Ex-Olympian to open NW studio - Tucson Local Media: Business

Ex-Olympian to open NW studio

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Posted: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 11:00 pm

She should know a thing or two about performing under pressure.

As an Olympics-bound gymnast in 1975, a 15-year-old Tammy Manville had to manage the hype surrounding her bid, as one news report referred to it, to be “America’s answer to Nadia (Comaneci).”

A top-ranked gymnast who already twice had matched the Romanian dynamo’s prowess, Manville appeared on the verge of gymnastic greatness until a wrist injury sidelined her for the 1976 games in Montreal.

She could only watch as Comaneci wowed the world with perfect scores and multiple medal-winning performances.

Again, Manville knows pressure.

Fast-forward to this week. Manville-Booth (she married Christian composer Tom Booth 20 years ago) is working feverishly to put the finishing touches on a newly remodeled dance studio she plans to open off Ina Road on Sept. 2.

Workers last Thursday busily laid black and white tiles in checkerboard fashion in what will be the lobby of Manville-Booth’s Tucson Dance Academy. Flooring had yet to be installed in some of the studio’s dance rooms.

Amid all the last-minute action, Manville-Booth waxed philosophical about what she hopes to accomplish with the studio and its students, goals the 48-year-old has sharpened through more than 20 years of teaching.

“You need the foundations and techniques,” she said as she sat in the middle of one of the mirrored dance rooms. “A lot of kids don’t have the techniques.”

Yet, they’re often pressured into high-stakes competitions at young ages.

No matter the fads — and hip hop seems to be huge these days, Manville-Booth noted — a dancer’s foundation in basic technique “never goes away.”

Manville-Booth grew up in a dancing family, so she ought to know what it takes.

Her mother, Wanda Manville, runs the Tempe Dance Academy, one of the top 50 schools for dance in the country.

And, Manville-Booth’s own career has taken her from stints in Hollywood films in Los Angeles to the Rockettes’ dance line in New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

From the pressure of the gymnastics world, she glided to the pressure-cooker environment of professional dancing on some of the biggest stages, under some of the brightest lights.

Sure, Manville-Booth wants her new studio in Marana “to be known as top-notch,” but she also wants her students — some 400 of them at the start — to have “balance” in their lives.

In fact, a prominent space in the studio is being converted into a sort of study room for students. Wireless hook-ups will allow students to do homework in between classes or while they wait for their parents to pick them up.

“We just want it to be welcoming for people,” Manville-Booth said last week. “I enjoy teaching at all levels.”

She’ll have several professionals teaching at the Tucson Dance Academy, including the former owner of the studio she’s busy remodeling.

Manville-Booth and her husband this summer agreed to take over the former Gotta Dance Dance Academy from Tanya Fisher, who wanted more time to spend with her own young family.

Fisher remains on the faculty at Manville-Booth’s new studio, along with several others certified to teach a variety of styles.

“We weren’t looking for it,” Tom Booth said of the opportunity.

The family had come to the Tucson area only two years ago. “They came looking for us,” Booth said. “It’s a blessing. That’s how we look at it.”

And a lot of work just to get it open on time.

About 3 p.m. last Thursday, a mother and her three daughters dropped by the studio asking questions about upcoming classes. And, the mother wanted know, what kinds of shoes her daughters should buy.

Those kinds of questions and scores more likely will inundate Manville-Booth and her Tucson Dance Academy collective as soon as the doors open for sign-ups later this week.

Manville-Booth said she looks forward to helping all of her students find the “dancers within” themselves.

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