‘Life is great: dance makes it better’


Special to the OBSERVER

When running a business, the last thing one thinks they will be doing is windows.

“Every time I wash the windows I find new nose prints on the glass by the next day,” reports Rosanne Chesbro.

But those prints are a sign of interest and curiosity generated by 158 Lake Shore Drive East, which stands out with fresh blue paint and a wide new parking area. The building has served many purposes over the years. It was most recently called A Touch of Grey with lots of tie dyed items. Before, it was a motorcycle customizing shop, a tattoo studio, a rubber stamp and arts and crafts shop, legal and dental office space and the home of Beltone Hearing.

But today, almost through a transformation, it stands as Chadwick Bay Academy of Dance.

“As part of the building’s transformation, many interior walls have been removed. “We dancers like our space” says Chesbro, business owner.

Spacious dance studios greet you with a variety of floor surfaces, some new hardwood floors, some with a rubber based padded underlayment. Directly in the back, one step up, is a charming boutique offering all the items one might need to fulfill a little girl’s fantasy: costumes, tutus, dancing shoes, tights, leotards, gift bags, jewelry, books, music boxes and t-shirts. The T-shirts read “Life is great; Dance makes it better.”

Chesbro can make the case for this motto. She describes how dance is both logical and creative, working both sides of the brain, developing skills always useful in later life. Dance instills discipline, provides a physical workout for muscles, cardio and stress relief and is, of course, a great medium for socialization. The center serves all ages. Some mothers come with their daughters. She has also had boys and was delighted to have a dad from Fredonia State come with his daughter. Overall, about 300 students a week are enjoying the benefits of dance at this center as well as at Jamestown Community College where she also teaches, at both ends of the county. Five staff are on board to assist.

There are many choices of activities here. During the summer kids can choose to attend session one or two of Creative Camp during July and August, which includes many of the above activities plus beach walking, fashion design, music and art. Chesbro advocates the summer program “in the spirit of trying something new.” Air conditioning is definitely a summer plus.

Another opportunity thorough the academy is a trip to New York City planned for November where participants will take in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, have private classes with the Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall and take in a Broadway show. There will be fundraisers to support the adventure: raffles, car washes, an indoor yard sale and flower sales. The trip is open to anyone and the list is growing.

So where does all this creativity and energy come from? Chesbro grew up in Cheektowaga and has been dancing since age 3. Only once, at about age 12, did she leave dance, mainly as a teen rebellion, but missed it so much she begged to go back within two weeks. Tap is her favorite but she obviously loves everything she does. Her mother has been an inspiration to her. Her mother was diagnosed with MS while Chesbro was only 9 and is now confined to a wheelchair. Chesbro came to Chautauqua County to attend Fredonia State University and has since made this her home.

Sally Jane Crino has also been a mentor and teacher for her for 10 years. Crino created this dance school in 1973 and first operated in a space behind her husband’s music shop on Central Avenue in Dunkirk. She is a talented artist as well and made the staging and scenery which continues to be used in the new studio. When Crino retired on the 25th anniversary of the Academy, Chesbro was given the opportunity to take over this established business.

As classes grew she expanded to classes at The Adams Art Gallery during the years when Kay Barlow was the director and kept the art center a bustling sort of place with monthly shows. Chesbro’s special niche in this dance endeavor is sewing. She makes all the costumes and adapts them to suit the style of dance involved.

There is a major recital for the dance students each June, usually in the Marvel Theater at SUNY Fredonia. On alternate years there is a Christmas Show as well as many chances for the children to perform in many different venues such as the county fair, St. Columban’s Home, Relay for Life and local parades.

What is Chesbro’s vision for the future? She envisions a second floor on the building (it was originally designed with a second floor in mind) with a pitched roof and one glorious studio room with hardwood floors. She also wants to identify a person who will be able to take over the business when she retires. This hardworking entrepreneur may need help long before, as her business thrives and her days, in season, stretch from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. My guess is she does not want to give up a minute of this work. Happily, she reports, “I’m making a life for myself!”