YORKTOWN — When you walk through the doors of CB Dance Studios, you’re greeted with a sign on the wall that says, “Where dancing builds connections, where friends become family.”
This motto is why Cindy Norge is right there to give a big hug to anyone who comes into her studio.
The elegant and warm colors of red, black, tan and white that decorate the studio are meant to ease the anxiety or tension that one might have coming into a dance class.
“When you’re coming in and you’re learning to dance, your stress level is high,” Norge said. “I want the colors to let people coming in feel warm, comfortable, relaxed.”
Located at 7201 George Washington Memorial Hwy in Yorktown, CB Dance Studios offers a variety of dance classes, workshops and private lessons, including line dancing, Country 2-step, ballroom, West Coast swing, East Coast swing, Latin, Zumba and Piloxing.
Formerly known as Country Bootleggers Dance Studio, Norge opened the studio in 1994 with a passion for teaching line dancing and giving back to the community.
For Norge, the passion for dance and being able to give that to others has driven her each day to share this gift with others in the community.
The Founding of a Passion and Purpose
A Yorktown native, Norge’s career in dance began by happenstance through an early career in modeling.
Norge started modeling in Newport News during the late 1980s. At that time, department stores were looking for models to promote their petite sections; perfect for Norge’s 4’11″ height.
A local nightclub she was modeling in also held line dancing on Monday nights. Norge quickly fell in love with it and decided that she wanted to start teaching.
“I’ve always been a show bunny,” she said. “My mom told me that I came out dancing.”
After getting her dance instructor license, she began teaching beginner line dancing classes at local spots and then for Newport News Parks and Recreation and York County Parks and Recreation.
Norge began competing in Country Line Dance and danced Country Western Partner in the Professional-Amateur (Pro-Am) division at the beginner level. By the mid-1990s, she was competing in the United Country Western Dance Council (UCWDC).
One day, Norge happened upon a shoe store in Denbigh that had the word ‘Bootleggers” in its name. She liked the phrase and put the words Country and Bootleggers together. Thus, Country Bootleggers Dance Studios was born.
She began by teaching Country and Western Line Dance and Country and Western Partner Dancing out of a studio that used to be an old paint shop, complete with cement floors with paint splattered everywhere.
Since then, the studio, known as Studio A, has been completely remodeled, with newly painted walls, crown molding, lighting, a sound system and a floating wooden dance floor that absorbs shocks which allows for dancers to move for a longer period of time without aggravating joints like ankles.
Studio B was later added in an adjacent space that was an old yoga studio. This second studio has the same warmth and charm that is synonymous with Norge’s welcoming personality.
The studio’s name remained Country Bootleggers until 2019, when Norge rebranded to CB Dance Studios.
“Every time I would go to events, people assumed that I’m doing only country dance,” she said. However, the studio has expanded to a variety of styles of dance since opening as a Country and Western line dance studio nearly 30 years ago.
“Now people say, ‘Oh what does CB Dance Studios offer?’ and I can tell them,” she said.
Along with using it to teach, Norge also rents out the studio for parties, such as wedding receptions, graduation parties and bridal showers.
The studios consist of eight instructors, including Norge herself and former students of hers, and around 20-25 people per class.
But this is more than dancing for Norge; it is a gift after turbulent times in her own life.
An Inspirational Life
While Norge has gone through dark times in her past, dance has always been a savior for her.
A devout Christian, Norge is passionate about giving back to the community.
“I do what I do because it’s a gift from God,” she said. “I love to share my gift and my passion with other people.”
Several of Norge’s students have found their own sense of healing, meaning and joy through their classes at CB Dance Studios and the relationships they build with Norge and fellow students.
“This is more than just a dance studio,” she said. “It’s a friendship, it’s a family, it’s a passion. I want this to be an atmosphere where people feel loved, warm, connected and safe.”
Aside from the warmth she has built in the studio, Norge gives back to the community.
She teaches line dancing classes at the York County Senior Center and, since 2011, has been a sponsor for Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars, which benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Virginia Peninsula and Literacy for Life.
Since 2015, the studio has also been part of Dream Catchers in Toano; a charitable organization that empowers individuals with special needs.
That same year, Norge retired from Newport News Shipbuilding, where she worked full-time since 1980.
She is married with children and nine grandchildren. When speaking of her husband, Mike, their six children between their combined families and their bevy of grandchildren, Norge beams with pride.
Her devotion and love for her family and those that become family to her is absolutely apparent in everything Norge does.
Despite the studio’s popularity and the welcoming, safe environment that Norge fosters, there was no way to avoid the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Challenges During COVID-19
Like many businesses, CB Dance Studios was hit hard during the pandemic.
The studio could no longer hold indoor classes, so Norge took to it virtually by offering online instruction.
But Zoom line dancing had it’s own challenges.
“Yeah, you can do line dancing at home, but it’s not just learning the dance. It’s the community, it’s the connection,” she said.
The Internet was slow, music was late, and online dance classes were not working out.
“I felt like I was taking people’s money, and I am not about that,” Norge said. “I teach for the passion. The money is the plus.”
The studio attempted to hold classes outside, but the summer weather made it too hot and the fall evenings grew dark too quickly.
One of the other challenges in these virtual platforms was the lack of connection Norge could have with her students and them with each other.
To stay connected with her community, Norge took to doing live shows on the studio’s Facebook page.
What started at around 600 followers pre-COVID is currently at 1.5k people following her page.
She continues to build a community through virtual platforms, with follows drawn in by her warm personality, effervescent spirit, and boundless passion.
Coming Back from a Pandemic
As the state re-opened over the last few months, CB Dance Studios began a soft re-opening, offering fewer classes with around 6-10 people and taking extra safety precautions.
Norge made sure to continue to make the studio space a safe one, even in those challenging times. She upgraded bathroom fixtures to touchless, installed hand sanitizing machines, placed stickers on the floor to enforce social distancing, added a water fountain that did not allow for cross contamination, and had the studio specially treated to kill germs.
More than a Dance Studio
Along with group classes and private lessons, Norge also choreographs for weddings, such as couples’ first dances and father and bride dances.
Additionally, Norge rents out the studio space for special events like weddings, business functions, and for local organizations to gather together.
CB Dance Studios recently won Coastal Virginia Magazine’s award for Best Dance Studio on the Peninsula. While this is not the studio’s first award, Norge takes pride in the recognition.
“I’m supposed to be retired,” she joked.
With the studio back to in-person lessons, and new classes starting up July 19, Norge looks back on the studio’s past.
“I am so blessed to have touched so many people looking back for 27 years, and I’ve got a few more years to keep doing it,” she said.
For more information about CB Dance Studios, visit the website, and on social media @cbdancestudios.