By M. BETH TURNER
HOMETOWN STAR: Native Tulsan Keally Lilly owns and operates a successful dance studio for kids of all ages, is happily married, raises two boys, and is competing in the Mrs. Oklahoma 2006 pageant circuit.
GTR Newspapers photo
A room filled with hyper two-year -old dancers twirling, tugging, running and showing off for mom may send some running from the room. But for Keally Lilly, it’s heaven on earth.
In fact, it’s a dream Lilly has been living for 14 years. She began teaching dance at age 15. Six years later, she had a following of a couple dozen and decided there was no time like the present to open her own studio. “Before heading off to college, my family asked me what I really wanted to do and that’s when I knew…it was to open a dance studio.” So instead of marching off to college, Lilly opened the doors of ‘Miss Keally’s Dance Studio’ at 8988 S. Sheridan with $15,000 and 24 students. “I basically did everything–the books, the classes, answered the phones…everything!” says Lilly. “I could barely pay the rent, which was scary. Most dance studios close after 2 or 3 years.”
Since her opening, however, not only has her studio flourished for kids of all ages, it’s now moving to a new location, doubling in size, and comes with the latest in dance floor technology. She credits her success to sticking by her Christian beliefs and implementing those into her teaching philosophy. “We don’t have two-piece outfits for the dancers, no bad music…I had one parent tell me she saw a dance recital where 8-year-old girls were using whips and chains in their routine. That’s appalling to me. That mother told me she thanked God her daughter is at my studio.”
When asked about being a wife, mother and business owner, Lilly credits her organizational skills for creating success. “I think most women, when thinking about starting her own business AND having a family, it’s just too much. I think the marketing classes I’ve taken have helped. But I just have a love of what I do and have been lucky. I’m also learning to delegate!”
At age 18, Lilly married her high school sweetheart, Todd. They’ve now been married for 11 years and have two boys: 10-year-old Chris and 5-year-old Jackson, who says he’s starting kindergarten at Jenks in the fall. “Todd has been invaluable in moving into the new dance studio. He’s really supportive and is even going on a business trip with me to New York pretty soon. A trip on how to run a dance studio and he wants to go with me? That’s really cool.”
Just in case she wasn’t busy enough, Lilly competed in her first beauty pageant two years ago, taking third place in the Mrs. Oklahoma pageant. “I am passionate about getting arts into public schools. I’d love to see all schools have an after school program that teaches the arts to kids, especially for the underprivileged across Oklahoma. That’s why I started doing the pageant – this is my platform and my way to get this message across to the public.”
Competing in a pageant hasn’t been easy, however. “I had a student whose mom was a former Mrs. Oklahoma. She was such a good speaker. I thought, ‘I can do that. I can walk across a stage and talk about what I love.’ Well, it wasn’t that easy after all! This year I have a trainer helping me.”
Lilly wants to be known within the community for her love of working with children and for promoting good works. This year, she will offer five scholarships for her dance studio to children who’s families are unable to afford classes
Lilly says ultimately, she hopes that each child who walks through her door, leaves with more self-esteem and leadership skills. “I want these children to dance for themselves and for no one else. I want them to become leaders and not followers.”
Lilly has been in business long enough to see her students become teachers as well. “To see the impact I’ve had is really incredible. One of my former students, Beth, now teaches dance out of a church. She teaches dance through god. I mean, that’s incredible.”
Lilly will open her new dance studio under the name, “South Tulsa Dance Studio” on August 1 of this year. It will be located in The Palazzo Shopping Center at 103rd street and Memorial Drive. She will hold a dance and theatre camp August 7-11. For more information call 492-7830 or 369-JAZZ (5299).