After dancing professionally with the Houston Ballet Academy, Amy Blake knew she wanted to bring movement to more Houstonians, she said.

Blake’s passion led her to open Amy Blake’s Academy of Dance in 1997 and grow the business to where it is today, providing both a creative outlet and mentorship for dancers age 3 and up.

“I wanted to continue giving the love of dance out,” she said.

Blake first opened the academy in Clear Lake then relocated to 410 E. Edgewood Drive, Friendswood, in 2010. She has used her connections within the industry to bring some of the most qualified professionals to the academy as instructors.

The academy works with dancers at all levels, from those interested in dancing for fun to those hoping to establish a dance-related career.

“They can come to the studio and not be pressured,” Blake said of those dancing as a recreational hobby. “I don’t want to be a mega studio; I don’t need that; it’s the quality of the instruction we are giving [that sets us apart].”

Academy members can learn dance styles such as ballet, tap, hip-hop, jazz, modern and musical theater; adult ballet and hip-hop classes are also offered, but those have been on hold due to the pandemic.

Aside from mentoring its learners, the studio does as much outreach as possible through recitals. During the holiday season, 40 to 50 dancers will put on a performance of “The Nutcracker” at nursing homes and shelters—although the performances could not be held this year due to COVID-19—and the Merging Forces concerts assist different charitable organizations each season.

The studio provided virtual instruction, along with weekly check-ins, during the first pandemic shutdown and resumed in-person classes in late May. The work instructors do with students is essential amid COVID-19, Blake said, to give young dancers a chance to strive for success and be proud of their work amid social isolation and other stressors.

“Dance has helped a lot of these kids get through a lot of things that have been really hard,” Blake said.