When DeRidder Mayor Ron Roberts signed a proclamation recognizing Sharon Sandlin on May 22, the owner of Dance Stop said she was honored, surprised and humbled. But over the years, Sandlin's goal has been to stay in the background while her dancers shine in the spotlight.
"I don't really feel like I am a big part of the community - it's our dancers," Sandlin said. "They have represented the community all across the country and have been ambassadors for Beauregard Parish. I am thrilled that Dance Stop has been successful over the years, because that means more children have had the opportunity to learn to dance and be a part of a team."
June 2-8 is "Dance Stop Week," culminating with the studio's 30th annual recital Friday and Saturday.
It has been 30 years of joy and fulfillment, Sandlin said.
"I love to see the growth in [students'] dance abilities, confidence and self-image," Sandlin said. "I have had so many students that started at age 3 and graduated from Dance Stop - now, they have children that take dance with us. It's exciting to see the generations repeat themselves, and I am honored to be a part of their lives."
Born and raised in DeRidder, Sandlin met her husband at Fort Polk and left the area when he was transferred.
"He had fallen in love with DeRidder and it was home to me, so we decided to return here when he retired from the Army," she said. "I had the goal of coming back to DeRidder, opening a dance studio and giving those dancers who were willing to commit to a standard of excellence the opportunity to do things that others didn't have the chance to do."
Mayor Roberts' proclamation honors Sandlin for "the contributions she has made, in a 'positive manner,' to local children," and for serving as a "surrogate mother, giving not only her knowledge of dance, but also nurturing advice and love to the children."
Dance Stop teaches tap, ballet, jazz and clogging, and it has expanded to include Dance Stop Too and Dance Stop Too Too. It is home to the award-winning Dixie Darlins.
"With the Darlins, I have loved being able to take them to competition in locations that many times they would have never gone," Sandlin said. "I've taken three or four groups of Darlins to New York City, and most would never have gone unless we had gone as a group."
Starting and owning her own business has had its challenges, but Sandlin recommends other aspiring entrepreneurs to be patient and give 100 percent effort in their endeavors.
"If it's something that you love, you can't measure success by money - you have to measure it by the joy that it brings to you," she said. "Granted, you have to be able to pay the bills and eat, but pick a business that you look forward to working in every day, and then it's not a 'job' - it's a joy."
As another year comes to an end, Sandlin said there is a bittersweet aspect to seeing students move on.
"The children become like your own, and you always dread graduation," she said. "But they come back to their Dance Stop home when they're back in town, and it's exciting to see how they spread their wings and fly.
"We only hope that we had a small part in giving them the confidence to 'try.'"