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San Diego husband, wife ballet dancers find way to keep dance business going through pandemic

Posted at 2:31 PM, Mar 04, 2022

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) – Though the dance industry suffered tremendously during the pandemic shutdowns, two dance instructors managed to grow their business.

Bernadette Torres and her husband Carlo Di Dio have expanded their passion for ballet into a passion for business.

“While we were dancing, we started teaching as well, so we started building the credibility as a coach and teacher,” said Di Dio.

Di Dio and Torres know a thing or two about being students of dance. They each started dancing as children and then rose quickly to become principal dancers. They met while dancing with San Diego Ballet.

“Yeah, and then started dating when we moved to California Ballet,” Di Dio explained.

Then, several years ago, the couple decided to continue learning by stepping into a new classroom.

“We always thought there was more than just ballet, so we decided to get our business degree at San Diego State University.”

Their new knowledge helped them stay on their toes even after COVID-19 emerged.

“So, when the pandemic started a lot of studios were having challenges, because indoors, and so a lot of parents asked us to start teaching their kids privately.”

Torries and Di Dio adapted to hybrid in-person and virtual classes, but for many other programs, that wasn't enough to save them.

In a Dance/USA survey finished last summer, nearly half the dance companies with dance schools reported an average decrease in tuition of 59 percent. About half the unemployed respondents said they were still not back at work.

One thing that makes the Torres Di Dio Ballet Program unique is its size.

Torres said, “That's what makes us very unique. We have the time and the opportunity for that one-on-one coaching and we want to keep it that way.”

Smaller means less space. They rent what they need at the Dance Spot studio in Chula Vista’s Eastlake area, so they don't have to carry the cost to maintain it. They've also made the most of networking.

“We had great professors who we still stay in contact with. We ask them for guidance,” said Torres.

Though Di Dio and Torres are taking baby steps to grow their business, their students are growing by leaps and bounds with one finishing top 6 at the Youth America Grand Prix and another accepted into a competitive dance intensive workshop.

“We grew up being in the studio all the time so now that we're back here kind of like back at square one building these kids. It's different, it's really giving a part of yourself in a different way,” Torres said.

The couple says renting space from an established studio is a win-win for the dance program and the studio, especially during the pandemic.

They are hoping to have their own studio in the next few years.