Conerstone dance

Cornerstone Dance Studio has been teaching dance classes and hosting recitals in Gustine for two decades, with enrollment routinely over 200 students.

Even after two decades in the business, Monica Barnes still gets butterflies when it’s time to take the stage. The only difference now is that it is not her own impending performance that wakes up her nerves, but rather that of her students.

Barnes is the owner of Cornerstone Dance Studio in Gustine and her business has been teaching youngsters on the Westside how to shuffle-ball-chain, plié and every dance step in between. This season, the business is going into their 20th year.

“This was not the plan that I had for myself, so to be here 20 years later is pretty amazing,” Barnes said.

The fact that dance was not something Barnes envisioned for her career trajectory might sound odd, considering dance has been a part of her life since she was 6 years old.

“I first started dancing in Turlock at Deborah Morgan’s studio and then I went on and danced here in Gustine,” Barnes said. “I continued my dance education at Central Catholic High School. They had a really good dance program there and then I also joined a dance team at Stan State when I went to college. But my plan was not to open a dance studio. I was majoring in liberal studies.”

By her sophomore year of college, Barnes had stopped dancing and was focused on earning her bachelor’s degree and then teaching credential.

“I had a feeling in my heart that I needed to do something different,” Barnes recalled. “I prayed about it and God directed me. I started seeing visions of me dancing in front of a group of dancers. I was really questioning it, because this was not what I had set out to do. About a week later a mom came in to my mom’s gym, where I was working and she said they needed somebody to instruct a group of six girls for dance. So, I started teaching out of my mom’s gym. That was for about a year, before a space right next door opened up. I had about 60 students my first year.

“God definitely had a different plan for my life and now looking back, I’m glad it directed me this way,” Barnes said.

Her mother’s gym also had the name Cornerstone, so it felt right to carry it on to her dance studio.

“Her business was Christian-based and that is something that I wanted to continue,” Barnes said. 

Cornerstone Dance Studio teaches tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, pre-pointe and pointe. They also have a dance team that travels around to different competitions. Every year, the season culminates in a dance recital at Gustine High School in June and then re-starts up in August. Students can continue to register up until November, early December. The cost is $30 to register and $48 per month per class.

“There are family discounts and multiple class discounts,” Barnes said.

Reaching a 20-year milestone is an achievement for any business. Barnes said it would not have been possible without the loyalty of her students over the years.

“We’ve had a lot of supportive families over the years,” Barnes said. “I think one of the things that sets us apart is that we are a faith-based studio.”

For more information on Cornerstone Dance Studio visit