Today we’d like to introduce you to Leeza Fullmer.
Hi Leeza, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I’ve always been a dancer – through and through since I was around 3.
I felt like it was my whole identity. Competing and dancing at multiple studios and also a member of my high school dance company. I remember my Senior year all of a sudden I had this horrible pain in my spine (kind of like that pressure you feel when you need to pop your knuckles but between my vertebrae) and it felt like my upper body was too “heavy” for my hip joints.
I took time off from dance and went on a four-year medical journey to learn I had Fibromyalgia. Luckily even with the pain, I was feeling, the studio I grew up in hired me as a teacher and I was able to rise up the ranks there. I became their Jazz Department Director and Senior Company Director by the age of 22 and loved being able to share my love of dance in a new way.
When the studio closed on 2017, I used that opportunity to open my own studio and have been loving being the dance studio owner of Jolie Arts Dance Center past 6 years! I have also been able to find an amazing Neuro specialist and discovered yoga to help ease my fibromyalgia symptoms so I can live my life as close to pain-free as possible.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Having fibromyalgia definitely held me back quite a bit. The pain would make it very difficult for me to move and feel normal. After I graduated high school, I was determined to go to school and become a Surgical Technician. I loved everything about the human body, medicine and surgery fascinated me.
I was four weeks away from graduation and I had to stop because the pain in my back/hips made it impossible for me to stand for long periods of time and my mental health was shot after that. I was so grateful to be able to return to dance more fully after that happened so I could put my energy into something positive and it helped my mental health to be back where I felt I belonged, in the dance studio.
Teaching was difficult, sometimes needing an assistant to show the actual dance moves while I explained from a chair but I don’t regret it for a minute because it helped me gain the experience I think I needed to eventually be brave enough to start my own studio.
And of course, as we all know owning and starting your own business is never an easy task, but I don’t regret it for a minute.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I proudly own Jolie Arts Dance Center in Lehi. We specialize in building a strong technical foundation while providing a safe and loving environment for our dancers to help grow their creativity. Growing up in the competition dance world I realized how easily it can become a very toxic and abusive environment and all I wanted to be able to do is… Dance.
Express myself through movement when I didn’t know what words to use or feel safe sharing those feelings with others, I felt like I could through dance and I wanted my dancers to have that same opportunity. I’m most proud of the amazing relationship I’ve been able to build with my staff and dancers. A feeling of trust and safety, that we can rely on each other for whatever we need and have a creative environment where we all feel at home and thrive.
I love giving the dancers the opportunity to create their own choreography, hype them up with all their successes and guide them when they need assistance to move forward. It’s a phenomenal feeling when your work just feels like an extension of your home.
If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
I was the kid always on stage ha! I competed for dance almost every weekend March-June, I participated in choirs, talent shows, and musicals (In my senior year, I played Meg in Phantom of the Opera), and I danced with my school company, you name it!
I was also weirdly obsessed with Math, just calling out my Asian side there lol. I loved figuring out the numbers and formulas and excelled in it.
I would say for being a performance kid I was still pretty shy. I have a really hard time meeting new people and never had a solid friendship until 9th grade when I had a group of boys I hung out with until they all left on LDS missions. I also met my two best friends Becca and Matika around age 14, whom I’m still very close with.
Matika and I actually grew up dancing together starting at age 14, ended up teaching at a different studio together, both ended up owning our own dance studios, and then in 2020 combined and created the perfect studio together!
I also met my husband on my first day of high school in a funny story of silence, and trying to hide glances over at me during lunch until he got up the courage to say “huh you’re kinda cute” and LEFT!
- Website: www.jolieartsdance.com
- Instagram: @Jolieartsdance and @leezajolie