Aw, you had us at tutu. These cutie-pies are students at Dancehampton, the East Hampton dance studio owned by Kelly Hren. This year, Hren’s eighth in business, has been a banner year: She’s taught more than 100 students, and 19 are gearing up this weekend to compete in the Turn It Up regional competition at West Islip High School.
Hren is something of an accidental entrepreneur. She wasn’t planning to run a dance studio when she first moved to the Hamptons in the late ’90s and took a job as an instructor at the Lighthouse Dance Project in Springs. But in late 2006, “the owner of that business said, ‘I’m closing the doors, unless you want to take over,'” Hren said. “It definitely wasn’t something I was thinking at the moment, but she had clients who had paid her, who would be let down. I just took it over.”
The transition happened fast. Over the phone, the two worked out details: Hren would pay the former owner for a few supplies, like dance mats, and then she’d take over paying rent and employees’ salaries. And with that, she was in business for herself, teaching about 45 students who were enrolled. Hren eventually changed the name to Dancehampton, opened a new studio on Lumber Lane, and began adding more programs and styles of dance to the mix.
This year, the buzz has been about tap (as we’ve noted previously, a style of dance that seems to be waging its first comeback since World War II). “This year, tap has been humongous for us,” Hren says. Earlier this month, Dancehampton was involved with the “Tap: An Evening of Rhythm” event at Guild Hall. Students of all ages — from 7 to over 60 — have wanted to learn how to tap-tap-tap. The other trend — perhaps driven by “Dancing With the Stars”? — is a focus on technique. “Even our younger kids are realizing that they need to know technique, and then they can do any style of dance” — whether that’s hip-hop, pop or ballet, she says.
Hren, who began dancing herself at age 3, now employs five teachers. She continues to instruct students herself (though it’s not her only job: She’s also a teaching assistant at Amagansett School). This summer, working alongside the nonprofit Our Fabulous Variety Show, Dancehampton plans to runs its first Performance Arts summer camp, where students can hone their skills in dancing, singing and acting and possibly perform in a production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Guild Hall in September. (Hmm…will they accept a 44-year-old beginner?) The camp is offered in four 2-week sessions, at $550 each or $1,750 for all four. For more information, check out Dancehampton’s website or email at email@example.com
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