By leaps and bounds Otisfield sisters dancing their way to a dream

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CASCO – The children did not have the coordination quite yet to pull off a series of graceful chassés, or a scissor-like dance step that requires stepping one foot forward and gliding the next foot to meet it. But every student definitely got the “jump!” bit.

“Chassé, chassé, run, run, run, jump!,” the instructions came from teenage instructors Hannah and Nettie Gentempo.

After performing their chassés, which looked more like a shuffling run, five small dancers each got their turn to leap like a ballet star at the end of their sprint across the studio floor.

The students, ages 5 to 9, were in their weekly Friday dance classes, taught by 17-year-old Hannah and 18-year-old Nettie, both of Otisfield.

The Gentempos have also recruited their mother to teach their students ballet moves for a short period during each of their three classes for different age groups. And so the French terms, like chassés and demi-pliés, come from mom, Jennifer Gentempo, who is a trained ballerina.

The two sisters, who are both home schooled, opened their dance school last fall, and teach about 25 students ages 3 to 15.

“It’s always been on our minds,” Nettie said, about teaching the class. “And the owners asked us if we wanted to teach here. We baby-sit their kids and teach them to dance.”

She was referring to the owners of the Bushido Karate Dojo and Fitness studio in Casco, Lisa and Eric Magiera. The Magieras rent them their dojo studio, charging the girls based on the number of students.

“There is just something fresh and new about them,” Lisa Magiera said. “They are not complicated, and they’re doing what they love to do.”

Last summer, the girls put up flyers around the area and started spreading the word, and 12 kids showed up for the first lesson in September. The number of students has doubled.

“They can be creative and run around,” Hannah said.

“If I could have taken classes with a teenager, I would have,” Nettie said.

Jennifer Gentempo said her daughters are passionate about dancing and have formed a local troop of dancers called Nevaeh, or heaven spelled backward. Its logo is, “dance like nobody’s watching.”

The two sisters have never had intensive dance training, although they’ve been taught by their mother and Debi Irons, an instructor in Norway. And they are taking a year’s worth of free classes at the Dance Studio of Maine in Gorham after they won a statewide competition last summer.

“I am really proud of them,” Jennifer Gentempo said, sitting at the side of the studio and watching her daughters and their older students move to a hip-hop song. “They dance all the time. We put an addition on the house, and they wait for nighttime so they can use the reflections in the window to watch themselves.”

Because both of the girls have been schooled at home, they’ve had space and time to develop their creativity. Jennifer recalled trying to force feed her oldest daughter math.

“She’s always been independent and free. She writes poetry and songs,” Gentempo said. Mom would try to drill Nettie on math, and she would protest, “My head is too full of dances and poems.”

And Hannah has already decided on a possible service career. She told her mom once, “I want a job as a party starter. When people are too self-conscious to dance, I’ll start dancing.”

With the success from their classes, the girls have been able to set up bank accounts. But while they say they have gained satisfaction from watching their students improve over time, their dream is just to dance.

“It’s almost like you’re in a different place,” Nettie said, describing why she loves dancing. “For every song, I feel an emotion and hope other people can feel it, too.”

The sisters have an uncle living close to New York City, and they both have tossed around the idea of trying to make it there. And their mother said the two sisters are so close that she suspects if they embark on any adventure, they’ll dance through it together.

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