VADO finds new space, increases numbers of dance students
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VADO finds new space, increases numbers of dance students

When the only gym in town that offered dance lessons closed down in 2010, parents of dance students came together to keep the option open in Vermillion.

Pam Ford, executive director of Vermillion Area Dance Organization (VADO), said the desire for a dance program in Vermillion was at an all-time high after the gym closed.

“They sent an email out to everyone who was enrolled at the gym, and said we’re going to have a meeting at the library,” Ford said. “The library room was full. There was a lot of interest. So, we said let’s form a nonprofit organization and see if we can make this happen.”

Finding a space

The four dance teachers agreed to continue teaching for the organization in the meantime. The organization was waiting on a space until City Hall got word of the organization.

“City Hall had just been built, and they came to us and they said our basement is empty, you can use our space,” Ford said. “VADO started in the basement of city hall. No floor, no mirrors, no bars — just a bunch of kids and some teachers who loved to dance.”

Ford said VADO’s first recital, held at the Vermillion High School, had 35 children in it. After this initial recital, they knew they had to find a proper place for them to dance.

“We knew we needed to leave City Hall, because it wasn’t really great for them and it really wasn’t great for us either,” Ford said. “We were going all over town looking for places, and Sanford Vermillion came to us and said they had an empty building if we wanted to use it.”

Ford said Sanford Vermillion helped renovate the space, but most of it was finished with volunteer work. The dance floor was a donation.

After finally getting a place to flourish, there was an influx of students. As VADO began to grow, so did Sanford, and about two years ago, VADO was told their building was going to be torn down for construction.

“Even though they told us we needed to leave, we already knew we needed to leave,” Ford said. “We were bursting at the seams. We had to cut off class sizes because so many kids wanted to dance, but we didn’t have room for them.”

The organization’s current studio space is located at 13 E. Cherry St. in Hallmark Square.

VADO president Samantha Bunkoske said recognition of the studio has been one of the organization’s biggest challenges.

“Being a volunteer nonprofit organization, our biggest problem has been getting our name out there,” Bunkoske said. “For the longest time, even last year when I took over as president, I heard a lot of ‘I didn’t know there was a dance studio in town,’ so our biggest challenge is showing people who we are and letting them know what we have to offer.”

Another challenge is staffing enough volunteers to manage 200 dancers, Ford said.

For the love of dance

VADO offers a variety of different classes, including creative movement for the younger children, ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, modern, contemporary, dance team, stretch class, bar fit and Zumba.

“(VADO) offers such an opportunity for kids,” Bunkoske said. “I know dance helped me a lot in my career and my personal life, and I love that we’re able to offer it to people in town. They get to stay local and get the opportunity to experience fine art.”

Bunkoske said she initially didn’t want to dance.

“My mom got me into (dance),” Bunkoske said. “She put me in tap and the studio owner at the time (said) she has got to be in ballet, and I took it and it was just like a click. It was a passion and I just felt it and I just wanted to dance. And (now) I love teaching, I love doing dance, I love watching it.”

Ford said as soon as she started dance, she knew it was something she loved.

“I took my first dance class when I was four years old and to this day I knew that I had found my place, because I love to dance,” Ford said. “I studied at the ballet program at the University of Utah and also Butler University. Then I went streight into the Kansas City Ballet as a soloist.”


Audrey Job, a parent of one of the VADO students, said the organization is unique because of its ties to the community.

“I love that VADO has become a family-based, community-based organization,” Job said. “It has grown so much. Vermillion in general is a wonderful, special community to belong to, and I think that has moved in to VADO and we embrace that.”

Ford said VADO is a place for everyone.

“Anyone and everyone can come and express themselves through dance,” Ford said. “(VADO is) a place where people can become really good dancers.”