For Christine Titus, dance has always been more than just a creative outlet. Titus, the artistic director and owner of the Conservatory of Dance in Wilton Center has transformed her passion into a space that fosters friendship, inclusivity, and a feeling of community through lessons and competitive dance for Wilton’s youth. Now celebrating 30 years of business, Titus has proudly owned the studio for 15 years, marking half of the Conservatory’s lifespan under her leadership.
Dancing since age 5, Titus had one teacher who she credits as her biggest mentor in dance. Over the years, Titus followed her instructor from studio to studio and realized by the age of 10 that she wanted to be a professional dancer after seeing a performance of 42nd Street with her grandmother. Flash forward through a college education in dance, a history of professional dance in New York City, and several jobs between cruise ships, European tours, and a contract in St. Thomas, it’s where she is now — owning a studio of her own — that Titus considers her dream come true.
Prior to purchasing the studio in 2007, Titus taught dance lessons at the Conservatory for two years and developed a close friendship with the original owner. Titus described the business at the time of purchase as a very small, but fun recreational studio that had a great reputation in town.
While she still considers the studio to be recreational in nature, Titus came to the table with several goals to expand the studio’s size and programming. One of her biggest milestones has been the launch of the studio’s annual performance of The Nutcracker, which the Conservatory has staged each December for over a decade. All dancers enrolled in a ballet program starting as young as kindergarten age are welcome to join the cast for the holiday performance.
“The kids love it. It’s just life-changing for them to be here. The life lessons, the memories, all of it is important to anyone’s development as a human being,” Titus said.
Over the years, Titus has evolved the Conservatory of Dance from solely a recreational studio into an award-winning competitive dance studio. With competitive teams ranging in groups from Pre-Team (ages 6-7) all the way through Senior and Elite Teams (high school), each age bracket has a chance to further develop their skills and compete against teams throughout the United States. The Elite Team (the conservatory’s newest team) serves as a pre-professional league, offering both an intensive and nurturing environment for students seeking to become professional dancers. Competitors on the Elite Team are given the opportunity to enhance their individual techniques, physical training, and overall mindset for the competitive arts.
Most recently, Titus and her faculty and staff worked together to launch new programming that puts an emphasis on student mentorship. The Dance Ambassador Program operates as a “big sister/little sister” program that teaches leadership skills through mentorship and coaching.
“There’s a lot of different paths here, which is what I love about our studio. It’s very community-oriented and there’s a path for everybody whether you want to dance once a week recreationally or professionally. There’s something for everybody,” Titus said.
Like so many small businesses, the continued growth and success of the Conservatory of Dance hasn’t been without its hardships and struggles. With the onslaught of COVID-19 in 2020, the studio had to shift with the waxing and waning challenges of the pandemic. While Titus finally felt confident about the studio’s current policies and navigation around the virus, another stumble happened recently, when a burst pipe significantly impacted studio operations just this past January. The eruption of a water pipe in the attic flooded her studio, severely damaging two of the three classrooms, limiting the space required to continue offering all classes.
According to Titus, the damage that occurred could have completely halted most of the dance lessons had it not been for the incredible support of the Wilton community and fellow business owners. SoulTribe Yoga graciously lent its space for studio staff members to work during the eight weeks it took to completely gut and replace the floors and ceilings in most of the studio.
“The Chamber of Commerce was super helpful in giving me all the different people to call. And everybody I called was super helpful to call me back and offer to help whether it was the YMCA, Parks and Recreation, the Wilton Library — you name it. They all called me back and it was great,” Titus said.
While the studio went through a rapid recovery and repair, Titus also credits the families and kids that she works with for being flexible and understanding, making new times and locations work for the best. A final silver lining? Anyone enrolled in classes at the Conservatory will now enjoy beautiful, freshly renovated studio rooms equipped for the needs of any dancer.
Reflecting on the future of the studio, Titus is optimistic, keeping the fate of her business open-ended to any possibilities that arise — whether it’s expanding her programs, finding a bigger location, or even passing the baton to a new leader in the years ahead. For now, Titus finds the greatest fulfillment in the role the Conservatory of Dance plays within the Wilton community.
“The camaraderie and sense of belonging when people come here is huge. The feeling you get when you come here. Whether it’s one year, two years, or kids who are here for 15 years that start young and graduate with me as seniors. I think there is something for everybody and everybody that’s come through the doors, whether it was 30 years ago, 15 years ago, or last year feel welcomed and that’s just really special for me,” Titus said.