From commerce to choreography

How Teagan’s affinity with dancing led to business success

Teagan Huntsdale is passionate about dancing, but her path to business ownership wasn’t as straightforward as you’d expect

In early 2017 Teagan Huntsdale answered a phone call and listened suspiciously as someone on the other end of the line enquired about a new dance studio she was about to open. It had to be a hoax.

“I still remember that call to this day, it was the very first enquiry about my new business,” Teagan reminisces. “I thought it was a hoax but it was actually a beautiful family who had been recommended to me by their singing teacher, I couldn’t believe it.”

A few weeks later in March 2017 doors of The Dance Affinity opened and Teagan welcomed 25 new students to the small converted warehouse in Unanderra.

“Opening the studio was the best decision I’ve ever made, even though it felt like I was being too ambitious at the time. Seeing the Dance Affinity logo on things I’d designed from scratch was a very surreal and exciting moment.”

The Dance Affinity has gone from strength to strength since that Autumn day in 2017. There are now more than 360 students aged from three to 65 years-old who call The Dance Affinity home. The Unanderra studio doubled in size after renovations in 2021, and in early 2023 a second studio opened in Woonona.

Teagan's most rewarding role is being a mentor to her staff and students

“It’s been a whirlwind as a young business owner to manage such rapid growth, navigate the complexities of business ownership during COVID, and qualify for an international dance competition in the United States,” Teagan says.

“But I absolutely love it. Of all my roles as business owner and studio principal, my role as a mentor and leader for students and staff is the most valuable and rewarding of all.”

Despite the obvious passion Teagan has for dancing, her path to business ownership wasn’t as straightforward as you’d expect.

“In 2014 I was a fresh University of Wollongong (UOW) Bachelor of Commerce graduate with limited experience in the business world but a huge passion for dance,” she says.

“I was working five nights per week as a dance teacher but owning a dance school didn’t seem like a real job to me, so initially I wasn’t interested in this as a career path.

“I had placed a lot of value on working for a large corporation because I thought that’s what it meant to be successful in your career. So I spent a lot of time looking for a full-time job but I just couldn’t find anything I felt enthusiastic about.

“That’s when I realised I didn’t want to stop dancing and teaching. Opening a dance studio was a no-brainer in the end because it was the perfect opportunity to combine both my love of dance and my business degree together.”

The Dance Affinity's students range in age from from three to 65 years-old

The early years

At a certain time of day as the sun lazily makes its way behind the Mount Kembla escarpment, the light gently pierces through the glass doors of The Dance Affinity in Unanderra, and rests upon a beautiful pink and silver costume that sits framed upon the studio’s back wall. The silver sequins quietly glisten in the afternoon sunshine as eager students bustle in and out of the busy studio doors and make their way to patient parents waiting outside.

“The pink costume was the second one I ever owned and the one I wore when I danced in my first ever solo performance when I was three years old,” Teagan laughs. “And it was something I wanted to do, there was no pressure from my parents. I just loved dancing.”

Teagan wearing one of her earliest dance costumes

The dance world is often synonymous with pushy parents, demanding teachers and competitive dancers. The growth of reality TV shows such as Baby Ballroom and Dance Moms haven’t done anything to dispel this stereotype. But for Teagan her reality was very different.

“I see the parents every afternoon waiting outside and supporting their children and it takes me back to my childhood,” Teagan says. “I started dancing when I was three because my cousin did it and I assumed I would love it.

“My mum and dad have been nothing but supportive. From the very beginning when I started dancing, to entering competitions and to starting my own business. They’ve both inspired me and given me the confidence to succeed, but it’s always been my own motivation and passion, not theirs.

“There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when dancing or performing. The self-expression you can feel deep in your soul when you have a piece of choreography that really speaks to you is second to none.”

The stage today

Teagan’s dance and business credentials speak for themselves. After completing her HSC at Wollongong High School of Performing Arts she went on to obtain a Certificate in Performing Arts at Brent Street studio in Sydney, one of Australia’s leading training institutions. Her Bachelor of Commerce from UOW soon followed.

“I enjoyed my time at UOW and was always engaged in the subjects I took and content I was learning,” Teagan says.

“While I don’t necessarily think about my degree in the day-to-day running of my business, I realise that it has helped me subconsciously through my business journey.

“Understanding a range of business concepts is definitely imperative to all of my daily business practices and the knowledge I gained throughout my studies has given me a sound understanding on best practice for a successful business.”

This success was recognised in 2021 when Teagan was named the Illawarra Women in Business Young Business Woman of the Year. The award recognised her as an innovative and professional leader who is respected by competitors and involved in many community initiatives. It also acknowledged the support she provides her students and staff – many of whom are student-teachers.

Teagan was the 2021 Illawarra Women in Business Young Business Woman of the Year

“At the moment we have 12 teachers at The Dance Affinity across two studios, with many of them being former students themselves. It gives them a unique perspective into both sides of dancing and teaching,” Teagan says.

“My focus at The Dance Affinity is always to provide excellent dance training, however a big part of what we do is about nurturing our students to develop them as humans. I want our teachers to be mentors to our students and someone they can look up to, someone who makes their day a little brighter.

“My business mission statement is to enhance the wellbeing of individuals through providing valuable, supportive and inspiring dance experiences and this is a conscious business decision I’ve made.

“Having kind, caring teachers who are authentic, individual and nurturing is something I really value. Dancers can often feel an affinity with their teachers and relationships can develop over many years, this is important and is part of how we create a supportive and inclusive environment at The Dance Affinity.”

Having teachers who are authentic and nurturing is something Teagan values

As the glitter settles on the whirlwind growth of Teagan’s business over the last seven years, her eyes are clearly focused on the stage ahead.

“Our second studio is very new, so we will be doing what we do best, continuing to focus on sharing our love for dancing and nurturing and growing our community of Affinity students.”

And she no longer believes that phone call enquiries are hoaxes.

“The family who made that very first enquiry are still dancing with us today,” Teagan laughs. “I take all of our calls very seriously now.”