Kids Page: Raise the Barre Studio of Dance keeps kids on their toes | Arts and entertainment

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BALTIMORE – When the pandemic forced all the dance-loving kids in Harford County, Maryland, to hang up their tutus and put away their jazz shoes, Danielle Forgione and Melissa DeSantis knew they had to do something.

Not only were their own daughters distraught at unexpectedly losing an activity – and contact with friends – that they loved, Forgione and DeSantis heard other dancing moms struggling to console their own children.

The two longtime friends began to take seriously the idle conversation they had had over the years about combining DeSantis’ business experience with Forgione’s educational expertise to open their own studio.

“There were kids I had been teaching for 15 years,” Forgione said. “My heart hurt so much for them. I didn’t want to leave them hanging when they were already grappling with this massive COVID-19 mess. “

The couple, who met seven years ago when their daughters were attending the same preschool, tested the waters by offering free dances via Zoom in May 2020. Last summer they offered outdoor classes. in the pavilions of the Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air.

The response has been overwhelming.

“I went to Home Depot and found some boards, and we were tap dancing in the parking lot,” Forgione said. “It was just crazy.”

Meanwhile, they were looking for space they could convert into indoor studios that they could operate year round, and eventually located garages near the Stack & Store storage facility off Baltimore Pike. They hired 13 part-time instructors who could teach everything from lyrical dance to hip-hop to ballet. After two months of renovation, Raise the Barre opened in November.

“My daughter is shy, but she really comes out of her shell when she dances,” DeSantis said. “I didn’t want to have to find her a new studio because I was afraid that if she couldn’t be with her familiar teachers and all of her friends, she wouldn’t want to dance anymore. I think a lot of parents felt the same.

Less than a year later, Raise the Barre has around 200 3-year-olds in high school and plans to start a competitive dance team. Adults can take yoga or full-body exercise classes (a form of high-intensity interval training) while their children learn the five ballet positions or how to do jazz hands.

On a recent weeknight, Forgione led eight girls aged 5 to 7 in an introductory jazz class.

Waverly Sokolov, 6, and Lilly Lynch, 5, clung to every word from Forgione. When Forgione said, “Make a rainbow with your arms,” ​​they curled their arms over their heads. When Forgione told them to cross the dance floor, they jumped up, their faces shining.

“It’s a phenomenal studio,” said Lilly’s mother Britany Lynch. “You can just say that the passion for teaching runs through their veins.”

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