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Crystal River dance studio damaged by Idalia, determined to reopen

Dance company owner Carla Stalcup (left) and instructors Teri Gilbert (center) and Hayley Hopkins (right) tear out the flooded dance floors after destruction by Hurricane Idalia. (Debra Garcia/WUFT News)
Dance company owner Carla Stalcup (left) and instructors Teri Gilbert (center) and Hayley Hopkins (right) tear out the flooded dance floors after destruction by Hurricane Idalia. (Debra Garcia/WUFT News)

A dance company in Citrus County tried its best to protect its studio from the seven foot storm surge of Hurricane Idalia, before the category four storm rolled through Crystal River on Aug. 30.   Employees at Centerstage closed the business days ahead to prepare for the impending heavy rain and winds.  But the waterproof tape and sandbags weren't enough. 

Owners Carla Stalcup and Sheri Ardente, who opened the studio 11 years ago, found the floor flooded with dirt and water, with mold already on the walls. Idalia also left irreparable damage to the doors, carpet and sheetrock. As each day passes without students, Stalcup and Ardente are losing their income. “Unfortunately for us, a few inches [of water] is very big. It has a significant impact because our business is the dance floor. We need our floors. It’s had a huge impact on us. That's what keeps us in business,” Stalcup said. In the wake of the studio’s destruction, parents of the dancers used social media to help raise money to assist with repairs. Kristi Hill, whose daughter, Olivia, attends Centerstage, took the initiative by posting on Facebook to ask for contributions for the overhaul.  So far, Hill has received $1,180.

“I knew that I wanted to help somehow. So, I knew something had to be done now. I knew there needed to be funding now. And I knew that all these girls needed to get back to dance," Hill said. The emotional toll of the flooding has especially impacted current and former dancers, devastated by the news that their second home looks like a shipwreck. Peyton Stalcup, 20, is Stalcup’s daughter. She grew up at Centerstage, spending nearly half of her life there. After the storm, she drove more than six hours from her college in Pensacola to see the havoc and help clean. “It was a really hard moment for me. I was here when we laid the dance floors 10 years ago. I helped play on the dance floors. It was like seeing my childhood ripped apart,” Stalcup said.

Instructors Teri Gilbert and Hayley Hopkins are horrified by the thought that they won't be able to see or teach their students now that Centerstage is ruined and temporarily closed. “I love my students. They mean the world to me. It is very hard not to be here every day for them. Like, I know how much this means to them and it means equally as much to me,” Gilbert said. “It's a very emotional time for us because they're missing it just as much as we're in here trying to kill ourselves and put this place back together for them. That's the reason we do it. It's because they need this place just as much as we need them,” Hopkins said.

While the owners, instructors, parents and students want to reopen Centerstage quickly, that might not be possible. The studio is in a plaza that has mandated everyone to stop working for inspections.    “We currently do not know the fate of it. We may have to move if they can’t let us get back in the building,” said Ardente. So far, the walls have been repainted, the floors have been moved and propped up against the walls, and everything has been shuffled into the center of each room so damage can be assessed.

“I believe we will recover. We have a lot of support around us,” Stalcup said. “You have to be optimistic," Hill said. "You have to say, you know what, we are willing to put in the work and we're gonna do what we have to do to help out to get this fixed and get this back up and running.”  

Debra is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing