Entrepreneur, IFL Dance Team Coach, and Miss Saguaro Title Holder Strives to Empower Youth to Go After Their Dreams … and Put in the Work

By Hilary Dartt

At 27, Alexes Niekamp’s list of achievements is impressive by any measure. She owns two successful businesses: the award-winning Lessons by Lexe dance studio and Quest Character Parties. She holds the Miss Saguaro title (a local title within the Miss Arizona organization). And, she’s the dance team coach for the Mustangs, the Northern Arizona Wranglers dance team.

Her journey hasn’t been easy; she’s worked hard for every one of her accomplishments … and the payoff is sweet.

That’s what she wants young people—especially young women—to know: “You can do it all. You deserve what the universe has to offer—but you have to put in the work.”

Born in California, Lexe started dance classes at age 4 and was on scholarship throughout her early childhood. She and her mom moved to Prescott when she was 10. She often heard people say that she wouldn’t amount to anything because she was a scholarship student.

Still, she knew she wanted dance to be part of her future. As she explored career options during high school at Tri-City Prep, she had a light-bulb moment: she wanted to open a dance studio.

Working full-time while attending Northern Arizona University, Lexe began earning her bachelor’s in Applied Human Behavior. She also earned certificates in community development and sustainability, service industry management, and entrepreneurship.

Meanwhile, she built her savings, intending to open her dance studio. At 19, she was ready.

She based her business model on what she’d liked at studios where she trained, and what she might have changed. It seems to have worked: within a few years, her clientele had grown so much that she was able to move from a 900-square-foot space into her current space, a 5,369-square-foot storefront at the Prescott Gateway Mall.

One day when she was in her dance studio, representatives from the Miss Arizona organization came in and asked if they could leave flyers so that if anyone was interested in participating in local pageants, they could.

Lexe realized she was interested. Miss Arizona is part of the Miss America organization, one of the largest scholarship organizations for women in the country. She has since held four titles: Miss Parker, Miss Yavapai County, Miss Copper State, and most recently, Miss Saguaro.

The process of becoming a title holder, from competing to running community service initiatives to making appearances, helps young women become more well-rounded, Lexe said … and therefore creates more opportunities for them.

Going for It: Creating Her Own Opportunities

Lexe has always been determined not to let her background define her. As unusual as it may have been for a child raised in a single-parent household to launch a business at 19, she followed her passion and made it happen.

When she knew her studio had outgrown its space, she approached mall management asking if she could lease a larger space. The people she talked to told her she was too young and couldn’t afford it. She started looking for other spaces, but within a few months, the new lease on that bigger mall space had fallen through, and mall management offered her the space after all.

She took it, and her business continued to grow and thrive.

When the Miss Arizona representatives came in with flyers, she saw an opportunity … and took it.

At the end of 2020, when Lexe found out the Indoor Football League was bringing a team to Prescott Valley and they didn’t have a dance team, she set a meeting with the owners and proposed they add a dance team … and they hired her as the coach, on the spot.

This isn’t to say that she hasn’t faced challenges. But each time, she’s found a way through them, motivated by her goals and values.

Giving Back

Before Lexe and her mom moved to Arizona, her dance teacher, who’d offered her scholarships, told her, “All I ask is that you give back.”

“That stuck with me,” Lexe said.

She strives to make her dance studio a safe haven, a home away from home, for each student. It’s her goal that everyone who comes through the doors feels valued, regardless of financial situation, special needs, or age. Her classes are inclusive, combining dancers of all abilities.

Becky McLoughlin, whose sons Liam, seven, and Finn, five, attend Lessons by Lexe, said that’s exactly what their family has experienced there. Becky started taking Liam to Mommy and Me dance classes when he was 10 months old. Once he could stand, he started dancing, and he hasn’t stopped since. Finn, fascinated by tap shoes, followed in his brother’s footsteps and performed in his first recital when he was just a year and a half old.

Born with Down Syndrome, Liam “is a classic example of a person who has been accepted by the dance studio.”

He “presents differently, and he is so embraced,” Becky said. That goes for all the students. “Maybe they’re not professional dancers, but they’re embraced.”

Becky added that Lexe and her team make space for all dancers, whatever ability they have, and whatever their aspirations—whether they want to take classes as a hobby, compete on the dance team, or become professional dancers.

Lexe believes dance is an art form and all dancers should share the stage equally: “No one should ever be pushed aside.”

As Lexe has held each of her different titles, her community service initiative has been A.R.T.T.S. in Action: Applying Remarkable Talents to Succeed, keeping arts instilled in our communities and schools.

She makes school appearances, and at each one, she talks to students about pursuing their goals without quitting, and about pushing through obstacles when they come up. She also raises money for arts in schools (for example, she recently partnered with County Seat to create a mocktail that raised $300 for two local schools … County Seat matched that, and the schools received a total of $600).

Bottom Line: It’s All About Community

Lexe believes community is key in helping children and young people reach their goals. That’s why, in everything she does, she builds it.

Her dance studio is a community in and of itself. Through Quest Character Parties, she brings together children and their friends, creating special experiences. Through her work as Miss Saguaro (and the other titles she held), she builds connections while spreading her message. And her work at the Wranglers, as the Mustangs’ dance team coach, is about creating a community experience.

According to Becky, Lexe is a phenomenal community builder. “She has done an amazing job of letting every child come in and express themselves.”

At the studio, Becky’s children are loved—not only by Lexe and the other teachers, but also by their fellow students.

Of Liam, she said, “They love him. It’s palpable. He knows he has a support system he can trust. To me, that’s priceless.”

“There’s truly a community. It’s about that acceptance.”

A strong sense of community, Lexe said, empowers young people to strive for their goals, overcome obstacles, and give back. “I love our youth. They’re our future leaders. Why. wouldn’t you invest in our younger generations?”

And that is the “why” behind everything she does.

“I am the only child of a single mom. I want to let [children] know they’re worthy. If I can do it, so can they. I want to empower them to do what they desire to do. Everyone has hopes and dreams, you just have to put in the work.”

Learn more at https://lessonsbylexe.com and https://questcharacterpartiesaz.com.