Jenny Broe, choreographer and owner of local studio Dance Lab, is pushing the limits of Charleston’s dance scene
Jenny Broe at her West Ashley studio, Dance Lab; (inset) Broe has been dancing and performing for 23 years.
Whether you’re a beginner or a longtime practitioner, walking into a dance class as an adult can be unnerving. Enter Dance Lab: a studio that, while welcoming students of all ages, has catered especially to a grown-up clientele since opening in 2016. In addition to many adults-only classes, the school offers performance opportunities through companies Lab Underground and the Bad Girls Club—a troupe known for its risqué nature—for those 21 and up. At the helm of it all is Jenny Broe, who’s had a hand in Charleston’s progressive dance scene since she moved here to help launch the studio Dance FX in 2008. She was also a key organizer of Jail Break, the precursor to the Charleston Arts Festival (CAF), which enters its third season this month. This year, Broe serves as the festival’s dance director, booking talent and producing some original work, too.
Early days: I trained at Rhythm Dance Center in Marietta, Georgia. I knew when I took my first class at age 11 that I wanted to be a teacher. It’s amazing to watch someone gain the confidence to put movement to music.
Role model: Danielle Hosker, the founder of Dance FX, has been a huge mentor. I don’t have a ballerina’s body, but she taught me I could still find my voice as a choreographer and performer.
Business plan: Adult beginners have been Dance Lab’s foundation—they come, work out, and have a good time. But retention rates with adults can be unpredictable; I’m starting to focus more on our youth program to sustain the studio over time.
Why West Ashley: I live a quarter-mile from the studio. West Ashley has always been here, but it feels like it’s just waking up. Charleston Stage recently opened the West Ashley Theatre Center, and I’m excited about a new prospective venue.
Down time: I got injured a few years ago, so I needed a “grandma” activity. My friends Andrew Walker and Chet Morse introduced me to birding, and now I have a passion for it. A walk or hike or even a leisurely coffee on the porch can turn into such an enriching experience, just by listening and watching.
The Raven, revisited: Lab Underground is presenting a modern/contemporary show as part of CAF called Poe: A Play in the Dark [on October 5 and 6 at 8 p.m. at Queen Street Playhouse], depicting what goes through Edgar Allan Poe’s mind as he writes The Raven. I’m working with Sara Cart, a modern instructor at Dance Lab, on the choreography.
Festival finale: CAF closes with a concert at the Royal American. There are stages for dancers and bands, with visual artists’ work showcased, too. My job is to create programming to fit a rowdy, excited crowd.
Art for all: Charleston Arts Festival runs through October 20, in various locations; visit charlestonartsfestival.com for details.
Photographs by Sarah Alsati & Abigail Marie of Nonpareil Photography