To Larisa, it seems like dance has always been a part of her life. However, it was not an easy path. Born with severely clubbed feet, she wore casts on her legs for the first nine months of her life. Her doctors doubted whether she would ever walk normally, but Larisa had other plans! At 18 months, she took her first steps, and at age five, Larisa turned to dance to strengthen her feet. She struggled with ankle pain throughout childhood, but she kept on dancing, stricken with what she calls “the fever”!
Larisa continued dancing and won numerous competitions. She recalls dancing in the 2001 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, as part of the Tap Dancing Christmas Trees, just two months after September 11. “It was surreal being in New York at that time,” she shared. Dancing helped build Larisa’s self-confidence and gave her a sense of pride. Her experiences motivated her to help others overcome their obstacles and to experience the joy of dance.
In her 20’s, Larisa moved to San Diego and was determined to set up a dance studio. She then researched local dance studies and realized that there were few tap dance opportunities in San Diego. As a result, in 2008, she opened Tap Fever Studios, a non-profit dance school with a focus on tap. Tap Fever’s mission is building self-esteem, athleticism and giving back to the community. Classes include tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary, hip-hop and partner dancing. Tap Fever provides accessible classes for people with disabilities, dance scholarships and mentoring for teens.
The summer months are typically the slowest times for dance studios, as people go on vacations. To help stabilize cash flows during the summer months, Larisa turned to her bank for a loan, but was unable to qualify for a traditional loan. Her banker suggested that she apply for a Kiva loan through Accion San Diego, a microfinance lender.
A Kiva loan of $5,000 helps pay the studio’s rent and utilities for the summer months and ensures that Tap Fever’s programs continue to give people of all ages, backgrounds, physical abilities and incomes the opportunity to experience the joy of dance.
“It is so rewarding to see the joy of students who are visually impaired, on crutches or others who just want to get healthier,” she shared.
For more information on Tap Fever Studios and its mission, go to www.TapFever.com.