School of Dance moves to Main Street

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BRATTLEBORO — It might be just a grand jete from its old location in the Harmony Lot, but Brattleboro School of Dance's new studio on Main Street will increase its visibility and accessibility.

"The footprint of downtown Brattleboro, a lot of it is allocated to retail," said Bridget Struthers, the owner of Brattleboro School of Dance. "It's nice to bring in arts at street level."

"Brattleboro's Main Street is really quite vibrant," said Sara Coffey, of Guilford, who purchased a portion of the former Candle in the Night location with her husband, David Snyder. "Having more events and arts organizations located in downtown is wonderful."

Coffey and Struthers, both dancers, met through mutual friends and shared common interests, especially making dance accessible to all ages and to those with limited means.

"Brattleboro School of Dance made a huge difference to me," said Struthers, who graduated from Brattleboro Union High School in 2005. "My family was not wealthy, and I worked there in exchange for taking classes."

Struthers grew up in Putney, dancing at Brattleboro School of Dance under the tutelage of founder Kathy Keller. Struthers went on to earn a B.A. in dance from Goucher College and a Master of Fine Arts in dance and new media from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. In 2012 she co-founded Bridge & Olive Dance with collaborator Olivia Wingerath — a contemporary dance duo that specializes in performing in unlikely places — as a creative outlet on the side.

Struthers said Brattleboro School of Dance put her on a path to a rewarding career, but she wanted more.

"There was this very random opportunity to purchase the dance school two years ago from Jen Moyse," she said. "I felt like I couldn't turn it down. It was the chance to return and reconnect. This is a beautiful community with a lot going on."

In August of last year, Donna and Larry Simons announced they were retiring and closing A Candle In The Night, a home furnishings store that had been on Main Street for 42 years. Coffey and Snyder will be the landlords of the space occupied by the Brattleboro School of Dance. Coffey and Snyder are also thinking about converting some of the basement into an annex of Guilford Sound, their residential recording studio in Guilford.

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"We are excited about what this can be," said Coffey, who also serves as a state representative for the Windham-1 District..

But that's only a portion of the building. Mitchell-Giddings Fine Arts occupies its own space on the first floor and First Proof Press, a membership printmaking studio managed by Daniel Chiaccio, is in the basement. In the back of the building is the In-Sight Photography Project.

"Donna and Larry made this whole thing possible," said Coffey. "They could have sold the building for a lot more money to people out of state who wanted to turn it into something else."

All of this comes at a time when Coffey has been winding down Vermont Performance Lab, which was opened in 2006 as "a performance incubator."

"This is an exciting way for us to stay involved in and support dance in the region," said Coffey.

Struthers said the School of Dance attracts dancers from around the tri-state region, ages 2 to 95, and trains dancers of all skill levels.

"We really like to keep it multi-generational," she said. "I want to give back to the community that raised me."

Coffey said the arts can be transformative for people who have been left behind by the current economic boon. And that includes men, women and children in communities in the tri-state region.

"We need to be paying attention to what's going on in rural America," said Coffey. "The arts are a really powerful way to bring people together. They're also a powerful economic engine."

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.


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