in 2021.

Be part of the story behind DivaDance.

I’d love for you to be part of our future. Our ultimate mission and goal is for DivaDance to become a household name when it comes to dance choreography classes for adults. We know we have competitors in each city. We know you likely teach at other studios or for yourself. We know that clients have choices in where they want to move their bodies. We know that if we keep building an authentic, consistent, values-driven brand that emphasizes a strong company culture, we’ll be well on our way to becoming no. 1.

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