Her name may be synonymous with dance education in Miami, but Maria Verdeja still had one last vision to fulfill when it came to her 31-year-old namesake studio. Last month that vision came to life with the opening of Verdeja’s new Pinecrest studio, a 20,000-square-foot space by The Falls that includes six studios, a cafeteria, locker room, showers and performance space.
“This studio has been a dream of mine for a very long time,” says Verdeja, who also owns studios in Coral Gables and Key Biscayne. “I wanted a place where the dancers could have a space like the ones I danced in when I trained in New York. I wanted to create an institution; a home for dancers for many years to come.”
The space will house both recreational classes and the studio’s MVSA team, which competes at the regional and national level, winning awards for choreography, studio and individual dance performances. Students in the studio train in classes ranging from ballet and contemporary to hip-hop, jazz and tap. “We have an incredible staff of directors,” says Verdeja.
“My core staff has been with me anywhere from eight to 26 years. We have created a family.”
A professional dancer for most of her life, Verdeja was a founding member of the Miami City Ballet, leaving after two seasons to start her family and open her own studio in 1987. The need for dance education in the city spurred her to expand over the next three decades, growing both her business and her family along the way. In fact, almost all of Verdeja’s children have found success in the arts on their own. Her daughter Suki Lopez, an actor on Sesame Street (she plays “Nina la Latina”), will join the family business next year as they launch MAPS: Music Arts Preparatory Schools, which encompasses dance, singing and acting.
As of now Verdeja has more than 40 employees working between her studios, and welcomes more than 800 students through her doors, bringing together dancers from across South Florida. “31 years of running this business has allowed me the time to perfect it,” she says. “To learn the needs and desires of the dancers, the parents and the community.”
Verdeja says helping her students has been at the heart of her passion, driving her to instill what she calls “positive qualities for life” in addition to dance technique. “My mother gave me constant support to fight for what I wanted, to be focused and dedicated and to always reach for the stars,” she says. “This optimism, self-esteem, discipline and confidence is what I believe made me who I am and helped me through life. This is what I have always wanted for my own students.”
For more information about MVSA, please call 305.255.2055 or visit mariaverdejadance.com