In the Spotlight Co-owner: 'It's been an honor' to keep Sharon's Dance Studio going

Apr. 21—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — There was a time when, if someone had told Melissa Oswalt that she would co-own a dance studio someday, she would have said they were out of their mind.

But almost six years into co-owning Sharon's Dance Studio in Lower Yoder Township, Oswalt wouldn't have it any other way.

"I've learned so much and absolutely love it," the Johnstown resident said.

"It's not work when I go to the studio."

The dance studio, located at 1838 Goucher St., was founded by Sharon Yoder in 1963. After 55 years in the business, Yoder decided to retire in 2018. The plan was to sell the studio to a former student, but that fell through.

Oswalt said she learned through her daughter, who dances at the studio, that it was going to close, and she didn't want to see that happen.

"I told my husband, Thomas, that Sharon was going to close the dance studio, and he jokingly said, 'Maybe we should buy it,' " said the Greater Johns-town High School teacher.

Oswalt said the idea of purchasing Sharon's Dance Studio became more of a reality as she talked about it further with her brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Jeff and Eva Meyer.

"We thought if we could get the teachers to stay on and do the dance part of it — none of us had any previous dance experience — we could do the business side," she said. "I said something to the teachers first about making a proposal to Sharon and asking if they would stay on. They asked if we were serious, and we were, and they agreed to stay."

After discussing the transition with Yoder, the couples signed the papers in June 2018, and Sharon's Dance Studio came under new ownership.

"We kept the name because it was already a well-known and respected studio, and we wanted to make sure that everyone knew it was going to stay that way," Oswalt said. "Sharon didn't completely walk away. She still stops over at the studio, and she'll watch our competition team, and she comes to all of our recitals. We still honor her because she started this and we want her to be a part of it."

Instructors include Jenn Rovan, April Cox, Olivia Bridges and Wendy Gordon, who offer classes in ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, pointe and acro dance.

"We start as young as 3 and can go through age 18," Oswalt said. "The dance season runs with the school year, so we start in September, and it finishes the first weekend in June with our recital."

The Sophisticates is a competition team composed of dancers ages 11 and older who have more than five years of experience at Sharon's Dance Studio.

"We have 20 dancers — 18 girls and two boys — on the competition team," Oswalt said. "We have competed all over Pennsylvania and have gone to national competitions in Hershey, Virginia Beach, and Charleston, South Carolina."

Summer dance camps are also available, as well as weekly drop-in adult classes in jazz and hip-hop.

Oswalt said almost 100 dancers are enrolled in classes.

"We can always add more students," she said. "We hope dancers will continue to come to us so we can share our passion and love for dance with them."

Moving forward, Oswalt would like to include a dance shop in the studio.

"In the building that we rent, the other side is open, and we've talked about opening a dance shop because there isn't one around here and you have to go to either Greensburg or Altoona," she said. "It's a possibility down the road."

Reflecting on co-owning the studio, Oswalt said that it has been a joy.

"I lost my parents one right after the other shortly before, and I'm telling you, it was probably what got me through," she said. "I can't say enough good things about the families, and they've embraced us and stayed with us. It's been an honor to keep it going and see it thrive."

For more information on Sharon's Dance Studio or to enroll in classes, call 814-255-5694 or visit