A leap of faith

Ballerinas perform barre work during a practice.

Ballerinas perform barre work during a practice.

Autumn Blais opens Birmingham Academy of Dance in Inverness

Story by Grace Thornton

Photos by Dawn Harrison

These days, Autumn Blais is teaching whole classes of children how to take leaps.

It’s definitely not a new concept for her.

She took a big leap of her own this summer.

In August, Blais opened the Birmingham Academy of Dance, a new state-of-the-art dance studio on U.S. 280 in the Inverness Heights shopping center. It’s the realization of a lifelong dream for her, but it was also a practical move, she said.

From left: Alli Davis, Kelee Mefford, Autumn Blais, Sophia Powell.

From left: Alli Davis, Kelee Mefford, Autumn Blais, Sophia Powell.

“I had a daughter who was growing up in dance, and there was nothing on this side of 280 — we were driving to another part of town to get what we needed,” Blais said.

That’s no small thing considering the fact that her 12-year-old daughter, Spencer Shirley, spends about 14 hours a week honing her skills as a competitive dancer.

“We felt there was a need for a studio on this side of town,” Blais said. “When you have a child who’s in it, you start noticing these things, these needs, more and more.”

And she feels she was right in sensing that need. At its grand opening, Birmingham Academy of Dance was already approaching 200 students, well above its goal of 140.

“We built the building to accommodate 500 to 600 students so that we would have plenty of room to grow,” she said. “We wanted a large space and several studios so that multiple classes could be going on at the same time.”

And in those studios, she said, they wanted the instruction to be extra personalized.

“Our instructors are specifically trained in one genre,” Blais said. “Our ballet teacher has extensive ballet experience. Our jazz instructor has extensive jazz experience.”

And Blais, also a seasoned instructor, teaches classes focusing on hip-hop and — yes — leaps and turns.

“We start classes at age 2 and go all the way through 18, and we offer all genres — ballet, tap, clogging, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, lyrical and musical theater,” she said.

Classes are offered for students ages 2-18 years old and all skill levels.

Classes are offered for students ages 2-18 years old and all skill levels.

Blais herself started learning to dance at age 2, as did her daughter. But Blais said she works hard to make the studio a comfortable environment for older beginners.

“We have a lot of beginner students who are 12 and 13 and were afraid to take dance,” she said, noting that Birmingham Academy of Dance breaks classes up based on age but also on level so that all students can feel right at home.

“We don’t want kids to feel insecure and intimidated — we want them to feel comfortable in class,” Blais said.

As a result, the studio has been able to recruit beginner, intermediate and advanced students across every age group, she said. “We have a really good mix, and we’ve been able to adapt and personalize the classes to challenge each student.”

Also from the early stages of design, Birmingham Academy of Dance endeavored to make the building itself conducive to challenging the students.

“We made sure the atmosphere was as much like a stage performance as possible,” Blais said. “We used stage flooring in the studios, and we have ballet bars and mirrors to accommodate better performances from the students.”

And the results?

“We are thrilled,” she said. “It’s a dream come true.”

Sixteen-year-old Shaina Trumer said it’s a dream come true for her, too.

She had been looking for a new studio this summer when she and her mom stumbled upon Birmingham Academy of Dance through an advertisement.

“My mom says I’m not a nice person when I’m not in dance, so we were really looking hard for a place for me to start dancing again,” Trumer said with a laugh.

Students perform barre work during class.

Students perform barre work during class.

After she and her mom saw the ad, they emailed Birmingham Academy of Dance, and Blais answered their email the same day, Trumer said.

“They were so friendly. We went to an open house soon after that at the studio, and they remembered who I was,” she said. “I felt so welcomed. It was great. I knew it was the place for me.”

She feels that way even more now that she’s taking classes.

“The teachers really work with you. I think it’s great,” said Trumer, who takes classes in contemporary dance, clogging, ballet, hip hop and several other technical skills. “It’s the most positive dance environment I’ve ever been in.”

For more information, visit badance280.com or call 205-518-0933.



Alabaster Main Story

From food service to food ministry: Paul Curcio to begin Brother Paul’s BBQ in Alabaster

Alabaster Main Story

Construction progresses on Alabaster’s new amphitheater


Pelham High School announces school registration days


New Vision Christian Church plans three-day event for August

Alabaster Main Story

Thompson’s annual football camp provides fun memories for Alabaster community


Columbiana achieves Tree City USA designation

Alabaster Main Story

Shelby Baptist receives national recognition for commitment to stroke care

280 Main Story

Grandview recognized for commitment to stroke care

280 Main Story

Chelsea’s Haley Trotter scores double figures in North All-Stars win over South

280 Main Story

Chelsea approves change to form of government, increase to future council pay

280 Main Story

Chelsea native Carter Frederick selected by Royals in 2024 MLB Draft

Alabaster Main Story

Thompson star D’Marion Terrell selected by Blue Jays in 2024 MLB Draft

Alabaster Reporter

Post 555 honors first responders at awards dinner

280 Main Story

AmFirst partners with Jax State to rebrand football stadium


Pelham passes economic incentives for Edgar’s Bakery and Waldo’s Chicken and Beer

Alabaster Main Story

Osprey Initiative workers remove litter from Buck Creek


Birmingham Bulls announce 2024-25 schedule

280 Main Story

Oak Mountain’s John Shoemaker takes boys North-South race, Briarwood’s Mary Grace Parker finishes second

280 Main Story

Spain Park’s Carmen Britt wins match, helps North All-Stars win in girls golf

280 Main Story

Planning Commission approves zoning map for Harpersville-Vincent zoning beat


Pelham High School breaks records with AP exam performances


Braves draft University of Montevallo’s Logan Samuels, becomes UM’s highest draft pick

280 Main Story

Alana Price, Belle Casey crowned at inaugural Miss Oak Mountain pageant

280 Main Story

Oak Mountain High School has impressive year with AP exams