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Alumna leads ‘B’ella Ballerinas’

An early childhood education and teaching alumna offers free kids’ dance classes at her studio.

Roneisha Smith-Davis had a dream in 2013, leading her to quit her job. A life-long dancer, the 2012 early childhood education and teaching alumna decided to open her own dance studio in North Philadelphia.

Smith-Davis was able to fulfill her dream by opening B’Ella Ballerina Dance Academy, a nonprofit dance studio in the Callowhill neighborhood. The studio has more than 100 students and four instructors who specialize in tap, jazz, ballet and hip hop, according to its studio’s website.

Growing up, Smith-Davis said she always had an itch to dance.

Her great-grandmother Ella-Mae Smith, who passed away in 1998, called Smith-Davis a “virtuoso” dancer since she was 3. Ever since, Smith-Davis said she has followed her heart and danced.

The road was not easy, Smith-Davis said.

“In 2012, I tried out for the Los Angeles Lakers dance team. Out of 500, I was the top finalist,” she added. “I just dropped everything and quit my job and moved out there.”

The only reason Smith-Davis didn’t make the Laker Girls, the official dance team for the Los Angeles Lakers, is because they told her she didn’t look the part, she said.

“My skills were there, my talent was there, everything was there, but when it came to my looks I didn’t compare to everyone, so I took that note and turned it into a positive thing.”

This “positive thing” became her interest — to start B’Ella Ballerina Dance Academy, “where every ballerina is beautiful inside and out,” she said.

After getting rejected from the Laker Girls, Smith-Davis wanted to make sure that no one felt the way she did when she was told “she did not look the part.”

Marguerite Prosser, her aunt and public relations and marketing manager, plays a huge role in making sure the business side is all set, Smith-Davis said.

“I told her, ‘Whatever you need me to do, I will do,’ ‘cause I love her,” Prosser said.

B’Ella Ballerina Dance Academy held a fundraiser event last month. The fundraiser,  “Love for Logan,” was in honor of Logan Gibbs, a dance student at B’Ella Ballerina Dance Academy, who passed away from brain cancer on Aug. 24. Gibbs was Smith-Davis’ younger cousin.

She was diagnosed in February.

Members of the community and the dance academy helped Smith-Davis throw the event in honor of her younger cousin.

“Logan was just in our winter show in January, so when she got diagnosed it was like a shock to all of us,” Smith said. “When she passed away, it was something we all wanted to do for her.”

Takora McIntyre can be reached at takora.mcintyre@temple.edu.

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