Cat Chew – short for Catherine – loves to dance and now she’s discovering she loves to teach.
Chew, an Ahwatukee resident since 2007, teaches line dancing at Setay Dance and Fitness Studio at 7430 S. 48th St., Ahwatukee.
She is one of many independent teachers who keep the studio abuzz six days a week under the ownership of entrepreneur E. Annette Yates, herself a dance and exercise enthusiast with a career IT background.
Yates organized her students and staff to perform at her studio’s Spring Fling earlier this month in honor of front-line workers.
“We wanted to honor and thank them, give them gifts, food and get them out there to have fun dancing,” explained Yates, who anointed her studio with the exotic-sounding moniker by spelling her name backwards.
The three-hour event was filled with fun, dancing and laughter with all ages represented from a 3-year-old tap dancer to a 5-year-old drummer to high school age high-steppers to the studio’s Tai Chi instructor – Sylvia Sears-Cartwright, who is 80 years young.
A plethora of other classes performed for the crowd – including some that Yates had not had the opportunity to observe before.
“For me, to go to the event was a real eye-opener,” exclaimed Yates, exudes enthusiasm when talking about her studio and her instructors, all of whom are independent contractors who rent her various studio spaces to hold their classes.
“I was so proud,” said Yates, emphasizing the emotion.
She refers to Setay Dance and Fitness Studio – which she formed in 2014 – as the “best-kept secret at South Mountain.”
After an industry downsizing removed her from her 30-year tenure as an information technology professional with Blue Cross Blue Shield in Richmond, Virginia, Yates opted to move to Arizona, where her youngest daughter was attending Arizona State University and her son lived nearby.
She has three adult children: Maurice Yates of Phoenix, Devaron Yates of Houston, Texas and her daughter Tyree Yates, now residing in Louisiana. She raves about her 11 grandchildren.
Before opening Setay, Yates determined she was ready to start her own enterprise but wanted a unique business model.
“I decided I didn’t want to be hiring and managing employees,” she recalled. “Instead, I saw how to help individuals wanting to own their own business, and pursue their dreams.
“That makes the Setay Dance and Fitness brand unique. Instructors manage their own classes.”
Even as a hands-off business owner, her instructors praise her for her constant emotional support – and her ability to market their classes on social media.
Cat Chew is one of those instructors who is thankful for the opportunity to lead their classes while pursuing her passion.
“I just started my beginning line dance class in October and before the pandemic, I did beginning Latin dance and we may do that again in the future,” said Chew, who moved to Arizona to join her mother and sister after years working in Chicago and living in Crown Point, Indiana.
“I love going to Setay,” said Chew, who also is a student at Yates’ studio, learning belly dancing, the Carribean-style soca and Chicago Steppin.’
“Everyone is always so welcoming, for any level dancer,” Chew said. “I know personally, I’ve made some life-long friends. Annette is so wonderful, and she does so much for all of us, and the community, said Chew. “And what’s also nice is all the instructors help each other.”
As an octogenarian, Sylvia Sears-Cartwright is a fluidly walking endorsement for her tai chi classes.
An elementary teacher who accompanied her military husband, teaching elementary classes all over the world from Guam to the Azores Islands, was once wooed out of her Arizona retirement to launch a gifted and talented program.
Sears-Cartwright teaches Tai Chi each Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. that cost a mere $5 each. She drives from her home in Glendale.
“I think part of the reason why I make the journey is so people have a chance to see the benefits of Tai Chi to the body and balance,” she said.
She discovered the art of tai chi after retiring from teaching, finally, and said she was looking to find something to spark her interest.
“I am truly a senior and have issues with knees and had a hip replacement and a lot of other things that come around by being around this long, and Tai Chi not only helps you balance the physical but develop your inner balance as well,” she said.
“Everyone can recall a time when their emotions got the better of themselves and their actions. When unexpected events occur we can choose to react or respond. The practice and art of Tai Chi helps us regulate our breathing, which in turn helps our thoughts, creating the balance we need to respond rather than react.”
Phoenix Water Services employee Bridgette Knox also identifies as a senior citizen – yet teaches tap to children and adults, and expressive dance, energizes her.
“I enjoy teaching and the relationship it builds,” she said. “The Sunday event was the first time my youth tap group, Pneuma Dance, performed in public and there was a lot of nervousness and excitement,” she said.
“I have a wide range of ages from three-year-old Asia to my oldest who is 12. She actually could tap with the adults but she’s more comfortable right now tapping with the youth.”
Knox, who sports dreadlocks, said she’s adamant that no one is too old for her adult tap classes.
“Age really doesn’t matter. My oldest started as a senior citizen, and she has the best attitude. There’s no negativity. One of the things I tell my students is allow yourself to learn, to mess up, to feel uncomfortable. All these feelings are wrapped in the bow of having fun and exercise,”she said. “It’s all part of the process. And it all takes time.”
Yates has two rooms available for instructors to rent - her 10’x10’ Setay Zen room, and her main 30’x30’ main room. The rooms are also available to rent for specialty events or workshops.
Although Yates has focused on social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to communicate more about Setay, and her instructors’ classes, she said especially after the many viewings of their recent Spring Fling she realized the attention-grabbing power of videos.
“I’m moving more toward YouTube and my main reason is the videos really tell the story,” she enthused. “People are just in awe learning that Setay Dance and Fitness has been sitting in South Mountain all this time and nobody even knew about it. I’m doing what I can to change that.”
She said she likes to remind others that dance isn’t a female-only activity, in fact men are encouraged to don their dancing shoes, too.
“We have iSpark organizing a Men’s Only class right now,” she enthused. “It’s a soul line dance and will be on Saturday mornings. Of course, men and women of all ages are welcome at all classes.”
And, of course, on YouTube at “Setay Dance and Fitness.”
For more information, see their website at SetayDanceandFitness.com You can also find them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at setay2014.