Carrie Paris said it was something unexpected.
Recently, the Columbus woman beat out 23 other nominees and was named the 2015 Woman of the Year for Performing Arts in Georgia.
The award was presented by the Mrs. Georgia America Organization for Paris' commitment and dedication to maintaining an ongoing emphasis in dance as a rewarding and fulfilling experience.
"I was shocked and honored," said Paris, who opened Performance Dance Centre in 2004.
She was nominated by one of her instructors Eiesha Horsley, the reigning Mrs. Georgia America.
She was handed the award in a surprise ceremony after the finish of her studio's season-ending show at the Springer Opera House.
"They called me out on the stage. I didn't know what was going on," Paris said. "It is a tough job being an instructor and studio owner. It is nice to get some recognition. I was called inspiring. I have never thought of myself as inspiring."
Performance Dance Centre is located on Moon Road and features three large studios.
She is proud that she has had dancers appear in shows at the Springer Opera House and in music videos. Some of her junior company dancers will appear in a commercial on the Disney Channel this year.
Paris won her first national dance title at age 8. A few years later, she was selected to perform in the opening and closing ceremonies in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
After graduating from high school, she began a professional dance career with Carnival Cruise lines.
Paris later worked and studied in New York City.
"I got to study with some of the top dance instructors and I pass along what I learned to my students," she said.
When did you get started in dancing?
I started when I was 4 and loved it from the beginning. I realized at an early age that this was something I was going to be serious about. I kept taking lessons and worked hard at it. In high school I made a very big decision as far as my training.
What was that?
I was in ninth grade and felt I had learned all I could from the dancing schools here. I began taking training from Dolores Werner and Lisa Werner in Lawrenceville, Ga. My mother would drive me there four days a week. I would go after school so it was a long day. That was a lot of driving. I really owe the instructors there everything. I want to provide that same kind of training here so no child, who is serious about dancing, feels like they have to go elsewhere for training and misses school functions like I did.
Did you enjoy performing professionally?
It was wonderful. I saw so many places and met so many wonderful people.
Would you like to see some of your students go that route?
Yes, if they want to. It is a great experience.
But what you do now is rewarding, as well, isn't it?
I love being able to change someone's life. It is very fulfilling to see children come out of their shell. There are children who are so shy. They are afraid to talk to anyone. By the end of the year, they are dancing on the front row. They are smiling and feeling good about themselves.
How many students do you have?
We have around 200 students ranging from 18 months to adult. It is beginners through advanced.
Is it ballet?
Ballet is a big part but we offer others such as tap, jazz, hip-hop and acro.
Is it primarily girls?
We have quite a few boys.
Is there competition?
We do have a dance company that competes.
Obviously, dancing comes more natural to some than others.
Every child learns differently. Some need more work. We are there for all of them.
Certainly, one needs coordination but what makes a really good dancer?
Passion. It is not always about flashy tricks. If you have it, it shows on stage. To become really good, you have got to love dance and be willing to put in the practice to get the little things right.
What is the key to being a good dance instructor?
Patience. I think any good teacher needs that. You have to be willing to work with children.
How about dealing with parents, especially, those who have dreams of their child becoming a star?
You always have to be honest.
What about a child's total dedication to dancing?
Not every child is going to like dance. Some would rather be on a soccer field. I don't want children to stop dancing but I believe it benefits a child to try different things and be well rounded.
What do children get from dancing other than the physical benefits?
The biggest thing is they gain confidence. Being able to perform in front of a crowd is exhilarating and can help them in a lot of ways starting with giving speeches in school. It helps them focus because that is something you must do to be a good dancer. It helps their organizational skills. It's dancing seven-nine hours per week and still finding time to get school work done.
Dance seems to still be popular.
We continue to grow. I credit a talented, dedicated staff. We are blessed and fortunate to have this successful business because not all dance studios are successful.
Name: Carrie Paris
Current Residence: Columbus
Education: Hardaway High School and studied under several dance instructors.
Previous Jobs: Worked as a singer and dancer for Carnival Cruise Lines. Worked as a dancer in New York theater.
Family: Husband Carson who is a financial consultant, 4-year-old daughter Emerson, 4-month-old son Landon.
Hobbies: Between running a dance studio and raising two small children, I don't have time for any.