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Article updated: 11/15/2013 10:36 AM

Mom opens Antioch dance studio in daughter's memory

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She is not a teacher and has no business experience, but that hasn't deterred Robin Parfitt from opening a dance studio in Antioch.

That's because Shine Bright Dance Studio is a product of grief, loss and love -- a compulsion for Parfitt as a testament to her daughter, Nicole, who died in a plane crash a year ago.


"My thoughts weren't about running a business. My thoughts were I need to establish a dance studio in my daughter's memory," said Parfitt, a paralegal for the Lake County state's attorney's office and former probation officer. "When you start out with a mission, you can accomplish anything."

Nicole, 14, was a passenger in a single-engine plane piloted by her father, Todd, that crashed into a Wisconsin cornfield, about 20 miles north of the Illinois state line, on Nov. 18, 2012. Both were killed.

Nicole had a passion for dance. She had been taking lessons at another local studio for years, danced in competitions and was an active member of the varsity dance team at Antioch High School, where she was a freshman.

Months passed before a numbed Parfitt learned that the teachers at Nicole's studio planned on leaving.

"It upset me. That place was like my daughter's second home for many years. I had quite an attachment to the kids and teachers and I didn't want to see (them) leave," Parfitt said.

By this past March, she had decided to open her own studio. By the end of May, she began looking for space and by a fluke happened upon the former Country Pontiac car dealership on Route 173 and Tiffany Road, which was under construction.

Parfitt said she spoke with a worker who put her in touch with the owner and decided this was the place to be.

"It's just something I felt she had to do. It's just a drive. It's not an option," said Julie Gruber, a friend whose daughter danced with Nicole.

"It's amazing what she's done considering what she's been through," Gruber said. "She's still just a mom who misses her kid."

The song "Shine Bright Like a Diamond" by Rihanna became the inspiration for the name of the studio.

"It was kind of taken from a song that became really popular at the time of the accident," Parfitt said. "That's how I see Nicole -- she shined her brightest when she danced."

With some guidance along the way, the space was gutted and during the past two months transformed into a 4,500-square-foot dance studio offering competition and noncompetition classes in jazz, tap, lyrical, hip hop, and modern styles to students aged 3 to 18.

Five teachers are on board, a sixth is ready to start and about 30 students are enrolled, according to Parfitt. Many teachers and students worked with or danced with Nicole. The studio was established as a not-for-profit organization.

"This was never about money," Parfitt said. "It was always about establishing a studio in Nicole's memory." Parfitt said life has been hard since the crash, but things are coming together.

"The pain never gets better. You just learn to live with it. I have a 12-year-old son. I needed to pick up my life and move forward. I'm stronger."

The school opened this week, but the public is invited to an official ribbon cutting ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday.

"It's a really great place and really great teachers," Parfitt said. "I know Nicole would be proud of it."

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