Dance Factory celebrates 35 years in Springfield

Dance Factory
Dance Factory in Springfield celebrates 35 years of business. Photo provided

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – Dance has been an important part of Kate Frizzell-DeRosia’s life. A Chester native, Kate is the current owner of The Dance Factory on Main Street in downtown Springfield. Susan Hagan founded the Dance Factory in 1984, and the studio was originally located in the Old Fellows Building where Springfield Medical Care Systems is today. Kate has been involved as a teacher for those 35 years with Susan, and in fact, had learned dance from Susan when she was in high school until Susan retired in 2015.

Now, in 2019, the Dance Factory is celebrating its 35th year in business. Kate has been at the helm for five years since Susan retired, but she is still passionate about one of Susan’s missions. “Anyone that wants to dance should be able to dance,” Kate says, emphasizing the inclusiveness of the teachers and the community.

The Dance Factory offers classes for preschool age all the way up to adults. The teachers have designed adult and high school classes that are mixed levels of experience. The classes offered are ballet, pointe, modern, jazz, hip-hop, tap, and creative movement. Classes run Monday through Friday, mostly in the afternoon from 3:45 to 8:45 p.m.

The ballet class is especially popular with students as it is the only class involved with the December production of “The Nutcracker.” Susan started the tradition of Dance Factory’s performance of “The Nutcracker” in 1990, producing Act II only because it was the famous Land of Sweets. Kate was in the inaugural performance along with a couple of teachers and high school students. The following year, Dance Factory was able to host a full-length production when Susan found a company that was discontinuing their production and selling costumes and sets, which was an important piece of being able to produce the show. Kate explains that they need all costumes in a variety of sizes, and they don’t make any of the performers pay for their costumes.

For the students, there are guaranteed parts for ballet students in third grade and older. Older kids fill the larger roles and for many participants, “they start out in Mother Goose and by the end they are the Sugar Plum Fairy or the Snow Queen,” Kate says. The dance classes start in September, and rehearsals for “The Nutcracker” start Sept. 22 and continue every weekend until the Dec. 14 and 15 performances at Springfield High School.

Community members also take part in the show, filling in the adult roles and helping to move and build the sets. Ashley Hansel-Browning is the artistic director and choreographer for the show. According to Kate, each year Ashley brings something new to the production.

Ashley is one of the other instructors at the Dance Factory. She teaches every class except tap, and even teaches at the local schools. If anyone is curious about a type of dance class, they can see Ashley’s videos on Facebook, explaining the style. “I want to bottle her energy,” Kate explains. Ashley likes to take on projects such as a new this year all boys hip-hop class.

Gretchen Abendschein is another instructor who has been with the Dance Factory nearly since the beginning. She’s been teaching dance for 32 years and took over Susan’s classes when she retired, including a high school and adult jazz class.

Dana Blake is the sole tap teacher, and she also teaches ballet for both the youngest and the oldest students. She’s been teaching dance for 15 years and brings a wealth of knowledge from her early training at the School of The Pennsylvania Ballet.

The newest teacher to the Dance Factory is Jessie DeRosia, Kate’s daughter. Jessie has been dancing since she was 3 years old. She has performed in “The Nutcracker” as a student and now teaches hip-hop to students in kindergarten through fourth grade. She also assists Kate with administrative tasks.

Collectively, all five instructors have accrued over 102 years of experience teaching dance. One of the ideas Kate has to celebrate the Dance Factory’s 35th anniversary is to create a picture board with the teachers “now and then” and hopefully have the students do the same.

There are more plans in the works and Kate has big plans for the future of the Dance Factory, including expanding dance space and adding a dressing room for the boys now that there are more signing up for classes across different age groups.

For anyone who is interested in taking a class in the 35th season and participating in “The Nutcracker” or the May 2020 recital, contact Kate Frizzell-DeRosia 802-875-2561 or to learn more.

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