Dance instructor follows her mother's lead

After 22 years, mother hands off ownership of The Force dance studio in Farmington to her daughter

Hannah Grover
Crista Farmer shares a laugh with her mom, Sheila Mobley, not pictured, during an interview April 28 at the studio in Farmington.
  • Sheila Mobley has retired from The Force and her daughter, Crista Farmer, will be the new owner.
  • The studio will relocate to San Juan Plaza, and the gymnastics part of the business will be sold.
  • Mobley owned the studio for 22 years and was the first female coach of the FHS Kelly Greens.

FARMINGTON — One of the many things Sheila Mobley has passed along to her daughter is a love for dance.

"I was born into the love of dance," explained her daughter, Crista Farmer.

With her mother’s guidance, Farmer won dance trophies throughout the state as a child. With her mother's support, she danced for New York City's Broadway Dance Center in high school. She also worked as an assistant to famous choreographers and dancers such as Brian Freedman and Nick Bass.

Now, Mobley is passing along one other thing to her daughter: her Farmington dance studio.

When she retired this month, Mobley handed over the reins of The Force dance studio to her daughter. The studio, which Mobley opened about 22 years ago, has about 350 students enrolled.

"I'm ready to be home with my husband," said Mobley, 55.

Sheila Mobley says goodbye to her students and their families on April 28 at The Force's annual showcase at Farmington High School.

Building a legacy

Sheila Mobley left her home in east Texas and relocated to Farmington in 1981.

A member of her middle and high school drill teams, Mobley quickly solidified her place in San Juan County's dance community when, in 1982, she became assistant coach for Bloomfield High School's Kit Kat dance team.

What started as a six-week gig turned into a four-year endeavor. It was only after Mobley's son was born that she stepped down as assistant coach.

"It was just getting too hard to go back and forth to Bloomfield with a newborn," she said.

Shortly after that, Mobley accepted a job as head coach of Farmington High School’s Kelly Greens dance team. She was the team's first female coach, and worked with the squad for 14 years. She also co-coached Piedra Vista High School's Panteraz for a year. In 1994, she opened The Force off Farmington Avenue.

In Mobley's first year as the Kelly Greens coach, she worked with then-sophomore Kelli Dallas. Late last month, the Farmington woman reflected on her time on the team as she was getting her own daughter ready for The Force's annual showcase.

Four-year-old Delaney Dallas is in her first year of dance lessons at The Force. Dallas said she wanted her daughter to learn from her former coach.

"She makes it fun for everybody," Dallas said of her former coach before the evening's performance.

Sheila Mobley, left, and her daughter, Crista Farmer, finish up a dance routine for the families of their students on Thursday April 28, 2016, at Farmington High School.

Finding her own path

As the daughter of the Kelly Greens coach, Farmer grew up alongside many of the team's dancers. And that meant she grew up dancing.

At age 10, she won her first solo national dance championship. The trophy from that competition is still displayed at The Force.

But the relationship between the mother and daughter wasn't always smooth sailing. Natural tension emerged as Mobley tried to balance being Farmer’s dance coach and her mother.

"She and I hated each other when I was 10," Farmer joked.

Farmer, now 26, started to coach dance at her mom's studio at age 16, but took a break when she had children. She returned to coaching two years ago.

But The Force remained her second home, even when she wasn't teaching.

"Even when I wasn’t teaching, I was down here," Farmer said of the studio.

As the studio's new owner, Farmer said her vision for The Force means a few changes. About 15 years ago, when the studio relocated to its current space on Browning Parkway, Mobley added gymnastics classes. The building was previously a gymnastics studio, so The Force hired coaches and began offering classes in the sport.

When Farmer takes over the studio, she plans to break apart the two activities and move the dance studio to another building in San Juan Plaza off of 20th Street and Main Street. She hopes to sell the gymnastics portion of the business.

Farmers also wants to add an audition process for the competition team, while also offering a non-competitive recreation team. Further, she plans to add yoga and Zumba, as well as hip-hop classes, including a boys' hip-hop crew and a hip-hop class for adults that focuses on cardiovascular health. Registration for those classes begins Monday.

Sheila Mobley, left, and her daughter, Crista Farmer, talk about The Force on April 28. Mobley retired this month, and Farmer has taken over the Farmington dance studio.

Reaching out to students

Sixteen-year-old Tiana Winer cried when Mobley shared the news of her retirement.

"She’s like my second mom," she said.

Mobley has been friends with the Winer family for more than two decades. Tiana Winer's older sister was a Kelly Green who Mobley coached, and the teenager's siblings are also students at the studio, although they focused on gymnastics.

And the teenager herself has danced at The Force for 13 years — longer than many other students.

"I fell in love with it," she said of the studio.

Many students at The Force have similar stories about Mobley mentoring them and their siblings.

Ashley Ortiz, 8, was inspired to start dancing after her sister Samantha Ortiz, 12, took lessons at The Force, and Mobley worked with the girls' cousin.

"She’s really, really fun, and she’s funny," Ashley said of Mobley. "She’s a really great dance teacher."

From left, The Force coaches Kelsey Emery, Crista Farmer and Sheila Mobley watch their students perform on April 28 at the dance studio's annual showcase at Farmington High School.

Looking toward the future

Now, after more than three decades of teaching and coaching dance, Mobley said she is ready to retire and travel with her husband, who recently earned a pilot's license and purchased a small plane. She also hopes to have more time to pursue her other hobbies, including crafting.

Over the past few years, she has become more involved in the San Juan Medical Foundation, including volunteering at Connelly Hospitality House and serving on the foundation’s board. Retirement will provide more time to focus on community service, she said.

"I can do that now," she said. "I can commit to stuff like that."

But even though Mobley has retired, she said will always be around to offer her daughter support and advice.

"She knows the dance portion, and now she has to learn the business part," Mobley said. "I think she’s going to rely on me a little more than she thinks."

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.