EAST HAMPTON, NY – A beloved East Hampton dance studio is celebrating 15 years of shaping lives and inspiring dreams.
According to co-owner, director and teacher Kelly Hren, dancehampton was established in 2007. In December 2006, Hren was contacted by Mary Ponsin, owner of the Lighthouse Dance Project; she had taught him dancing in the past.
Ponsin told Hren she was moving and needed someone to take over the business.
“At the time, I was teaching at Springs School,” Hren said. “With my colleague and friend Melissa Knight, who was a competitive Irish dancer, we ran the Springs School opera and musicals. We had always discussed opening our own studio and when I told her about the Mary’s call – together we knew it was time.”
The owners staged their first season of dancehampton in the fall of 2007 at their own space in Springs; their first recital in 2008 was at Pierson Middle/High School.
“We’ve been in our current space on Lumber Lane in East Hampton since 2011,” Hren said. “We have been using East Hampton High School for our recitals since 2012 or 2013.”
Due to the 2020 pandemic, the dancers were unable to have a recital. In 2021 they gave outdoor performances at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton.
Hren has always felt the drumbeat of the dance in his soul. She began teaching dance at age 16, at the studio where she had trained since age 2, LJ Dance in Cedarhurst. When she moved to East Hampton in 1999, she began teaching at the Lighthouse Dance Project.
“Owning my own studio has always been a dream of mine and looking back on the past 15 years and the hundreds of dancers who have been part of dancehampton definitely brings tears to my eyes. 15 years! A milestone, especially given the pandemic .”
During the dark days of the pandemic, she said: “I wasn’t even sure dancehampton would survive.” However, she said: “Not only did we survive, but we had one of the best seasons yet.”
Hren said she has always appreciated the studio staff, dancers, parents and “the extended dancehampton family who have supported us and trusted us with their dancers. But it all means so much more now. I am infinitely proud of the family we’ve created in and out of the studio, on and off the stage.”
To mark 15 years, dancehampton will present “The Time of our Lives”, a recital celebrating the milestone, to be held at East Hampton High School on Friday, June 10 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, June 11 at 1 p.m. A competition showcase will take place on Saturday, June 11 at 7 p.m.
In addition to 15 seasons of recreational classes, the studio has also been participating in regional competitions for 10 years, she said.
“None of this would be possible without our talented and dedicated staff, including Krystal Lamiroult, co-owner, principal choreographer and artistic director who has been with us from the start; Blaire Needham; and Heather Wittmer, a former dancehampton student,” says Hren .
And as a mother, reaching the milestone of 15 with her daughter Emma, a high school student — and the only senior in the studio — is emotional, she said.
“It’s almost impossible to imagine not having her in the studio and on the competition team. She was a role model and a positive force for her teammates and the young dancers. In our last competition, her teammates and choreographers sent her the sweetest letters of love, thank you and best wishes as she moves on to the next stage of her life,” Hren said.
But her daughter still has dance dreams to fulfill: Emma will attend James Madison University Honors College and plans to major in secondary education – and minor in dance.
“As with our other graduates over the years, she will always be part of our dancehampton family,” Hren said.
And for the other dancers, exciting plans are also in sight: after the last weekend of performances, the competition team will travel to Disney at the end of June.