RRC: For years, you’ve been the proud owner of Tonya’s Speed’s Dance Connection. What led you to establish a business that would positively impact our youth?
TS: I’ve had Tonya’s Speed Dance Connection since 1986. As a young dancer growing up, I saw the influence of my dance teachers, which always had a positive impact on my life. I’ve always tried to see the good in others. Everyone has a talent, and everyone can dance with a little encouragement, training, and passion.
RRC: How do you view your work as a vocation—a call from and a duty to God?
TS: I think my vocation is a call from God to be in all the roles I have to play. Being positive and keeping a smile on your face in a dance class can change a dancer’s day. I’ve always wanted the dancers to have a place where they feel safe and can learn and feel welcomed and loved. God told us to love others, and I try so hard to teach the Golden Rule in my studio.
RRC: Congratulations… your two daughters are expecting this year. What religious traditions do you plan to share with your grandchildren?
TS: I have tried to instill the love of church, community, and remaining faithful. Our girls grew up with church, choir, piano, voice, tennis, softball, and dance! They both loved it and were my shining stars on stage. They were taught that whatever they started, they had to finish. I hope my grandchildren will continue attending church, Sunday school, choir, and other activities in the church.
RRC: Your mother was a woman of God. How does her rearing impact your life when faced with adversity?
TS: She taught me values, morals, and standards to live by and that I was wonderfully and fearfully made. She taught me that with God, anything is possible, but without God, I am nothing.
RRC: Explain how you bring your faith into your studio?
TS: I bring faith by practicing the fruits of the spirit. I tell my dance team members that it’s not about the award you get at the competition, but about the joy in the journey to get there. My motto is to spread kindness like glitter. Leave a little sparkle everywhere you go. Being a faithful teacher requires being there for your students.
RRC: Through the work you do within your studio, what do you want others to know that goes beyond teaching dance?
TS: It excites me to share my love of dance in places off-site because working parents may not be able to give their children the opportunity. Dance is a universal language and is a way of praising God.
RRC: Do you have different types of Scripture or literature that you read and follow?
TS: I love Psalms 149:3-4. “Let them praise his name with dance.” I also love The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Understanding your purpose gives meaning to life, and without God, life has no purpose.
RRC: How does your studio demonstrate a family-friendly environment?
TS: We always tell everyone when they enroll—welcome to the TSDC family. We offer a studio for dancers introverted or extroverted and want them to feel comfortable in their skin. Every dancer gets a chance to shine bright no matter their abilities. We promote equality, kindness, and encouragement.
RRC: What advice would you give to someone desiring to have a relationship with God, but finding it challenging?
TS: I’ve had dancers who’ve struggled with faith and the desires of the world. It’s my job to create a godly atmosphere for students and parents. My advice is to seek Jesus. But it starts with a trusting relationship.
RRC: In 2017, you and your TSDC family faced a tragic loss of a student. You refer to that student as a “dancing angel moon” walking in heaven. How did that student bless your life?
TS: He loved to dance and loved to entertain. We will never know the real reasons he is not with us anymore, but we know the lessons taken from the tragic loss. In a world where you can be anything, be kind. Don’t tear each other down, but build each other up. I bet he is bringing the joy of dance up above.
Tonya Speed is married to Butch Speed of 37 years. They live in Montgomery, AL, and have two daughters, Anne Preston (30) and Frances (26), and a new granddaughter, Olivia, born May 18.