Ashtabula native returns home takes over the dance studio | New

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP – Scott DeCola’s life changed dramatically when he started dancing at the Ashtabula Arts Center at age 14.

Mary Murtha saw her life change when she started teaching young girls routines to perform in parades at the old Monroe Elementary School in 1980.

The couple’s lives came together in 2013 when DeCola returned to northeast Ohio after a 10-year career as a professional dancer, during which he traveled the world and performed in 26 country.

The two met through a mutual friend, Kathy Zappitello, who has worked with Wildfire for many years. It ended up being a mutually beneficial professional relationship that also enriched the lives of hundreds of girls who now compete across the country.

The duo’s strengths led to a more complete dance experience for local dancers and led to the growth of a competitive dance program that is now at the heart of Wildfire Dance Studio.

Murtha said her expertise has always been choreography without any formal dance training, while DeCola had immense training in the details of dance technique.

DeCola got his start in AAC under the tutelage of Shelagh Dubsky and was able to win a variety of scholarships during his high school years that found him in various major cities honing his craft each summer.

This hard work eventually led to him landing a contract to dance professionally with the Ohio Ballet in Akron. He has also performed for the Joffrey Ballet II and Les Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

While living and dancing in New York, DeCola also experienced the terror of 9/11 firsthand. He said the dancers were already working on routines early that morning of September 11, 2001 and the music from each dance studio had stopped playing piece by piece as it became clear the first tower had been hit by a plane .

DeCola said he went out with other dancers and four blocks away the second plane hit the second tower. He said he was living in Brooklyn at the time, but they couldn’t get home, so he walked 100 blocks to a one-bedroom apartment where six people stayed until what subway systems are working again several days later.

DeCola said he lived in New York for a decade and loved the city life…until he didn’t. He said he decided to move back to northeast Ohio and taught in the Cleveland area until he met Murtha.

Murtha said he started with a class, slowly picked it up, and eventually turned the studio into a competitive dance studio.

The relationship grew to the point where DeCola reached an agreement with Murtha and bought the studio last fall. Murtha has continued to work throughout the year and plans to stay connected to the operation one way or another.

DeCola is a board member of the US All Star Federation Club Cheer and Dance. The Wildfire Dance Studio recently sent 12 competitive teams to the world competition in Florida.

The teams competed in three regional qualifiers in Pittsburgh, Columbus and Erie before earning their spot with four different routines.

Murtha said there were teams from 23 different countries. “It’s a dance experience like no other,” she said.

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