By MICHAEL RUKAVINA
OBSERVER Assistant News Editor
Dozens of current dancers and their parents met Saturday for the grand opening ceremony of the new Collage Performing Arts Center studio on Eagle Street in Fredonia.
Collage Performing Arts Center
Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce member Greg Krauza and Chautauqua County Legislator John Gullo were among those on hand to congratulate Eric Hadley and Marci Williams-Hadley on their new studio. Gullo was on hand however to speak not as a Chautauqua County Legislator, but as a father of four daughters who dance for the Collage Performing Arts Center.
"My family has a long history with the Collage. My sister Gia was one of the early students of Collage which was established in 1974 by Cathie Christian," Gullo began. "In May of 1976, I was 11-years-old, and I had my one and only home run in little league. Immediately after the game, my father who was our coach and my three brothers and I, raced to tell my mother and our two sisters. Still in our uniforms we did so, in the middle of Marvel Theatre, in the middle of a Collage dance recital. Cathie Christian liked that about as much as Marci would today."
Gullo explained that his parents sent his sisters to Collage for a quality dance education, and they made room for it in their budget and in their time because they were parents who wanted the best for their children.
Dozens of dancers, their parents, instructors and local officials gathered Saturday at the Collage Performing Arts Center on Eagle Street for its grand opening celebration.
"Collage is more than a building," he said. "Collage is Marci and Eric, it is its instructors, the Collage is all of the dancers and cheerleaders ... it is all of the parents and grandparents. We are the Collage Performing Arts Center."
Shortly after Artistic Director Marci Williams-Hadley purchased Collage from Christian in 1999, the studio moved from 40 East Main Street to Clark Street. Echoing Gullo's opening remarks about family, Hadley said the new studio will help bring back some of the Collage traditions.
"We can (theoretically) have classes at 4 in the morning, 11 at night; we can have slumber parties again," Hadley said, noting the zoning regulation difference between Clark and their new location on Eagle Street. "Last Sunday the Dance Team came down and watched a movie together because it was a rainy day. Those are things that teams do, and I think it's nice that the dancers can have a place to do that too. The kids like being together and it's nice to have a place where they can gather and just have fun. That was a big goal of ours too."
There will be plenty of space to help house the over 35 specific classes, ranging from Pre-K tap and ballet to Hott Shot Senior Cheerleading and the NY Majestic Dance Teams.
"Space wise we're a little bit bigger; the main studio space is about 1,700 square feet," Eric Hadley said, noting the difference between studios. "The old studio was a laminate flooring and we put in a sprung floor for the comfort of the dancers and it's a hardwood maple flooring in here, very resilient and it should hold up nice.
"The lobby is much larger and much nicer than our other space," he added. "We put in a large one-way viewing window for the parents. They can watch the classes going on and the students won't be distracted by mom and dad's face over on the side."
While the vision of such a grand studio may have been too far in the future for her to imagine at the time, Hadley knew what she wanted to do as far as offering a dance education was concerned.
"At that time I didn't own the studio but I started my own dance team and I used to practice at Darwin's. We had a group of junior-high kids and we came up with the name, NY Majestic Dance Team, and my goal for them was to have as many opportunities to perform in front of people so that they got so comfortable dancing in front of people," Hadley said, noting the Dance Team formed in 1995. "One of my visions was to not only provide a good dance education, but also offer more opportunities for the kids to perform. There's not a lot of dance in schools around here so kids who excel at dance and cheerleading their classmates really never get to see what they do because it's not a school sport. One reason why the dance studio has also branched out into cheerleading and also competitive dance is so that they have more opportunities to perform in front of people making them better overall performers."
Community members who may not even have children participating in the classes and that follow the dance studio witness those 'opportunities' through the Collage Performing Arts Center Christmas Show at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House and the Annual Dance Recital at Marvel Theatre on the SUNY Fredonia campus. These are hard tickets to come by.
After the new year, Hadley said they will be looking to expand on their new location with a second dance studio in the front of the building (facing Eagle Street). She said she has already been approached by members in the community curious to see if she would consider holding adult dance classes, such as ballet, ballroom and swing.
"The addition of that room is going to be the greatest asset to making the business bigger, by offering adult classes, fitness classes and ballroom dancing," she said.
Collage is hosting one more registration day this Thursday, Sept. 1 from 6-8 p.m. at the studio, 214 Eagle Street. Hadley added that it is never too early for a child to begin dance class as it usually helps them in many other areas as well.
"I think partly because I'm a physical education teacher and I just feel very passionate about kids doing anything," Hadley said. "Whether your child is only going to take dance or tumbling for a couple of years they're going to be better at any sport because they have a base in dance and tumbling. It gives kids a good feel of spatial awareness; they're stronger, more flexible and better off working with other people."
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