DK Dance Studio moves and expands

ALTON — One of the city’s best-kept secrets is about to be its biggest buzz.

DK Dance Productions, founded and owned by Darci Kay Ward of Jerseyville, is set to open its new, larger Alton studio and fill a vacancy in a once-empty familiar building. DK Dance’s Alton Studio, formerly on State Street, now occupies a larger space in the former Alton Cyclery building, 3100 Homer M. Adams Parkway. It also adds an elite and competitive cheer squad to Alton.

Classes are for people 18 months and older, including a senior tap class with dancers in their 60s, 70s and 80s. Cheer team audition prep clinics on Wednesdays July 20 and Thursday July 21 are open to the public and free.

There will be a tryout for the cheer team after the clinics.

“We plan to compete twice in the spring,” said Ward, who has encouraged professional sports teams at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri. She earned her MBA from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.

DK Dance Productions will be hosting a registration open house for their non-competitive side of the class academy from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, July 30.

“I describe our programs as ‘choose your own adventure’ 30 minutes once a week,” Ward said. “It’s dance that’s not competitive, so I always say it’s choosing your own adventure.”

Ward has built her business solely on her passion for dance, teaching dance and sharing her love of dance with others who also love dance.

“I’ve been teaching there for a year and I love it,” said dance teacher Sarah Goins, of Alton.

The new Alton location is scheduled to open Monday August 8th.

“We are in a new building and have added two new teams – a cheering team and an academy competition team, which do not require as much commitment and investment as an elite team. there’s a lot of great things to come,” said Ward, 43, who started dancing at age 3.

At the height of the pandemic, DK Dance Productions had its children dancing online during shutdowns. Ward held a class-by-class dance recital at the Godfrey Knights of Columbus Hall.

“We brought in the kids’ parents for every class,” Ward recalls. “Technically we did about 80 shows between the Alton and Florissant locations. A few months later we opened in Jerseyville.

“Many other dance studios have reached out to me about how we handled COVID,” she said. “We pivoted just as fast to get the kids dancing.”

Alton’s DK Dance Productions opened in 2017, Ward’s second of three locations. The original in Florissant, Missouri, opened in 2006 and features an elite competitive dance team. The third is in Jerseyville where Ward grew up and graduated from Jersey Community High School.

She never really thought she would live in Jerseyville again and lived in St. Charles, Missouri, before moving back to Jerseyville seven years ago with her husband, Mark Thompson, and their son, Zac, 9, the closer to family. .

His mother, Debbie Kay Ward, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, known as ALS, in February 2020.

“She declined rapidly and we lost her last May, 2021,” Ward said. “I was one of his caregivers, along with my father, my brothers and their spouses and family friends, during the summer of 2020. I am so grateful to have spent this time with my mother.”

Amid the height of COVID, Alton Cyclery closed and the building was put up for sale.

“Registrations picked up, and as registrations got more like they used to, we thought about changing the building,” Ward said.

She and her husband visited the building several times and made an offer, but their offer was rejected.

While still mourning the death of her mother, she opened the Jerseyville location of DK Dance Productions. Ward was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2021, five months after her mother passed away.

“I was like, ‘Now this. Am I ever going to take a break?'” she said with characteristic levity and insight. “The first thing I thought of was, ‘Zac won’t have a mom.'”

In early December 2021, Ward underwent a double mastectomy. Yet she never lost sight of her passion for dance and the growth of DK Dance Productions.

“I had the operation and I thought, ‘I’m fine, I’ll be fine,'” she said. “But I couldn’t lift a cup of coffee. I couldn’t get dressed. I couldn’t drive or lift my hands above my head. It went on all Christmas, it was terrible.”

During this time, someone bought the cyclerie building. Ward, encouraged by her husband, asked the new owner to lease the building, but the cost was too high. She underwent another surgery in March, her last procedure involving mastectomy.

“They cleared me; my pathology was good,” she said. “Technically, I’m cancer free.”

Then the owner of the cyclerie building contacted Ward and said they would work with her on a lease.

“We came to an agreement, so they rented the building and we started construction,” she said. “We are close to the finish line.

“That’s fine with me,” she said. “What I’ve been through for the past two or three years with my company, my mother, myself, are little potatoes.”

DK Dance Productions has approximately 600 students between its three locations, and Ward said they are bringing new programs full steam ahead between the three locations.

Ward wanted to expand the opportunities of the competitive dance team in Florissant without requiring as much commitment as the elite team.

“Kids want to be involved in other activities, and it’s up to parents to get involved as much, as with other sports, like baseball or hockey,” she said. “It’s a commitment of time and money. It’s important for me to offer something without such an investment.”

In addition to the cheering program, DK Stars dance programming will be available at the Alton and Jerseyville locations.

“These teams will compete in a few competitions and have classes one night a week,” Ward said.

“I’m very excited about the competitive incentive program in the region, which will be the only one,” she said. “We always focused on dancing because we didn’t have the opportunity to have a cheering program. Now is the time to develop a program like this. It’s hot. There’s the show Netflix ‘Cheer.’ It’s time to do it. We’ve hired coaches whose kids actually danced on competitive teams and their moms were cheerleaders and they’re both from Alton.

The coaches for Alton’s new cheer squad program are Kate Hoefert and Chakia Wallace.

DK Dance Productions is part of More Than Just Great Dancing, a network of around 300 studios around the world operating to the highest standards.

“It’s very important to me to continue my education,” Ward said. “Our management team, as well as our teachers, do it through this organization.

“Another thing, all of our staff are YPAD (Youth Protection Advocates of Dance) certified,” she said. “Everyone is background checked; they are certified in first aid and CPR, and we are certified in wellness and training for our dancers.

“We’re the only studio in the entire St. Louis area in this organization, which I think in the world we live in, everyone needs to have their background checked when working with kids.”

For more details, visit and DK Dance Studio’s Facebook or Instagram page. For Alton location details, call 618-433-9774; for its Jerseyville location, call 618-556-7005.

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