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Design in Community – PopRox Dance Studio

Design in Community

The Seattle Design Festival tells a story. This story culminates in an annual celebration of our design community each summer, but the connections we forge within that community, and the stories they have to share, last throughout the year. Follow along with Design in Community as we highlight some of these design stories from our community through photos and sound.


A notebook often carries information you want to reference at some point. Have an idea? Jot that thought with pen and paper. That is exactly what Celina Joy, a lead instructor at PopRox Dance Studio, does. Joy’s dance notebook is what she consults for every class she teaches. “I call it my bible,” Joy states. “Every time before class, I will write out the counts of my class and then really vaguely write down the move associated with that count.”

Joy primarily teaches Jazz and K-Pop classes, finding interest in a variety of dance styles at a young age under her mom’s influence. “Because (my mom) was a dancer, I was curious about how her (dance) style was. After that happened, I was even more curious about other styles and eventually took as many classes as I could to get to where I am,” Joy recalls.

In June 2021, Joy moved to Seattle and wanted to continue dancing. Joy tried a couple of dance studios, but they didn’t fit what she wanted. Incidentally, Joy found PopRox Dance Studio through an Instagram ad for a K-Pop dance class (“Hype Boy”) that was being taught then. After Joy attended the “Hype Boy” class, she continued to visit PopRox weekly before being offered a position to teach.

At PopRox, anyone can come as they are and have fun dancing. PopRox offers a wide variety of dance classes across different age groups. Kids, teens, and adults can come to PopRox and learn basic dance moves or dive right into other dance styles such as Hip Hop, K-Pop, Jazz Funk, Breakdancing, and more.

Sierra Muehlbauer, another PopRox instructor, also started out as a dance student. Muehlbauer teaches kids and adult classes, focusing on the introductory classes such as “Two Left Feet” and “Just the Basics”. Muehlbauer started going to PopRox in 2022 and was consistently attending classes. Her confidence gradually increased, including an overall improvement to her wellbeing since dancing at PopRox.

“The serotonin to show up every week […] and I just leave in such a better mood. I feel like I start my week off right,” Meuhlbauer reflects. PopRox’s stress-free environment also makes dancing more approachable. “When you go to spaces like PopRox, it’s ok. We all fail and we all do it together and we laugh about it,” Muehlbauer said. “Not everything has to be perfect.”

For both Joy and Muehlbauer, they credit PopRox founders – Kinsey Flores and Cathy Barnett – for empowering and encouraging them. Flores is focused on daily studio operations and staff management; Barnett oversees the long-term growth of the business, including efforts to give back to more communities, while supporting her co-founder when needed.

The partnership for Flores and Barnett sprung from a love of dancing. Flores and Barnett were dancers when they were younger and found themselves wanting to reconnect with dancing later in life. As adults, reengaging with dance felt intimidating. Barnett also had a toddler who really loved to dance but there wasn’t a suitable dance studio for her child.

Desiring a judgment-free space without necessarily having strict choreography or a curriculum,  Barnett and Flores created what they couldn’t find: the welcoming, body empowering, stress-free and LGBTQIA+ friendly dance studio that PopRox is known for.

“I think we’ve always said that you come and take a dance class with PopRox, it’s not about you getting it perfectly right,” Barnett mentions. “It’s about whether you’re feeling it and feeling one with the community and having a good time,” Barnett emphasizes.

Flores is also grateful to onboard instructors who see the company’s vision and play an invaluable role at PopRox. Being a non-traditional dance studio, PopRox is able to invite students to become dance instructors, echoing Joy’s and Muehlbauer’s path with the studio. PopRox instructors are often encouraged to tap into their curiosity. “It’s been really lovely to watch those instructors look around and be like, ‘so then I can choreograph like this?’ ‘Absolutely,’ ” Flores shares.

PopRox Dance Studio will be opening a second location at Capitol Hill’s Chophouse Row building in January 2024, a testament to PopRox’s growth and how they are meeting the growing needs of an existing and growing community. Ultimately, Barnett and Flores are driven by seeing how their studio can make people happy. “Whether it’s (seeing) kids or whether it’s us seeing a 75-year-old woman dancing next to a teenage boy, next to somebody who’s neurodivergent, that’s really special.”

This story was captured by En Ning, one of our amazing Design in Community volunteers. Visit our volunteer page to learn more about this opportunity!