Iowa Dance Collective: An Inclusive, Multifaceted Space for Youth

A showcase held during the Iowa Dance Collective Summer Camp (photo by Werner Elmker)

The Iowa Dance Collective recently moved from their small studios in the Orpheum Theater to a roomy new home on the Fairfield square. The IDC now has a large, welcoming reception area and lobby, two dance studio spaces, and a soundproofed arts/voice/theater studio. “This beautiful space is a godsend,” says owner Tyler Malone. “I’m here almost every morning by nine, doing day-to-day administrative work. The door is open, so people can just walk in, and I have a formal space to greet them and explain what we do.”

The entire studio has a chic New York vibe, beautifully appointed to create a welcoming artistic atmosphere. “From the art on the walls to the books on the tables, everything is somehow related to the arts,” Malone says. The reception area also has a cozy nook with a large flatscreen TV, where students and parents can watch videos of iconic dance choreography on rotation.

Tyler Anderson (photo by Werner Elmker)

Malone moved to Fairfield in 2019 with his partner, singer-songwriter Eli Lieb, who grew up in Fairfield. A classically trained dancer who has toured internationally, Malone initially expected to start a small 50-kid dance studio, but he quickly saw the need for the area’s artistic talents to be accessible in one place—and the IDC was born. He’s happy that there are at least two other dance studios in town providing classes, so the IDC could branch out into other areas. “We were able to navigate into a broader art spectrum, because we can offer dance, but we can also offer acting and voice, plus visual arts. I like to say we’re your one-stop shop for all your artistic needs.”

The popularity of their classes made the move to their spacious new location necessary. “It’s everything I never imagined it would be in the best way possible.”

The IDC began with a winter workshop for 26 kids in December 2019, before their doors formally opened in January 2020 with 32 students. Today, their enrollment is pushing 200. Outside of their regular curriculum, they also offer a Summer Camp. Their dance classes run the gamut from ballet, tap, and jazz to hip hop, acrobatics, and modern. They also offer acting, voice, graphic arts, and visual arts classes—including ceramics and sculpture. And they have partnerships with other local studios to offer an exciting collection of adult classes, including fitness, folkloric belly dance, and mime.

With so much divisiveness and fear in the world, Malone wants the IDC to feel inclusive, to be a safe space for everyone, no matter who they are, how they identify, or what they believe. “The doors are open to everyone. You don’t have to be a certain age or type of person to feel comfortable here. We’re here for everyone.”

Malone says he was fortunate to have an extraordinarily loving family and a great community while growing up as a young gay man in the North Carolina Bible Belt, and the local studio provided a safe space to explore his artistic identity. He wants IDC to provide that safe space for artistic exploration for everyone, particularly children and teens, who can have limited extracurricular activity choices. “I want to continue to be that voice for children’s programming,” Malone says. “I want to keep offering what they need. Because that’s how you build something that has the word ‘collective’ in it.”

The IDC production of Peter Pan earlier this year had two sold-out shows. (Photo by Werner Elmker)

He feels it’s important to be involved in the greater community, and to support community members. Every Thursday afternoon during Summer Camp, IDC hosted dance showcases that tied into the library’s storytime crafts theme that week. Their recent production of Peter Pan at the Spayde Theater had two sold-out shows. “It was incredible,” Malone enthuses. “I was so blown away—it wasn’t just friends and family. It was the entire community.” The IDC is providing a valuable resource and the community has been very supportive in return. Malone is excited to be a part of building up the local arts community, and wants to see arts businesses supporting and raising each other up.

Peter Pan (photo by Werner Elmker)

With a special love for modern dance, Malone is particularly excited to help kids understand classical modern. “Kids think dance is what they see on TikTok,” he says, “and there’s so much more to it than those 10-second clips.” He feels that exposing kids to awe-inspiring movement possibilities is incredibly important. “Exposure inspired me to keep following my passion,” Malone says. He loves watching kids’ faces light up when they “realize for the first time that being a professional dancer is a job you can have. I found that out when I was 16. You’re finding out at seven? Let’s see where this can take you. You might not continue to dance, you might be the best lawyer Iowa has ever seen. But it can open your eyes to something, and that’s the biggest thing.”

For more information about the IDC, their class schedule, and their instructors, visit