Senior masters her artform with new company


Gina Parenti teaches a hip hop class during the first Virtuosity Dance intensive. Photo via Facebook.

Sixteen years ago, Gina Parenti slipped into her first pair of dance shoes and let out a big, toothy grin. She was just getting started on a journey that would define her life.

Over the years, she’s put her feet through a daily, rigorous grind from grade school all the way to her final year on the Marquette dance team. Nevertheless, she continues to carry a dance minor and nothing can seem to contain her insatiable desire to dance.

The senior in the College of Business Administration did something unorthodox to fill that void and to keep dancing: She started  Virtuosity Dance — her very own dance company — and it’s probably not the kind of dance company you’re thinking of.

Virtuosity Dance is a traveling dance company that offers intensives, classes and dance events to its respective destinations. It’s also adaptable to all levels. The first intensive it held attracted both professional dancers and total rookies. Parenti’s company focuses on positivity and creativity. LA-based choreographer Sergio Lopez claims that the positive mindset commonly gets lost in the shuffle in the dance community.

“I wanted this company to be very open to whoever wanted to try dancing and have fun,” Parenti said.

Parenti originally wanted to open a dance studio, but being a full-time student, she lacked money and time. Having to compromise her original idea, it took 14 more tries before she settled on the traveling dance company.

“You can’t really plan everything that is going to happen and everything that your business is going to turn into,” Parenti said.

Parenti hopes her company will travel across the country. Ultimately, she has few ideas where it will lead her, but Lopez said he sees a bright future for Virtuosity Dance.

“It’s a breath of fresh air,” Lopez said. “Right now the dance industry needs more leaders and less artists.”

Lopez said while a lot of dancers are focused on making a name for themselves or bringing in revenue, Parenti wants to create an environment for dancers to learn and train. She’s focused on her students. There’s no fuss or glamour.

“It’s rare where I walk into an environment where the teachers are actually there for the kids,” Lopez said.

Lopez is one of those teachers. He originally met Parenti at a studio in her hometown, Bloomingdale, IL, where he inspired her to take dance seriously through his optimism, enthusiasm and drive. She started to love the art, and that passion led her to another Marquette student, Emily Topp, who graduated in 2017.

The two met at an audition before they started college. The girls were considering Marquette, but neither was completely sure where they would end up. But when Topp walked into dance team tryouts, she said she was ecstatic to see a familiar face.

Even though Topp has left Marquette, she is still finding ways to dance. She also taught at Virtuosity Dance’s first event, and will be teaching at another intensive Sept. 9 in the 707 Hub.

The intensive on campus will include a master class from Topp and another one from Parenti. Topp said she plans on teaching a contemporary hip-hop fusion class that is reminiscent of her own style.

“(I’m) creating a challenging, fun and exciting class in an environment where there’s no judgement. It’s really just about bringing dance and passion together,” Topp said.

While the company is all about a positive experience for her dancers, Parenti never sacrifices taking risks with choreography. Quality movement, musicality and other basic dance components are at the top of Virtuosity Dance’s priority list.

And keeping her priorities straight has been rewarding.

Parenti was expecting a couple of people to attend her last event, and looking back, she said that may have been optimistic. But when she walked into her studio, she was shocked that the 15 person room was full of mostly strangers.

“(People I knew) brought other dancers I had never met, and that was really cool because I didn’t expect my efforts to ever reach out to those people, and it was so amazing to see that,” Parenti said.

She said her students excelled at the pieces they were given, and appeared to love what they were doing. The social media buzz afterward confirmed her suspicions.

She wanted to create an event where dancers would dance, smile and leave feeling good about themselves. She succeeded. Parenti said that more importantly, her students succeeded, and as a dance instructor, that means she was on point.