BRATTLEBORO -- The Brattleboro School of Dance has taken a big step into a new era.
Brattleboro School of Dance founder Kathleen Keller has sold the business to Jennifer Moyse, who assumed responsibility for the studio's operation on Oct. 1.
Keller, who founded the school in 1976, will remain on the faculty for the rest of the year to ensure a smooth transition, before enjoying some new adventures.
"Thirty-six years is a long time. I love teaching. (My husband Tim and I) want to just be able to do some stuff before we both get so decrepit we can't do things," said Keller. "It seemed like the right time."
Keller said she had been considering retirement for a number of years and knew the time was right after getting to know Moyse, who recently joined the BSD staff as a theater, jazz and Zumba instructor.
Discussion about selling the studio began last spring and gained momentum over the summer.
"Jen and I really started to get to know each other in August, and the more we worked together, the more I felt, 'Yeah, this is right,'" said Keller. "That's why I think it's really going to work."
For Moyse, owning a dance studio has been a lifelong dream, and one which came true in magical fashion - the deal was finalized on her birthday. She said she values the special characteristics of the Brattleboro School of Dance. They are what drew her to BSD and what she will strive hard to maintain.
"The atmosphere of family
Moyse brings experience managing two different studios while living in Los Angeles for 11 years, and teaching at a host of others. She moved to Brattleboro in 2009 with her husband, Joshua - a native of the area - and son, Dashiell. Prior to joining the Brattleboro School of Dance staff, she taught at Luminz Studio in the Cotton Mill.
Moyse holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater/Dance from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and certifications in Zumba, Zumbatomic (for kids) and Zumba Toning. She performed in musical theater, dance, theater, film and television in New York and Los Angeles, and continues to do so in the region.
Building on her training in dance, childhood psychology and education, Keller taught French, home economics and dance at Leland & Gray, before founding the BSD in 1976 to devote herself to teaching dance. At first, she rented space in a karate studio on Elliot Street and taught about 30 people. Over the years, the Brattleboro School of Dance grew steadily and moved in 2006 to spacious new quarters at 22 High St. It now offers classes for more than 200 students of all ages and abilities in ballet, pointe, jazz, theater jazz, hiphop, tap, modern, belly dance, Pilates/yoga, Pilates Mat and Zumba.
From the get-go, Keller sought to establish the school as place where students of all interests and abilities could dance - serious dancers could would prepare themselves for careers in dance, while everyone else could dance for fun and fitness.
"We've trained some pretty amazing dancers, and we've trained a lot of people who just love to dance," said Keller, who estimates that maybe 60 Brattleboro School of Dance have gone on to careers in the dance field - both on stage and backstage in costuming and tech work. Countless others have chosen careers in nutrition, health, physical therapy and nursing - choices which may reflect the lessons they learned at BSD.
And everyone who walks through the doors becomes part of the Brattleboro School of Dance family.
"It is important to support growth not just as a dancer but as a person. I think it's important that we all support each other. We all have hard times. ... We also laugh a lot," said Keller. "I think there are two aspects of the school that I'm really proud of and one is the sense of family. ... The other is maintaining that balance between the pre-professional track and the casual dancer or someone who dances for fitness. ... Finding someone who could appreciate that and maintain that was important."
Enter Moyse, who pledges to maintain those characteristics, and most of the school's great classes, including Jane LoMonaco's popular pilates program. The current will be staying on, although she will have Keller's big shoes to fill.
In the future, Moyse hopes to being her expertise to bear. "I would love to build the jazz and tap and hip-hop and modern in similar ways to the ballet level," she said.
In the meantime, Moyse will be teaching, spending time getting to know everyone in the BSD family and working closely with Keller to learn everything she can.
"I'm proud of what we've done," said Keller. "We've done what we really wanted to do."
For more information, contact the Brattleboro School of Dance at 802-254-6884 or visit www.brattleboroschoolofdance.com.