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Soulful Arts Dance Academy may shut its doors soon

In Studio B, Paulette Johnson's voice rings out over Earth, Wind and Fire's Africano.

"One, two, three, four, five, up and eight," she counts, voice booming through the halls.

But soon, the studios at the Soulful Arts Dance Academy may go silent.

During a recent fundraiser, Johnson, co-founder and artistic director, announced that the center would close at the end of June.

There's only $11,000 in the bank and rent alone is more than $6,100 per month.

Board member Lou Albano said that if something drastic doesn't happen soon, the academy will close.

At the beginning of the year, SADA raised $95,000 through grants and fundraisers. They also spent $90,000.

"This is not a cry wolf situation," Albano said. "This is real."

SADA's board met with landlord George Rahdert on Friday to discuss reducing the rent. Rahdert, a developer and an attorney who represents the St. Petersburg Times, said the groups are working to keep the studio in the same space.

"We're working on a solution that will keep everyone happy," he said.

The board will meet this week to decide, said Charlotte Quandt, the academy's administrative director.

Scott Clendening, president of the Florida Gulfcoast Commercial Association of Realtors, said King Street properties with full-service rents typically run $12 to $18 per square foot. Full-service rent includes real estate taxes, maintenance and some utilities.

SADA pays about $11.20 per square foot. "That's a good deal," Clendening said.

The Pier charges about $32 per square foot. A Vespa shop in the 500 block of King Street pays $1,800 per month for 2,500 square feet. SADA uses about 6,600 square feet.

Amani Holder, like the other girls, wonders where she'll go if her second home closes.

"SADA is a place where anybody can feel safe and that they are somebody," said Amani, 13.

"Without it, a lot of us would be in trouble."

About a third of SADA's students are on need-based scholarships. Enrollment has been flat.

The studio has sold clothing, washed cars and applied for grants.

It's not enough.

Right now, Albano said, the studio needs more students, more money and, most important, more time.

Changing the rent will help. Board president Marilyn Fudge said the money problem needs a long-term solution.

"It won't go away immediately," she said.

The studio won't go down without a fight. Parents are meeting to discuss a fundraiser. Board members are collecting items for a silent auction.

But for now, Johnson is focused on the end-of-the-year performance set for June 14. She walks around the room observing the opening sequence.

"You're a bird, not a ballerina," she reminds the dancers.

Johnson looks to providence for a solution. "We're going to keep our heads to the sky."

Jackie Alexander can be reached at jdalexander@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

how to help

Soulful Arts

To donate items or money, call Soulful Arts Dance Academy at (727) 822-2555.

Soulful Arts Dance Academy may shut its doors soon 05/30/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 11:44am]

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