Steps to Grace offers a non-competitive, faith-based, positive dance program for all ages
Steps to Grace began in a church basement in 2004. About six years later, Kelly Heinrich was looking for a dance program that offered age-appropriate choreography, music and costumes for her little daughter. She knew what she wasn't looking for: when a previous dance instructor told the preschool class to "shake their little booties," 4-year-old Alise Heinrich replied, "My daddy would not want me to do that!" But at Steps to Grace, the Heinrich family loved the non-competitive, faith-based, positive approach that used dance to develop important life skills. As their website says, "They learn to be respectful, confident and conscientious people who use their gifts and talents to glorify God and serve their community."
In September 2019, Steps to Grace relocated to 8982 Main Street, Caledonia, IL to a 4500 square foot space with multiple dance studios. The academy is located in the Argyle community, where Belvidere Road turns into Argyle Road, minutes from I-90/173. Some of the instructors have masters degrees in their field, yet the prices at Steps to Grace are the lowest in the Rockford area. Many of the instructors began taking lessons there as children, some for more than ten years. The academy holds two recitals every year and held eight summer camps last year, including a fine art academy.
In the spring of 2021, the founder and her husband made the difficult decision to move on from Steps to Grace. But when she told Kelly Heinrich and the other parents that she was closing the school, Kelly said, "Oh no you're not." Kelly and her husband Nate agreed to take over ownership in May, and all the instructors agreed to stay on. Enrollment has doubled since then. They now have 11 employees and 268 students, the youngest about two years old. Their daughter Alise is now teaching there and wants to run the academy when her parents retire. And Kelly says that the reason they want to be involved with Steps to Grace is because of what it's done for Alise.
In addition to Steps to Grace, Kelly Heinrich has a second occupation as a "dream designer" with My Mickey Vacation Travel since 2015. She offers vacation planning services for all of the favorite Disney destinations, whether it's Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Disneyland Resort, or an all-inclusive Disney cruise to a tropical island. (She admits that her family was already taking a lot of Disney vacations, often more than one a year.) Kelly helps with resorts, dining, adventures, park tickets, custom itineraries, VIP tours, and cruises - and at no charge to her clients, since she is paid by Disney. She says, "That's why I sit on the phone for hours and hours, so my clients don't have to." She knows how to help them avoid the crowds and skip the lines.
At Steps to Grace, where select Disney songs might be heard, classes have names such as Tiny Steps Ballet, Hippity Hop, Mini Hoppers, Tutus for Tots, Kidance Ballet/Tap, Advanced Jazz, Beginning Ballet, Musical Theater, Youth Intentional Praise & Worship, Adult Worship, Beginning Tap, Beginning Jazz, Darby's Dancers, Tap Level I & II, Advanced Hip Hop, Level III Ballet, Pointe, Pre-Pointe, and Adult Jazz.
In the graded technique classes, most students spend an average of two years at each level before mastering the skills to advance. So students of various ages, but similar skills, may be taking the same class.
Junior high and high school students can also audition for two non-competitive dance performance companies - Shine Dance Co. and Illuminate Dance Co. Members serve as ambassadors for Steps to Grace, share their gift of dance with others, and have opportunities to perform and show leadership within their community.
Darby’s Dancers provides an opportunity for children with special needs to participate in the performing arts through dance education. Donations of time and money allow these children to take dance classes at no cost to their parents. The 501(c)(3) organization was founded by the parents of Darby Jones of Huntsville, Alabama.
In the Monday night adult worship class, students explore worship movements using various styles of dance expressions. Instructor Matthias Williams, who also teaches a musical theater class, says he wants his adult worship students to meditate on "how Jesus and other worshippers did everything on purpose, and with intentionality." Childcare is provided.
In September, Steps to Grace added a baby center/changing room to the lobby and changed the family restroom into a boys/men only restroom since there are so many "grandpas, dads, brothers and male dancers than we have ever had."
Tuesday nights includes what they call their "judgement-free adult jazz class." Only one student had danced before. A punch card system allows class members to dance when it fits their schedule - they don't have to come every week.