I started my studio in 2003 with a CD player and some dance shoes,” says Eleanor Robertson about Rigby’s Jig Ballroom Dance Studio in Richmond. “I was amazed by how quickly that business grew and how many people came through the doors and got completely hooked on dancing.”
Fast forward ten years, and despite solid business success, high customer satisfaction, community involvement, and local charity collaborations, Eleanor is still not satisfied. That’s why she founded The Greater Richmond Dance Project (GRDP) last year – to bring dance to every part of the greater Richmond community.
After a decade-plus of welcoming people onto the dance floor at Rigby’s Jig, Eleanor was acutely aware of the small cross-section of the community she was reaching. “I want to reach more people and bring dance to the broader RVA community. Not everyone has the opportunity or ability to take ballroom dance lessons,” says Eleanor.
Her journey to the formulation of this nonprofit organization has been one of “fun, figuring, and fine-tuning,” says the dance entrepreneur. “I’ve always seen what dancing does for people, what it does for their souls. Everyone knows dancing is good exercise and fun, but it’s also a great way to connect with other people – something our society is starving for … interpersonal connections in real time and in real life.”
According to Eleanor, that’s what GRDP is all about – providing opportunity and access to this wonderful activity. GRDP has many outreach targets. The nonprofit will work to enrich the lives of children, senior citizens, people with varying abilities and disabilities, veterans, and others. Their mission is to give people who might never have the occasion to take ballroom dance lessons the chance to experience dance and all the benefits it has to offer.
Eleanor has taught thousands of people how to dance in the Richmond area. She has seen first-hand how it changes people. “Children gain confidence, couples become closer, friendships develop, singles find a great way to interact with others, and everyone’s lives are improved,” says Eleanor about the power of dance. “I’ve always said to people I know that this isn’t brain surgery, but I swear it helps people! It brightens people’s lives and gives them an activity that nourishes so many elements of their well-being.” Dancing is good for the heart, coordination, balance, socialization, problem-solving, multi-tasking abilities, and flexibility.
The Greater Richmond Dance Project intends to enrich the community of Richmond through its programming. “We want to incorporate more dance into many of the wonderful events and celebrations that make Richmond the vibrant community that it has become,” says Eleanor. “Richmond is a craft beer town, a restaurant town, and an art town. Why not a dance town?”