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50 YEARS OF WEBBY DANCE COMPANY

WHAT STARTED AS A SMALL, LOCAL, STUDIO HAS GROWN TO REACH OVER 20,000 STUDENTS IN 12 STATES!


By Kathleen Mest

Photos by Monique Kuhlman



WEBBY Dance Company is truly a family business. Starting as a dance studio in Lakewood in 1974, founder Helen Palma would bring her 4 small children to the studio while she taught. 


Daughter Melissa “Mimi” remembers fondly, “We would get out of school and go straight with a packed dinner. We grew up in the dance studio. We would get home about 9:30PM at night…4 evenings a week.” 


While daughters, Mimi and Rebecca “Becky,” hung out at the dance studio, brothers, Ted and Mark, were next door running up a tab at the pizza joint and spending time at the bowling alley. So much that they would go on to become professional bowlers!


Helen soon started receiving requests for on-site dance classes at pre-schools in Long Beach. And like most small business owners, she took the opportunity and figured out how to make it happen. “I loaded up my records, my record player, and some props,” she recalls. Many trips to unload the car later, this was the start of the mobile dance company!


Becky reminisces on how it began and how they’ve adapted. ”Records, cassette tapes, CDs, MP3s and now we are on Dropbox and we teach with our phones!”



Helen’s daughters grew up to become WEBBY instructors themselves, and began running their own mobile classes. Then in 2001, Helen had a revelation. “Becky was teaching in preschools in Southern California, Melissa was teaching in Oregon, and I was teaching in Ohio. And so the lightbulb came on… we’re already in 3 states, why don’t we franchise! So off to the attorneys we went…they took all our money and we signed up to sell franchises,” she laughs. 


Their first franchise owner was one of their dance instructors in Ohio. Now, there are 25 franchise units in 12 states, teaching 20,000+ kids. The goal is to teach 200,000 kids in 10 years! 


Becky is the current president of WEBBY, and her sister, daughter, daughter-in-law and mom all work with the company as instructors or franchise owners. Many of their students have become WEBBY instructors and franchisees as well. 



As WEBBY celebrates 50 years in business, Helen and her daughters share their favorite aspects of their WEBBY dance company. 


Mimi says, “I love the story telling. I get to actually look at the children and see their faces… Telling a story through dance, much like when reading a story out loud. The interpretation through the movement.”


Helen shares, “I like the smiles on the children’s faces… It makes me want to cry. I know when I see that many smiling faces that we are doing it right.”


Mimi and Becky wholeheartedly agree and interject, “We love our mom!”


Becky sums it up, “That’s what WEBBY is, we are making children’s lives better. We are enriching their lives through movement.”  


CLASS INFO:

Classes are held on location at almost every pre-school in Long Beach, as well as some elementary schools. They include dance, gymnastics, cheer and yoga. 


Check their website for scheduled classes: WEBBYdancecompany.com

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