SUISUN CITY — Greg Chapkis feels right at home in his recently opened downtown Suisun City dance studio.
He came to the United States from Ukraine at age 18 in 1999. One of his first jobs was working at the Just Gotta Dance studio at 309 Main St. in Suisun City, inside the same building where he now runs Chapkis Dance.
“This studio means a lot to me because I started here,” Chapkis said. “And I have a lot of dancers in the area.”
The dancers who come to Chapkis Dance learn under the gaze of Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul and Michael Jackson, whose paintings are on the walls.
“Just pictures of people who inspire us to dance,” said Chapkis, who lives in Fairfield. “Michael Jackson is definitely number one on the list.”
Chapkis has a special love for hip-hop, which he says he grew up with. But the studio also offers such styles as jazz, tap and ballet.
“Everything,” he said.
His father owns six dance studios in Ukraine. His sister owns a studio in Italy. In that sense, Chapkis dance studios are an international venture.
Chapkis came to America and Solano County to be with his mother, Natasha Clarke, who moved from Ukraine in search of opportunities in America. He spent nine years working with her at Dance Unlimited in Vallejo.
“All my family are dancers,” he said.
He appeared in 2005 on the Fox show “So You Think You Can Dance,” making the final 24 contestants. He appeared in 2009 with his group Mix’d Elements on the show “America’s Got Talent.”
Chapkis is quick to talk about the talented dancers who come to his studio. He talks of them coming from places as far as San Jose, creating a counter-commute of sorts to Suisun City. His dance company takes part in competitions.
“Our company is probably the best company in Northern California,” he said.
He talks about the connections the studio strives to have with Los Angeles and Hollywood dance and the shows it puts on each year. But he also talks about dancers who are less proficient or not proficient at all.
“The perfect place for people who don’t know how to dance,” Chapkis said. “We’re looking for any age and any skill. If they don’t have skill, that’s why they need to be here.”
Please go to http://www.chapkisdance.net for more information on the studio.