Smithfield’s Dance, Theatre, And Music Studio

Smithfield’s Dance, Theatre, And Music Studio

by Paul Lonardo

Through the years, I’ve often felt like I’ve been knocked down and fallen face-first into the mud. I don’t let it stop me, though. I pull myself together, wipe myself off and I keep going because I know just how badly my community needs this program. I know my dream is attainable with hard work and dedication, and I’ve built myself a team full of people who are dedicated to my dream.”

-Donna Tellier, Owner and Executive Director of J-DAPA

Dedication and passion only begin to describe Donna Tellier’s commitment to the arts and her drive to make it available to everyone. Donna founded J-DAPA in 2016 as a state-wide 501c3 non-profit performing arts organization based in Smithfield, RI, offering an all-inclusive dance, theatre, and music education, ranging from performance to design and technology, for all ages and abilities. She is very proud to help make dreams come true for children and adults by offering affordable dance, voice, acting classes, and opportunities to perform in plays.

“Some of our plays have involved parents and their children together on stage,” Donna says. “Seeing families bow together at the end of a production is definitely a heart-warming experience.”

Donna’s passion for dancing and acting began at an early age. She studied tap, jazz, lyrical, ballet, acro, hip hop, and ballroom, starting when she was just eight. Coming from a large low-income family, enrolling in dance classes was not something she could afford to do on a regular basis. This unfulfilled desire left her heartbroken, but it also instilled in her a burning desire to one day start an affordable program for other children and families like her own. It was when Donna’s own children started school that her path became clear. After seeing a friend start an after-school program at her children’s school, Donna was inspired to open Johnston Dance and Performing Arts. For only $3 a week, children were able to take dance classes and their families could attend the recitals for just $5. This was enough to raise the funds necessary to help make some improvements to the town’s high school auditorium. The efforts of everyone also helped raise money to pay for the dance education of students who could not afford the $3/week or costumes.

Donna strongly encourages young people who want to pursue an amateur or professional career in the arts, and she wants them to know she and her studio are there specifically for advice and guidance to help them pursue their artist interests and goals.

The best pieces of advice I can give to our young students who would like to pursue a career in the field is to take as many classes as possible and listen to the instructor at all times,” Donna says. “They have been through experiences you may not have had yet, and they could possibly save you from making the same mistakes they made when they were younger.”

Something else she stresses is never turn down a chance to perform a role or ensemble part that you may not have auditioned for. Every performance is an experience and opportunity to improve your growth in performing.

“Most importantly,” Donna adds, “never give up on your dreams.”

This inner desire keeps Donna moving forward in her personal life and professionally with J-DAPA.

Going forward, I would love to be able to raise enough funds to add comfortable seating in our newly renovated black box theater,” Donna says.We’re in the process of hopefully adding in-house lighting very soon so that we don’t have to continuously rent equipment, as well as a sound system.

J-DAPA recently had two productions in-house and Donna is continuously striving to improve the space for better comfort, sound, and lighting.

“I would also like to be able to offer scholarships to a child in need, or a high school senior who is going into the field,” she adds.

As a 501c3 non-profit organization, J-DAPA operates solely on donations, classes, events, and grants. Personal donations are tax deductible and would go a long way to help J-DAPA make dreams come true for a lot of families.

“I would like to stress as well that it is never too late to fulfill your love of dance, acting, and singing,” Donna says. “Many people are not aware that J-DAPA offers adult classes as well as classes for children.”

J-DAPA is located at 5 Enterprise Lane in Smithfield. You can contact Donna through the organization email

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