Familiar faces in a new and better space are what experienced students and newcomers to the Occhipinti Dance Company studio will find. Owned and operated by sisters Michelle Occhipinti and Ashley Kaminski, the studio first opened its doors in the spring of 2008 in the Belladaro Professional Building in Elmhurst.
This fall, the sisters relocated to a location better suited to housing a dance studio, the former North Pocono Senior Center in Daleville. “The senior center relocated to the caretaker’s cottage at the Moffat Estate this year. We saw an opportunity to move to this place, which offers so much, so we took it,” said Michelle.
Renovation of the building took about six weeks. The upgraded location now features two spacious studios with hardwood floors, new barres and mirrors, and a new sound system. In honor of the dance company’s 10th anniversary, there is even a new logo which was designed by Jordan Slater, an instructor at the dance studio and an art student at Marywood University.
In addition to being thrilled with their two new studio spaces, Michelle and Ashley are excited about their new premises for another reason. “This building is more like a home! We have a kitchen where moms can cook for the kids and a back deck that is accessible to families,” explained Michelle.
A comfortable setting for both students to learn in and families to hang out in while waiting for dancers during classes is important to Ashley and Michelle because it helps build a sense of community.
“We definitely grew as a community and grew as a staff over the years. We thrive on respect for one another and instill respect and kindness in our students. We have a good leadership program, where older students really take on responsibility for younger students,” said Ashley.
Michelle and Ashley are both school teachers, so in addition to having natural talent for dance, they bring their experience with managing a classroom and creating solid learning situations into play. In the ten years since they formed Occhipinti Dance Company, the duo has discovered that if they set the bar high, their students will rise to the challenge.
“We’ve really pushed the curriculum, and the kids rose to the challenge. We have a strong technique program, so they really know the basics,” said Michelle.
She elaborated, “We have a graded syllabus and our teaching is age appropriate and skill appropriate, just like in school. We will catch a student up to where they need to be, and our instruction is age appropriate, so we encourage people to take up dance even at a later age.”
Ashley and Michelle oversee several instructors who help to teach classes. The instructors are normally former students who have demonstrated an aptitude for teaching as well as excellent dance skills and technique. These instructors are taught classroom management skills so that all instruction at the studio conforms to the sisters’ high standards and ensuring that the studio continues to “run like a well-oiled machine,” according to Ashley.
The dance company usually has around one hundred students of both genders at any given time. Classes are offered to children ages two to adult and include pre-ballet, classical ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, and hip-hop. Also offered for adults is Plyojam, a fitness class focusing on cardio and weights that is taught by instructor Kelley Hafner.
In addition to the regular classes offered, students perform in two annual recitals. This year, for the first time, the Christmas performance will be “The Nutcracker,” which the sisters hope will be their biggest and best show yet. “We always put our own little twist on it. We’re working on something special,” said Ashley of this year’s extravaganza.
A ribbon cutting and open house were held recently to welcome people to the new facility and to help celebrate ten great years of dance instruction in the North Pocono area.
For more information about Occhipinti Dance Company, visit the Facebook page or the studio’s website at http://www.occhipintidanceco.com. The studio is located at 12 John J. Michaels Dr. in Covington Twp. behind the Covington Twp. police station on Route 435.