When Mary Alexander learned that the Gardiner dance studio her daughter Emily took lessons at was going to close its doors after 12 years in business, she was concerned about what would happen to the 150 or so students who studied there. “My daughter has been dancing with a lot of these kids for years,” she says. “I’ve known a lot of them for most of their lives. And the idea of them not having a place to pursue their passions was really upsetting to me.”
Over the years, Mary had often volunteered at the dance studio, so she knew the owners of the business. And they knew that she had stepped back from her former line of work doing insurance sales and service, to stay at home for a while with her daughter, caring for Emily pre- and post-op after some pretty serious hip surgery. So in a situation where opportunity met encouragement, Mary decided to take the studio over.
After a brief summer program that broke the ice, fall classes will begin September 11 at “Take The Leap Dance Studio,” located in the former “Got Rhythm” studio on Osprey Lane in Gardiner.
The class schedule and pricing will remain the same. “That was important to me in deciding to take this on,” Mary says. “Keeping the same lineup of classes means the kids can continue on where they were. They’ve had enough change for now.”
Most of the instructors will be the same, too. Haley Kwak and Melissa Weatherly are the senior teachers, with the remaining staff made up of Halley Mastro, Sophie Constable, new hire Maria Coppola and Diane Krayewsky, who teaches the adult tap program. Mary’s daughter, Emily Alexander, will also join the teaching staff, with years of experience as an assistant teacher for the previous owners. Having the teaching staff in place is “awesome,” Mary says, “because it’s allowed me to focus on the business. They’ve got the artistic side of it covered. The kids are comfortable because they’ll have the same teachers, and I know them; I trust them, and I know they’re good teachers and choreographers.”
Mary will run the business side of things. A Gardiner resident since she moved to the town in 1986, during her high school years, she has never been a dancer herself, other than having taken a few classes in her youth. “I was painfully shy, and couldn’t handle recitals,” she says. “But I think my daughter was born dancing.” Emily began asking for dance lessons when she was just two years old, and Mary found a class for her a few months later. A self-described “dance mom” since then, Mary says simply, “Dance was very important to my daughter, so it became important to me.”
Now 16 and going into her junior year of high school, Emily Alexander is still dancing. Her specialty is ballet, her mom says, although her favorite form of dance is lyrical. Take The Leap Dance Studio will offer both of those disciplines along with classes in pointe, tap, jazz, contemporary and hip hop, musical theater and production/performance workshops. At this time the only class for adults is the tap class on Thursday evenings, but an adult ballet class is in the works; a non-performance class that will focus on becoming fit and strong. Classes are held six days a week.
The studio’s new website is full of encouraging and inspirational quotes about dancing for the love of it, like, “If you stumble, make it part of the dance.” The emphasis at Take The Leap will be on inspiring its dancers “to achieve their best in a positive and supportive atmosphere, where performance is in the spotlight, not competition.”
Giving the students more opportunities to perform is one area that Mary does plan to change in the new studio. “We’re not a competition school, but the kids work really hard and they want the opportunity to get out and perform more than just once or twice a year. And we want to let the kids show off how hard they work; our goal is to get out in the community more. It’s going to be fun.”
The studio’s inaugural performance will be on Saturday, August 19 during Community Day at the New Paltz branch of Ulster Savings Bank on Main Street from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where several of the students will perform various types of dance and they’ll lead a children’s dance. (Community Day includes raffles, free t-shirt tie-dying and a free barbecue lunch.)
Take The Leap Dance Studio also has two performances scheduled at Gardiner Day on Saturday, September 9, at noon and 1:30 p.m. Different acts will be featured in each performance.
And for those considering signing up for classes, an Open House will be held at the studio, 28 Osprey Lane, on Friday, August 18 from 5-8 p.m. There will be a free gift for anyone who registers at the event, light snacks will be provided and prospective dance students can watch Level 4 and 5 dancers prepare for their upcoming performances.
Opening the studio has been a labor of love and a family effort, Mary says. In addition to her daughter joining the teaching staff, her husband has been very supportive and has helped her with the cosmetic work being done to the building, mainly painting and sprucing things up. The studio space is already well laid-out, with two dance studios, a comfortable lobby, a dressing room for kids that need to change when arriving from school on the buses, and a lounging area with space to do homework. It’s located in a quiet, park-like setting, and has plenty of parking.
“I’m really excited about it all,” says Mary. “I feel truly honored and blessed that I get to work with these kids and help them pursue their passion.”
Take The Leap Dance Studio is located at 28 Osprey Lane in Gardiner; (845) 633-8264, www.taketheleapdance.com and on Facebook and Instagram.