By Christie Barlow
While most 18-year-olds are worried about making friends their freshmen year of college, Kelly O’Shea was hunting for locations and building up clientele to open her own dance studio.
After 18 years of hard work, O’Shea was faced with a tough decision. Stay in New York and continue to run her dance studio, made up of more than 200 students, or move to North Carolina and start over again.
Two years ago O’Shea found herself in Concord and set to work building another dance studio. It didn’t take long for her to collect a dedicated group, but she wasn’t gaining the number of students she wanted. Again, she packed her bags and went in search of another location. She found the perfect spot in Harrisburg and intends to stay put.
On N.C. 49 next to the Circle K gas station and across the street from A.J.’s Restaurant, Kelly O’Shea’s Performing Arts Studio has been hard at work creating the kind of environment O’Shea is used to. O’Shea’s studio, previously a welding shop, underwent a complete makeover. The studio contains a waiting room for parents, a kitchen area, a tumbling room, a free weight area and a mirrored studio.
“It’s been a tough road, but I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” O’Shea said. “Harrisburg has been my hero.”
O’Shea offers classes for everyone from two-year-olds to adults, in every level of experience and just about every style of dance. She teaches jazz, ballet, tap, lyrical and hip-hop classes, offers tumbling, is a certified trainer and will soon be offering vocal lessons.
Since moving to the Harrisburg location around two months ago, O’Shea has seen the number of students in her studio increase dramatically. Many of the students she taught in Concord made the move to the Harrisburg studio with her, but O’Shea said in two months she has added around 20 students.
O’Shea prides herself on making her studio a welcoming environment. One of the most important aspects of her studio is that she has a hand in teaching every class that’s offered. O’Shea wants to build relationships with her students and make the studio a place where they feel at home.
“I want it to be one big happy family,” O’Shea said. “I believe in kids having fun and making friends, but they’re going to walk out of here sweating and having learned something.”
That’s exactly the feeling that Valerie Eaton and Brooke and Blair Lucas had after joining O’Shea’s studio two years ago. The girls started lessons with O’Shea in Concord and made the switch to her new studio.
“It’s basically a home a way from home,” Eaton said. “I’ve tried so many dance studios, as soon as I came here, I said ’Mom, we’re not looking anywhere else.’ ”
It’s not uncommon for Eaton or the Lucas’ to come to the studio after school and stay until 9 p.m. O’Shea has a passion for dancing that makes her fun to be around, Brooke said.
O’Shea is putting that passion to work with several big plans for July. In mid-July she’ll host a summer camp themed around the performing arts and will also host a “So you want to dance” competition on July 28.
Dancers will give two-minute auditions and O’Shea and a panel of judges will pick the winners. There will be two winners, each of whom will be awarded a dance scholarship to O’Shea’s studio.
“Some parents can’t afford to get their kids into dance, some haven’t gotten around to it,” O’Shea said. “This is a way to help kids who have talent but have got to use it.”
• Contact Christie Barlow at [email protected] or 704-789-9140.