The Feature is Female: Cindy Haxel

“Go ahead and do it!” – Cindy Haxel

If the saying “life’s a dance, you learn as you go,” has any truth to it, that truth could be found in Cindy Haxel. When Vancil Performing Arts Center opened their doors in 1979, there was no telling what impact it would have on the lives of hundreds of people. Fast forward 44 years and the impact is evident. 

As a lifelong dancer, Cindy Haxel knew that she loved to dance, but it wasn’t necessarily something she considered dedicating her life to. While in college pursuing a degree in marketing, Cindy was approached by her former dance teacher about a position at her studio. It didn’t take long for her former teacher-turned colleague to realize that Cindy had the drive and determination that every good entrepreneur should have. Eventually she approached Haxel (then Vancil) about taking over her studios in both Canton, Missouri and Quincy, Illinois, and Cindy agreed to it. From that moment forward it has been a non stop joy ride, filled with bumps, twists, turns, and a whole lot of dancing for this entrepreneur.

Although becoming the successful business owner she is now wasn’t always the plan, Cindy recalls what it felt like when the opportunity arose to purchase the studio and make it her own. “I think I always wanted to own my own dance studio but not necessarily at that stage in my life. When this particular studio fell into my lap, however, I just knew I had to take the opportunity”. 

Since becoming the full time owner of the dance studio, Cindy has put a lot of work into figuring out what is next for her and her business. “In 2004, we bought a second building to add more studio space, and in 2009, we decided to open up a music studio”. The growth didn’t stop there, however. “Quickly after opening the music studio, we outgrew that space and had to buy a third building…and then, in 2013, we expanded again with the retail store” Cindy recalled with a chuckle. The growth for Vancil Performing Arts Center has been rapid and consistent, but Haxel wouldn’t trade her experience for the world. 

Unlike many business owners, Cindy’s entrepreneurial journey is very unique. “Up until 2010, I had a full time job to go along with my job at the studio,” recalls Haxel. In 2010, she quit her full time job to focus on the studio as it had just expanded into music. It wasn’t long after she quit, however, that she knew she had to get back out into the world. “I get bored sometimes,” joked Cindy. “So I took on a little part-time project, and it’s been good for me”. 

For many entrepreneurs, the reward isn’t always a living, breathing example as to how your work has had an impact on them. For Cindy Haxel, that’s not the case. “The biggest reward for me is having my students become dance teachers. I’ve pretty much raised all of the teachers I have now,” fondly states Haxel. “I’m very fortunate that the girls that stayed around this area for college stayed here to teach, or even the ones who went away to college have found their way back. I feel very fortunate about that.”

With such a solid, tight-knit team assembled, Cindy feels comfortable with what the future will hold. When asked about where she sees herself in 5 years, Haxel jokingly exclaimed, “Hopefully Florida,” before quickly following it up with a testament to the team she’s assembled. “In all honesty, the studio runs so well and so smoothly that it wouldn’t be hard for me to run things from down there. I have a fantastic staff that helps me to be able to go and do without worrying about what is happening here all the time.”

In the position she’s in now, Cindy knows all about giving advice and supporting those around you. Because of that, there was no limit to her advice for prospective female entrepreneurs. “Go ahead and do it!” states Haxel. “You have to be focused, and it does take a lot of hours, but if you’re passionate about it, you’ll make it!” 

The future for Vancil Performing Arts Center is looking very bright. Not only will they host their 40th recital this year, but they are also introducing a new program called Lift the Barriers. This all-inclusive style class is headed up by one of the student-turned teachers at Vancil, Jasmine Cobb. Starting out as a platform for her current title as Miss Heartland, Cobb has created Lift the Barriers as a way to ensure that everyone gets the chance to dance. This new program is all about encouraging students with special needs to come, dance, and just be themselves. “I’ve always accepted anyone who wanted to be a part of my dance classes, and it’s always been very rewarding to see, but this is very exciting for me to see these women get to head this up and take this on,” states Cindy. The new program is set to launch this summer.

With years of experience under her belt, what comes next isn’t always first on Cindy’s mind, and that’s because things are usually moving a million miles per hour around her. “We just revamped our competition team, and they are thriving! We are also gearing up for our first Nationals. And of course, we always take dance trips,” states Cindy. The dance trips were a source of pride and fond memories for Haxel. From cruises, to the Indy 500, to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, this Quincy, Illinois dance school has been all over the country. What’s this year’s trip you may be wondering? None other than the happiest place on Earth, Disney World. 

Their dance trips are not only packed with great memories, but some of the trips leave a lasting impression on them. In 2016, Cindy and a handful of her dance students had the opportunity to dance at the 75th Pearl Harbor Parade in Hawaii. “They had all of the Pearl Harbor and Arizona veterans there at our hotel. They had it set up so we could talk to them, get autographs, and some had even written books. It was truly amazing, and it remains one of our best trips ever” recalls Haxel. 

After years of dedication to the studio and her students, those are still the two things that motivate Cindy the most. “I think the thing that still motivates me is to just keep the studio going. I have an amazing staff and great students, so I want to keep things going for them,” states Cindy.

Cindy Haxel is a living example of what doing something you love looks like. Since taking over the business in 1979, Cindy has been able to build one of the most successful performing arts studios in the tri-state area. From dance to music, and everything in between, Haxel and the rest of the team at Vancil Performing Arts Center don’t show any signs of slowing down.

Posted In: