Dance studio closes just prior to 25th anniversary recital
Until early this spring, toddler to teen students at the Dancin' Feet studio on Church Street were polishing tap, ballet and modern dance routines they expected to perform for the 25th anniversary spring recital in May.
Instead, Dancin' Feet owner and sole dance instructor/choreographer Bonnie McLean stunned dancers and parents with the news there would be no recital this spring.
Unable to continue teaching classes, Mrs. McLean said she would refund costume deposits.
Mrs. McLean and her students, many who have danced with "Mrs. Bonnie'' since just after they learned to walk, were teary-eyed over the announcement, several dancers and parents recalled.
"To all students and parents of Dancin' Feet: Regretfully, due to unexpected personal circumstances, I am not able to continue my commitment to teaching classes at this time -- and all classes at Dancin' Feet will be discontinued after open classes this week,'' said a brief note she delivered to students and parents.
"Thank you for sharing yourselves with me throughout these past 25 years," the note read. "Above all... keep on dancing!''
Some parents said Mrs. McLean did mail a follow-up letter informing families that Studio D on Main Street, a local competitor, would accept students into those classes.
Plans for Studio D's "Alice In Wonderland'' show, to be held Saturday and Sunday, however, were already under way and new students would have to wait a year for the next recital.
Parent Nancy Cawley, whose two daughters, Devon, a high school senior, and Paige, a sophomore, have been dancing with Mrs. McLean since they were in pre-school, said they were disappointed, but depart with the fondest memories.
"I know, whatever the reason, she did not do this lightly,'' Ms. Cawley said, noting Mrs. McLean's decision does not in anyway diminish what she gave to her daughters over the years.
Ms. Cawley and other parents said they appreciated the students and were never under any pressure to make dance their sole extracurricular activity. She added her daughters danced only once a week and yet, over time, became quite proficient dancers.
"I just thought Bonnie was amazing,'' Ms. Cawley said. "She was the only one who taught every single class and choreographed every single dance. She was a one-woman show and she pulled it off, year after year.''
Village Center Organization President Jayson Roberts, whose art school is just down the street from the dance studio, said news of the closing came as a "shock.''
"For a long time, she was the only game in town,'' said Mr. Roberts.
In recent years, New Milford and the surrounding towns have seen a growth in dance schools, with some catering to professional performance and others more recreationally oriented.
Parent and longtime recital assistant Jen McCaughan said she will miss the pleasure of working back stage.
"I loved it. It was good for the girls, and the girls all loved Mrs. Bonnie,'' said McCaughan, whose daughter, Samantha, a first-grader, took her dance classes for two years. "She'll be missed.''