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Joy Morris-Burton

Owner, Move with Joy

“Dance is Life.” These words are stenciled above a window in Joy Morris-Burton’s dance studio in The Creamery, in Kalamazoo’s Edison neighborhood.

“Dance and life have many parallels: Sometimes we fall, but we get back up and keep going,” says the 38-year-old, who opened the studio Move with Joy with her husband, Aerick Burton, in 2022. “Dance has helped me push through and survive many traumas, and I know it has helped many others as well. Having the movement to come back to every day, learning to breathe when things get challenging, listening to our body’s intuition and our heart creates a discipline that is truly a mind/body/spirit experience.”

Morris-Burton, a Kalamazoo native, has been teaching since 2002 and offers dance, yoga and Pilates for people of all ages and experience levels at the studio, located at 1103 Portage St. Her location doubles as an art studio and gallery for her husband, who is one of the founders of the local breakdance group Kalamacrew and works as a graphic designer and artist in various media.

“I am grateful for everyone who has been a support to us by attending a class and community members that visit to explore the art on our studio walls,” says Morris-Burton. “I’m beyond grateful for the feeling of community and belonging this space provides and look forward to continuing sharing the experience.”

Where did the business name Move with Joy come from?

I had been teaching dance, yoga and Pilates at various locations throughout East and West Michigan for 20 years as an independent contractor for gyms, dance studios and community programs. In 2020, during the pandemic, I began teaching online and outdoors. My husband noticed the need for a formal logo and website and created them for me. The name has the double meaning of moving our bodies and moving through life with joy.

When did you become a dancer?

I’ve been dancing since I could walk. My mom started taking me to ballet lessons at Weaver Dance School, in the Vine neighborhood, when I was 5. The studio was always a welcoming, accepting environment and my first experience of feeling really at home. The business closed when I was 16. Some parents of the younger dance students approached me about continuing their lessons. I also worked at restaurants, movie theaters, coffee shops and whatever part-time jobs I could get to pay for ballet classes at Kalamazoo College.

I became certified in yoga and Pilates in 2008 and graduated with a bachelor-of-science degree in dance performance on a scholarship at Eastern Michigan University in 2012, which is when I returned to Kalamazoo and resumed teaching locally.

What are the classes like that you offer?

All classes — ballet, yoga and Pilates — are drop-in, though many students attend on a regular basis. Beginning Ballet starts at ages 4 to 6, which is the range children are most ready to learn. I occasionally make exceptions for younger children that show an interest. Youth and adults, even those into their 70s and beyond, of all abilities are welcome. We accommodate those with mobility limitations and make it work for every individual. Many older adults are surprised at what they can do.

Although I was classically trained in dance, I prefer to teach lyrical and contemporary ballet, as they allow for “organic” expression and the telling of personal stories relevant to the dancer. We accept students at every experience level. Beginners and advanced dancers are often in the same class. We learn from each other and don’t have to compete or conform. Move with Joy is an intentional movement space that allows for healing through self-discovery and expression.

How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect your dance studio/school plans?

We were stuck in our homes, so in a way dance was taken from us. You can dance alone, but it’s not the same. When we are together in a deep way — and by that I mean moving together, breathing together collectively — community is created. Moving together keeps us grounded and centered and reinforces that we are all connected.

Within the first week of the pandemic, I posted a Pilates video online and was asked to keep making them, so I started posting daily. There was no charge. And then people started sending donations to support me. They said the videos helped them through the isolation of quarantine. So many people were hurting. The videos became a way to cope with this new situation, with this new way the world was.

When indoor classes started back up, I resumed teaching at gyms and other locations. Demand was high. The need to have a home for all the classes I was offering became apparent. My husband was expanding his freelance artist work, and we realized with our own space we could build a home for both our dreams. We started looking for space to rent. During this time, The Creamery, an affordable housing apartment complex in the Edison neighborhood, was being constructed with a commercial unit. We moved in in January 2022. The space doubles as a gallery to display Aerick’s art and (works by) other artists. We host arts-related events here too.


— Interview by Donna McClurkan, edited for length and clarity

Donna McClurkan

Donna is a Kalamazoo-based freelance writer and climate activist.

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