Dancecenter North has new home, same family feel
When Dancenter North Director Stacy Keller considered buying the business this spring, she knew she simultaneously faced another major decision.
The 45-year-old Libertyville dance studio on Milwaukee Avenue would have to close for at least six months while building repairs were made or it would have to move to a new location. Keller of Gurnee chose the latter.
After an extensive search and a lot of complicated maneuvering, Dancecenter North relocated to a 12,300-square-foot facility at 5410 Grand Ave. in Gurnee that had once been a church. The final sale of the dance studio to Keller took until July, but she continued to direct classes in the Libertyville building until the end of May, just before the buildout of the new space was completed.
Her new studio opened mid-June. Classes began one week late.
Moving "was a huge undertaking," said Keller, 41, a former Joffrey ballerina who has taught at Dancenter North for 11 years. "Not only did we have to break the news that we needed to move out of our beloved Libertyville space, but we also had to rebuild a studio to standards we believed would maintain our families and prestige. Not easy to do on a shoestring budget."
She added, "It was pretty crushing to me and everyone involved. Change is difficult, but I do believe we made the best of it and Dancenter North deserved a fresh new start."
During this transition, Keller's husband, Geno Kett, 42, oversaw the building's reconfiguration and construction as he worked with the village and contractors to ensure student safety. This included installing ADA-complaint ramps, professional sprung dance floors, "pony" half walls, barres, mirrors, and other cosmetic amenities.
Office space, a kitchen and student lounge were added, along with accommodations for costumes, props and sets that had been stored offsite. All this took place during an intense 75 days.
Amid constant communication between Keller, the staff and the Dancecenter North families, most staff, dancers and families pitched in to lend their help during the transition and move.
"DCN is a community," said costume mistress Jan Craven 59, from Lindenhurst, "a family built on a love of dance that transcends any building."
To help prepare for the move, a huge rummage sale was held, featuring 45 years of costumes, scenery, furniture and other items no longer deemed necessary, along with an open house for families and former students to review old photos and memorabilia. By the move, a large number of items still had to be disposed of and/or packed.
Keller said it was the love and dedication of the students that clinched her decision to procure the new space and keep the school going.
"As hard as it was to leave Libertyville and although we are going to be paying off loans for quite a while, Geno and I are playing many different roles in order to keep it running," she said. "I'm very happy with the new school. Ever since the dance space was ready, it felt like home to me. There is a happy buzz in the hallways and in the studios at all times and that's all I could ever hope for."
Jazz teacher Christina Bushala, 29, of Mundelein, said that, although moving to a new location was a huge undertaking, "Stacy was a leader. (She) stepped up and saved the studio."
Dancecenter North offers its nearly 300 students 124 classes weekly. The studio continues its mission to teach a variety of dance forms and important life lessons, such as respect, the importance of support and time management.
Former student Noa Dahan, 21, of Buffalo Grove, said DCN shaped her work ethic, her focus and how she approaches things. "(Dance) truly fosters success and prepares you (for) anything you want to do through fostering a sense of resilience, family and incredible mentorships."
Dancecenter North teacher and former Bolshoi ballerina, Olga Chudaikina, 62, of Round Lake, said dance is not just about talent.
"It's not just a business. Dance is health. It is an investment in the future of our country," Chudaikina said. "We help children and their parents find beauty, harmony and happiness."
Several public performances are held annually, starting with The Nutcracker at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan on Friday, Dec. 6, and three additional performances at Libertyville High School on Dec. 14 and 15. A spring show will take place at the high school on April 25, while five one-hour shows called a défilé, or parade, will be at Carmel High School on May 23 and 24.
For more information, contact Dancenter North at (847) 367-7970 or visit www.dancenter-north.com.