As high school students walked into Jill Rauscher School of Dance on a summer afternoon, the owner greeted them by name. She hugged them. She asked how their busy days were going.
The students were not part of her class, but that did not matter to Jill Rauscher. What mattered was connecting with them and treating them like her own children, a principle she has had throughout the 50 years her business has been open in the Bay Area.
“[This studio is] a hub of what we like to call a big family,” Rauscher said.
Rauscher has had thousands of students since she opened in 1969. Over 300 of them she taught from age 3 up until graduation. Many have gone on to perform on Broadway or European tours, but for Rauscher’s studio, dreams of fame and fortune are not why the girls come to dance.
“I don’t bring the kids up that way,” she said. “I want them to love dancing, to have lifelong friends, to have a strong confidence in themselves.”
Raushcer started as a dance teacher at a local recreation center. Her class sizes grew so quickly she decided to open her own studio. In 1983, she bought the building her school is housed in today, she said.
As a young business owner, Rauscher also had a chance to make it big in the dancing world. Instead, she made the hard choice to keep the school.
“I know I made the right decision,” she said. “I have a relationship with thousands and thousands of children that have come through my doors.”
Students at Rauscher’s studio perform recitals every year at the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston, but the school is noncompetitive. Rauscher does not want her students to be pitted against each other, she said.
For Rauscher, the joy is in watching students who can barely walk slowly become graceful dancers. She loves providing a welcoming place for those who want to escape the stress of their everyday lives, she said.
“My mantra is … you leave your troubles at the door,” Rauscher said. “You dance your heart out.”
But most of all, she loves making a connection with students that lasts a lifetime. Many of her graduated dancers keep in touch with Rauscher, sending her wedding invites and baby photos.
“It’s the biggest reward I could ever ask for,” Rauscher said.
Jill Rauscher School of Dance
202 S. Walnut St., Webster
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 3:30-9 p.m.