Julie Seckar-Anderson never intended to make a career out of dance.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 1980 with a Master of Science in Teaching, she became a speech and language pathologist.
Her love of dancing was something she did only on the side.
Today, Seckar-Anderson owns Julie’s Touch of Silver, which has an enrollment of more than 500 students, making it one of the Oshkosh area’s most successful dance studios.
In addition to instructing, she also has mentored thousands of young women.
Seckar-Anderson began dancing locally at age 11, later studying baton twirling and classical ballet with experts in Chicago.
That training helped her to earn a scholarship to the University of Mississippi, where she was the feature twirler with the Ole Miss Rebel Marching Band for four years. A highlight of those years was a performance at a Kentucky-versus-Mississippi, sell-out basketball game.
“I was petrified but ended up doing a pretty good job and got a ton of good press, which was great for my confidence,” Seckar-Anderson said.
Confidence, she added, has never been a given for her.
In addition to performing at half-time shows, parades and pep rallies, she served as the band’s spokesperson at promotional events.
She returned to Wisconsin after earning a bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Mississippi and immediately enrolled at UW Oshkosh to earn her master’s.
Even as a new college graduate — officially a part of the real world and serving four schools as a speech and language pathologist in the Hartford School District — her passion for dance continued to be a huge part of her life.
“My lessons never really stopped. I’d go to Milwaukee and Chicago to take jazz and ballet lessons,” she said. “I soaked up as much as I could get my hands on. I never thought this would be my career.”
Along with dancing, Seckar-Anderson also fit training as a model into her schedule, and later she worked part time in modeling.
The big leap
Two years into her career as a speech pathologist, Seckar-Anderson decided to follow her dream. With her parents’ help and encouragement, she opened a small dance studio on Oshkosh’s south side.
She started with just a few students that she had instructed from her home during college breaks and, later, from her home in Hartford. First renting the space from her dad and later buying it, she remained at that site until 1998, when steady growth precipitated the construction of a new facility at the studio’s present location on 20th Avenue.
But for the first 10 years, the business grew slowly.
“Little did I know that that was a blessing in disguise,” Seckar-Anderson said.
The limited amount of students and slower pace allowed Seckar-Anderson, now married to Dave Anderson, to stay at home with their four children during the day and work in the evenings.
As the studio grew in enrollment, her husband’s involvement also increased. Her two daughters regularly joined her at the studio, and both became very involved in baton and dance.
“Having them at the studio with me made it easier for me to go to work,” she said.
Her sons shared their dad’s passion for sports, so the evenings were busy for them, too.
“There have definitely been sacrifices made by my husband and children, but in the long run, I believe it all worked out to our advantage,” she said.
A winning routine
The achievements of Julie’s Touch of Silver’s students speak for themselves. Seckar-Anderson has coached them to national wins in various divisions since 1989, and they have won at least one national-championship title every year since then.
In 2006, her students were selected to complete at the international level in Eindhoven, Holland, where they won the silver medal in a competition that included 18 countries.
Both of Seckar-Anderson’s daughters, Lacey and Whittney, have become forces in their own right in the dance world. Lacey captured the titles of 2003 Junior Grand National Champion, 2004 Miss Majorette of America and 2005 Senior World Open Solo Champion. She is the feature twirler at Michigan State University.
Whittney, the younger of the two, has won numerous state and regional titles, including 2003 Open Strut Champion, and has placed in the top 10 in her division at nationals.
The secret to Seckar-Anderson’s success is simple:
“I love what I do! I enjoy teaching the beginners and the challenge of teaching advanced students. I love creating routines and ‘pushing’ students to talent levels beyond their expectations. I truly believe the key is my love for kids, my great family and having great families to work with — and who believe in and trust me,” she said.
With more than 500 students, it is no surprise that Seckar-Anderson has many teachers on her payroll. She carefully selects each of them to ensure they provide consistently top-notch instruction and a healthy dose of encouragement. Teachers also help with choreography, costuming and more.
“My teachers are all expected to be positive and bring out the best in each student,” she said. “We want the students to have fun and enjoy and love dance, but, at the same time, we want them to be able to learn and do so in a positive, encouraging environment.”
Grade-point average is important, too.
“I expect the corps girls (who compete) to abide by the same rules as the high school sports teams regarding GPA. Most parents aren’t willing to let their children continue in an activity that requires a lot of their time if their children don’t keep their grades up,” Seckar-Anderson said.
Each June, the studio holds a recital. This year’s will be at Appleton’s Performing Arts Center on June 14. All students perform, including those as young as 3. Students will perform jazz, hip hop, ballet, lyrical, tap, baton twirling, tumbling and modeling.
“We will have some big production numbers that should be very energetic and fun, but, to be honest, it is the little babies that always steal the show,” she said.
A sterling reputation
Julie’s Touch of Silver has earned a reputation for attracting students from a great distance from Oshkosh. Over the years, students and their parents have driven from Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
Her students also drive from area cities, such as Appleton, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Kaukauna, Ripon, Waupaca and Wautoma.
Seckar-Anderson is quick to credit her professors at UW Oshkosh for helping her grow, both professionally and personally.
“Dr. Holman and Dr. Kyle were two who pushed me beyond what I thought possible,” she said. “They were extremely tough and yet very encouraging and supportive at the same time. When I graduated, I never felt such a sense of accomplishment.”
Her teacher training has helped her tremendously through the years, she added.
“I believe the education, early childhood and psychology classes I took at UW Oshkosh have helped me in my life and business throughout the past 27 years. Had I not studied education and only studied dance, I don’t believe I would have been as successful as a teacher as I am,” she said.
Teaching goes hand-in-hand with being a role model for the young women who watch her every day.
“Most of the girls who have known me for a while and have taken lessons and competed in my competitive classes think of me as a ‘second mom’ and often refer to me that way,” she said. “I’ve been able to travel to many unique places with these girls for both competition and performances. Together we’ve experienced many close moments, both joyful and sad.”
And her college goal of working with children has been fulfilled, she said.
“Being able to instruct students in a field that I love and being considered a role model is a lifetime achievement that cannot be topped. I am blessed.”
For more information, visit www.juliestouchofsilver.com.