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Rising Stars: Meet Danielle Forgione and Melissa DeSantis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danielle Forgione and Melissa DeSantis. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Owners Danielle Forgione and Melissa Desantis met when their daughters were in pre-school together at the age of two. Danielle and Melissa both grew up outside of New York City and, having never met, both settled in Bel Air, Maryland to raise their young families. At the time Melissa had taken time away from her career to raise her three girls and Danielle was teaching dance. Their daughters started their first dance class together the following year and instantly fell in love with the stage. 

Over the next several years, Rosalia and Tess grew stronger in their connection to dance through classes and competitions. In addition to loving dance, their group of dance friends quickly became their lifeline. The friends that shared their love of dance, could put a smile on their face after a long school day, showed love and acceptance, and pushed each other to excellence. They just always wanted to be together! Alongside the girls, Melissa and Danielle’s friendship as mothers and dance moms grew deeper as well. 

COVID hit in March 2020, putting a quick halt to all of the hard work these girls had put in for almost a year. Competitions, recitals, and all classes were just canceled. The costumes hung in their bags in the closets, reminders of all of the unfinished pieces, smiles, and stage time. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, nobody was even sure that their studio existed anymore. Where would these girls dance? It had been six years and the thought of them not dancing together or not dancing at all was heartbreaking. It wasn’t just dancing to them. Dancing together was their joy, their escape, their life lessons. But what if there was no studio? What about their dance friends, all of the girls that Danielle had taught for years and mentored? What about the colleagues/dance teachers that Danielle had taught with for more than 14 years that were left unemployed? They had to have a dance home. Anything less was unfathomable. 

Danielle’s life dream was to own her own studio. Melissa was looking to get back into her career as her girls were getting older. So, during quarantine, they said “Let’s do it! Let’s open a studio!” 

What sounded like a dream turned into a leap of faith. . . and with a ton of blood, sweat, and tears, Danielle and Melissa present to Harford County, Raise the Barre – Studio of Dance. 

Raise the Barre is a studio born out of love, respect, and experience. The teachers are the best in the area and have strong educations and college degrees in dance. Raise the Barre is dedicated to providing a positive, nurturing, and inclusive environment for students to learn the fundamentals of dance, improve mental and physical well-being, grow artistically, and most importantly have fun. Raise the Barre has something for everyone. They offer classes to all ages including dance, yoga, fitness classes, barre, and more! They also will be offering a competition track for students wishing to dance at a competitive level. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. We struggled with keeping the kid’s attention on zoom and had to come up with ways to meet in person in the middle of a pandemic. All the while trying to establish a business, find a building, make a website, and get our name out there. Once we found our building, we had to go into construction which forced us to think outside the box in where we could have classes in the meantime. We wound up using the Liriodendron and The Bel Air Armory. 

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Danielle Forgione is Co-Owner/Artistic Director and Melissa DeSantis is Co-Owner/Studio Director. Danielle does all the creative, leveling of classes, and runs the competitive dance team. Melissa runs the studio, handles all the business and scheduling of special events and birthday parties. 

We are most proud of pulling this all together so quickly given we were in the middle of a pandemic and both have families and 3 children each! We are also so proud that we were able to give all these kids a place to call home again and have them and our teachers stay together. 

What sets us apart from others is that we offer something for everyone. Not only do we have our core dance classes & competitive team, but also offer kids yoga and mini sessions for those who don’t want to commit for the year. Our mini sessions classes that are different are active kids (a kids fitness class), teen sports conditioning, adult hip hop, mini acro, and toddler & me. We also hold special events once a month that are themed and open to anyone, hold pop-up classes, and host birthday parties that can be themed specifically for your child. 

Melissa DeSantis 

Co-Owner/Studio Director 

Melissa has her BA in business marketing from Towson University. She is not only the primary caregiver to her family, but also manages projects for a local teen volunteer organization. Her youngest daughter, Tess, has been dancing for the past four years and she is passionate about providing a space for her to grow as a dancer. After being home with her children, Melissa is ready to get back into the business world and to work for herself alongside Danielle. 

Co-Owner/Artistic Director 

Danielle grew up in New York where she studied dance and graduated from Long Island High School for the Arts as a dance major. Danielle went on to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance Education with a concentration in Modern Dance from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. While at school she studied under many outstanding teachers, performed and choreographed in many shows, and won two awards; The Blumenthal Prize for Service to the School and the Outstanding Student Teacher Award. 

After graduation, she danced with Higher Minds Dance Company, New Vision Cirque, and Dance Company, and The Movement Lounge. Since becoming a Maryland resident 14 years ago, she has kept up with her teacher training over the years by attending many different dance conventions including the Dance Teacher Summit. Danielle was certified by Broadway Dance Center and Dance Teacher magazine for her completion of the 2009 Dance Teacher Workshop in NYC. She has also won numerous awards over the years including Choreography and Exceptional Concept awards at several different regional dance competitions. 

Danielle taught at Harford Dance Center for 14 years and was the Studio Director from 2007-2013. She was the Co-Director of Harford Dance Center’s competitive dance team for 13 years and taught at Centre Pointe Performing Arts. Danielle is a choreographer for Harford Dance Theatre’s yearly productions and was the Co-Director of Harriet’s Happiest Halloween from 2008-2012. She is currently a co-founding member of The Danse Macabre and a choreographer for their dance productions as well. This will be her second year judging for Elite Dance Challenge. 

Danielle is extremely excited to go into business with her good friend Melissa and hopes to pass along her passion for dance to each child that she teaches. 

We love surprises, fun facts, and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
*They might not know that Melissa has no background in dance, only business/marketing 

*Danielle and Melissa’s daughters have been friends since 2 and dancing together since they are 3 

*Danielle and Melissa are both from New York 

*Danielle and Melissa both have 3 kids 

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Danielle Forgione
Heather O’Steen Photography

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