A new studio and plenty of passion combine to create a space for children to gain confidence at Mon Rêve in Newport Beach.
By Ashley Ryan
Paige Peplow has a passion for dance: She started taking classes as a toddler and continued all through high school. Now, she’s sharing that love with others—including children with developmental disabilities—through her new Mon Rêve dance studio.
While she may not have realized it at the time, the seed for this studio was planted when Peplow was 13 or 14 and began showing some of the moves she’d learned to her family friend’s daughter, who has Down syndrome. The experience was so uplifting that she linked up with the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County (DSAOC) as a high school freshman to offer a ballet program for kids with Down syndrome. Peplow, who knows firsthand the benefits of dance, witnessed those positive effects on the young students in her classes and was hooked.
Teaching ballet through DSAOC “showed me how much more confident and outgoing the girls were [after those classes],” she says. “… I think dance can have such a lasting impact,” adds Peplow, now 22. “You learn confidence and self-esteem. Dance gave that to me and I wanted to give it to other kids.”
That desire was put on hold when she went off to the University of Southern California for college, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. But, it was during her senior year, in an entrepreneurship class, that she wrote the business plan for a children’s dance studio.
“The day after I graduated, I started looking for a space to put it in,” Peplow says. She finally found a space in Newport Plaza (just north of the Back Bay) and opened Mon Rêve dance studio over the summer.
Living a Dream
Mon Rêve means “my dream” in French, and, for Peplow, opening her studio was the realization of a dream to pass on her love for dance once again.
Following an introductory summer camp, Mon Rêve started its first full session in early September, offering a selection of ballet, jazz, lyrical and hip-hop classes. While Mon Rêve doesn’t cater exclusively to children with Down syndrome, they are still a big part of the studio’s programming.
“I had a mom come in recently,” Peplow says. “She said she heard this was the place to be because of how welcoming we are, but also because the students actually learn. Hearing that was very rewarding.”
The studio maintains an uplifting atmosphere, mirrored by Peplow’s music choice. She’s known for playing sassy, fun pop songs in the soundtracks for her jazz and hip-hop classes. And, although she plays classical music in her ballet sessions, Peplow says she can’t help but throw in an upbeat pop song every once in a while. Though nearly 40 kids enrolled in her fall classes, she is currently the school’s sole instructor.
Steps of Confidence
Mon Rêve features mirrors in the front, a ballet bar in the back and a smooth black wall that serves as a giant blackboard. Written on the board are the studio’s “Le Gros Trois,” or “the Big Three” guiding principles in French: hard work, kindness and respect.
Although the studio has only been open for a few months, Peplow is already making an impact on her students. Their respect and kindness toward one another is obvious, but so is their hard work. The girls have learned to be quiet as a mouse when they watch others dance. They’ve learned to clap and smile and show approval to their classmates. While many of the girls have improved their dance skills, overall movement and coordination, they’ve also learned to be confident and happy in themselves.
“The best thing about the studio is the confidence it gives the girls and the positive, fun environment,” says Kathryn Morwood, mother of 11-year-old Savannah. “Paige is so great with them. She brings the best out of every girl.”
Nicki Presby, who has two daughters enrolled at Mon Rêve, agrees. “The way Paige teaches is always positive and uplifting. She’s so inclusive,” Presby says, noting that the classes have made quite a difference in both confidence and ability for 12-year-old Audrey, who has Down syndrome. Her other daughter, 9-year-old Eloise, attends three days a week—Presby says she can’t get enough.
Peplow definitely stresses the importance of kindness and respect, but she also works to make sure each girl is confident and gets the attention she needs while at Mon Rêve. “Once the class is bigger, I try and make sure I establish a personal connection with each child,” she says. “It’s important to identify what each [student] needs and help them from where they are so everyone feels comfortable.”
Her system must be working, because the girls rave about Mon Rêve.
“My favorite thing about dance class is that it builds up my confidence,” says 8-year-old Chloe St.Clair after doing a routine to pop song “Confident” by Demi Lovato, the perfect anthem for these girls.
While many of the girls love the self-esteem boost, Savannah appreciates something else about Peplow’s classes. “Before we start working on the dance, we practice sautes—[a kind of jump]—and loops and different moves,” she says.
As Eloise says, “It’s fun and we always learn a lot.” Her sister Audrey adds, “My favorite thing to do is dance with my teacher and have fun.”
In just a short time, Mon Rêve has touched these little girls’ lives, bringing them a space in which to learn kindness, build friendships, amp up their confidence and have a ball.
“In five years, ideally I’d have multiple Mon Rêves,” Peplow says. “But, if not, just having the studio full and all of the kids happy, loving dance and excited to come here—that would be a dream come true.”