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Our History

A Brief History

Nurturing the character and talent of young artists. This is what Steve and Lori Ladwig have been doing for over twenty years. Their desire for high quality technical training in a wholesome and encouraging environment has never changed.

Lori, an accomplished dance instructor for over two decades, has spent her adult life raising her family of five children and training students of all ages; many of whom she has guided under her wing from toddlers through high school; from ‘tiny tutu tots’ to professional careers. Many dancers from her schools have gone on to become studio owners, professional dancers and choreographers and others have received college dance scholarships as well. Together, the Ladwigs have owned and operated several studios, always seeking to serve as many students as may have the desire to dance.

Learn more about Lori and the staff of SADC:  Our Staff

Both, Steve and Lori, are Flagler College Alumni (Flagler College is located in the heart of St. Augustine, FL) and have invested deeply into the arts and education community in St. Augustine. Steve continues to invest in St. Augustine through teaching in the ACE program at St. Augustine High School. Lori was trained under the direction of Larry and Pamela Leonard at The Leonard’s School of Dance in St. Augustine, FL. This dance school was a pioneer in the arts in St. Augustine at that time and had been established since the 60’s. In 1983, the Leonards sold the school to Lori Ladwig and it was renamed as The St. Augustine Dance School. It was under the direction of Lori for 5 years before it was then sold to Libby Johnson, who renamed it The Academy of Performing Arts. During this change in ownership, the school also split in two, and a new studio entity began at the location of the Leonard’s previous school, The Dance Company (located in St. Augustine Beach.)

In 2010, The Academy of Performing Arts was sold back to Lori Ladwig and it was renamed to St. Augustine Dance Conservatory (SADC). This school was created to educate, nurture, and inspire students of all ages in the areas of dance, gymnastics, and the arts.

In August of 2014, a second dance school was launched within SADC studios called, The Perla Ballet School ( This was formed to provide a place for those students who are seeking a more intense and rigorous dance-training experience. It is a full-day hybrid dance school whose intensive, accelerated program focuses on academic rigor, pre-professional dance training, and lifelong values. The Perla Ballet School’s concept and its implementation are through two previous professional dancers, Jonathan and Meghan Chapman.

As a result of the dream for this new school, a non-profit organization was created in April of 2014, The Perla, which brought the goals and values that Steve and Lori have had for decades into an organizational vision: to nurture the growth of young people’s unique abilities in dance through quality and competitive technical training, in a wholesome and encouraging environment.

Through these schools, the Ladwigs and the Chapmans invest with their lives to create opportunities for students. St. Augustine Dance Conservatory and The Perla Ballet are moving into the next several years with dreams ever expanding into what could be next.