Fredericksburg-area dance studios struggle during pandemic

Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from The Free Lance-Star

Adele Uphaus | 15 November 2020

Khalia Harris said dance saved her life.

Growing up as a military child, she moved often and her father was frequently deployed. She struggled with sadness and a sense of not belonging anywhere—except for at the studio where she took dance lessons.

“Dance was really a healing thing for me, and it changed the trajectory of my life,” Harris said.

Her own experience with the therapeutic and community-building power of a local dance studio inspired Harris to open Umbiance Center for the Performing Arts in Stafford County five years ago.

“I wanted to bring that healing opportunity to other children, especially those who are at-risk, have special needs and that sort of thing,” Harris said.

Umbiance students have performed at many community events, such as the annual Martin Luther King Day celebration at James Monroe High School and the first-ever Black History Month celebration at Brock Road Elementary School last year.

In 2019, the studio received a Best of Fredericksburg award for best area dance school.

Harris also established a nonprofit—Leading Education Arts Program, or LEAP—which has provided scholarships to Umbiance for economically disadvantaged children.

But now, a message on the nonprofit’s homepage reads “LEAP is no longer able to accept scholarship applications for the 2020 year.” The scholarships were a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.