After 20 years of serving the community with tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop and other forms of dance instruction, Woodinville Dance Academy will be permanently closing its doors May 31.
The decision to close was not a direct result of COVID-19, but rather the consequence of new building management and huge rent increases. According to studio director and owner Julie McMurray, the old property manager did not raise the rent for many years. Now, the new management company plans to increase rent to more than double the previous price to keep up with market rate.
Lakeshore Corporation, which manages the building with the dance studio, could not be reached for comment.
“I really fought hard to keep the studio going and we did really great for 20 years,” McMurray said. “I've come to terms with leaving. It's just very sad to leave this way.”
During the pandemic, McMurray received government assistance and was convinced the business could survive until September. She only paid herself for two months out of the whole year, she said, keeping the focus on paying teachers and rent.
When the rent skyrocketed, she said various people suggested increasing rates at the dance studio. But costs would have jumped by 250%, she noted, and she was not willing to double all tuition so suddenly. Additionally, while still in the midst of a pandemic, she is unsure when the academy would be able to operate at full-capacity again.
Woodinville Dance Academy initially opened in October 2001 with only one studio near Zip Market on Woodinville-Duvall Road. By 2002, after only one year, the company already out-grew the original space and moved to a larger space with two studios. The dance academy moved again in 2005 to a more spacious building, where it’s now located in the North Industrial neighborhood, with three studios.
McMurray started Woodinville Dance Academy with the intention to create a studio without the emphasis on competition teams. Rather, she wanted to focus on the artistic expression of dance. Her teaching priorities rely on progressive techniques for teaching and positive reinforcement, she said.
The studio has become known for its annual production of the Nutcracker, which began as a tradition 15 years ago. Dance groups have performed at Disneyland, Seattle Center, Bellevue Arts Museum and other local places, McMurray said. Ages range from 3-year-olds to teenagers and adults, she added.
McMurray said she had hoped to continue running the studio until her retirement, but plans have changed. She looked into moving the business again, she added, yet ultimately decided against the idea of “another expensive build out” at her age.
“I'm not starting over somewhere else. I'm not,” she said. “I just don't want to invest again. I've already done it three times.”
She says several other tenants are leaving the building due to the massive hikes in rent.
McMurray said she wishes the new property owner had taken the time to find out what types of businesses were currently occupying the building to see how major rent changes would impact the community. She hopes opportunities for the performing arts will continue in Woodinville as small businesses keep fighting for low-priced spaces to utilize.