FARMINGTON — The walls and ceiling of Paula McPherson’s dance studio reflect her students’ appreciation of 20 years devoted to teaching: Graduating students have left numerous notes and pictures.
McPherson would like to bring those students back for the 20th anniversary celebration of Broadway Academy of Dance to perform together. The Academy’s annual dance recital is planned this year for May 22 and 23 at Messalonskee Performing Arts Center in Oakland. Students are returning from Seattle, Wash., and Washington, D.C.
The recital will include routines from the past, favorites that people said they love, said McPherson’s daughter, Lauryn Wyman known as Miss Lauryn to students, who returned to Farmington a few years ago from a stint of professional dancing to help teach classes.
Sporting a “live to dance, dance to live” T-shirt, McPherson said she started dancing at age 4. After getting involved in gymnastics in high school and away from dance for a while, she decided it was time to return to dancing and start teaching. She shared her love of dance with her daughter who grew up helping in the studio. Now her grandson, Kyedn, 5, is learning to dance.
Both mother and daughter love not only dancing but teaching others to dance.
“They are the clay and we mold them into dancers,” McPherson said. “It’s exciting to us when they master a step.”
Teaching reaches beyond dance. For many students who may not have a great home life, the studio becomes a haven, the only place they feel safe or happy, according to the writings on the walls.
Through dance, the women also teach self-confidence and compassion, she said. The students bond with each other and they feel accepted here.
Wyman, who danced professionally at Disney World and then on tour as an opening act for “In Sync,” prefers teaching to performing in front of thousands. It makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something, she said.
“Teaching keeps me young,” McPherson said.
Starting with just 30 students at the Community Center 20 years ago, she soon outgrew the space moving on to other locations before finally building a 30-foot by 40-foot studio at 171 Perham St.
“It was built with the help of volunteers, parents of students, 14 years ago,” she said.
Now the women teach 200 students in classes running from September to May except this summer when they will open Broadway Academy of Dance II starting in June at Fitness Style in Livermore Falls.
Along with the traditional ballet, jazz and tap-dance classes, hip-hop classes are also offered for students ranging from age 4 to the mid-70s, McPherson said.
The studio has seen more male students over the years. And the television show, “So You Think You Can Dance,” has opened more doors.
Wyman feels it also helped overcome parents’ feeling “my boy isn’t going to take dance class.”
Packed shows at Mt. Blue High School for several years, where audiences would wait in line for over four hours to try to get limited seating, led McPherson to change the location of the annual spring show to Oakland where more seats are available.
Alumni students are invited to contact McPherson at 778-5755 to participate in the May recital.