By Ian Nadeau

Atlantic News, Thursday, August 30, 2001

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News.]

REACH FOR THE STARS — Holly-Jane Dance Center Director Holly-Jane Johnson bestows some of her knowledge on top student Caitlin Mahoney. Registration is currently underway for the 2001-2002 season at the center’s new location at 835 Lafayette Road between Newick’s Seafood and Eno Building Supply and Design Center.
[Atlantic News Photo by Ian Nadeau]

HAMPTON — Holly-Jane Johnson has been dancing almost as long as she’s been walking. Her parents enrolled her in dance classes when she was just 2-1/2 in the hopes that it would help her overcome a noticeably shy disposition. Looking back, Johnson says it was the best thing they could have done for her.

Nowadays Johnson is the teacher, helping her students find that voice that is oftentimes so elusive during our formative years. As Director of the Holly-Jane Dance Center she teaches all of her students – from the pre-schoolers to the seniors in high school – the joys of the art of dancing while nurturing their sense of personal accomplishment and pride in their abilities.

“A lot of kids come here that are very shy and they find an outlet through movement that they can’t verbalize,” she says.

With over 30 years of teaching experience, Johnson is one of the most seasoned and gifted instructors on the Seacoast, if not the country. She is on the Board of Directors for the Dance Teachers Club of Boston, the Dance Masters of America New England Chapter and was recently honored as a Life Member of the Dance Educators of America for 25 consecutive years as a member in good standing. She has tutored award-winning students in ballet, tap, pointe, jazz and acrobatics and even choreographed for Miss Massachusetts who went on to finish in the top 10 in the Miss America Pageant.

While her resume is one of the most impressive in the industry, Johnson continues to seek out knowledge pertaining to her craft. A recent scholarship to the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she spent the majority of the summer, allowed her to further enhance her knowledge and abilities.

“It was so refreshing, dancing from 8:30 in the morning until 9 at night,” she recounts. “I learned a lot of new concepts that I will be applying down here at the Dance Center – teaching the same material in a different way”.

The Holly-Jane Dance Center, now in its eighth year on the Seacoast, has recently changed addresses. After finding its home in the North Hampton Factory Outlet Mall for so long, the studio has been forced to relocate to make way for the incoming Shaw’s Supermarket.

Fortunately, Johnson was able to secure a location with every bit as much potential as the old dance center.

The new and improved Holly-Jane Dance Center can be found at 835 Lafayette Road between Newick’s Seafood Restaurant and Eno Building Supply and Design Center. “I like it! It’s spacious, it’s got a lot of potential, and lot of room to grow into,” proclaims Johnson, who also confesses to missing the old center a little. She says that she has some plans for the new place that are in the works, but nothing concrete yet.

Registration is now underway for the 2001-2002 season, which commences on September 17 and will run until early June. Johnson, who teaches almost all of the classes herself (Roseanne Ridings conducts the ballet class), instructs roughly 300 students each season. While she admits that it makes for a tiresome week, she wouldn’t change it for a thing.

“I love seeing the beginning, middle and end,” she says. “Every year when Fall comes, the new kids arrive and the old ones come back a little more mature. I get to see their progress and help foster their love of the art.”

The Dance Center offers classes in a wide variety of styles and skill levels. Students can begin their training as young as 3 years old. Children in the fundamental classes are given a diverse background in jazz, tap and ballet dancing.

“When the children get serious, usually when they’re in fourth or fifth grade, they enroll in the Danceworks Preparatory Program, which consists of anywhere from 3 to 5-1/2 hours a week,” Johnson reveals. “This class give the student a more well-rounded background that will be necessary if they choose to pursue dance as an occupation in the future.”

All classes, both advanced and beginner, culminate in a year-end performance tentatively scheduled for early June, to be held at Portsmouth High School. Johnson says that the production is always very professionally done and clearly the highlight of the students’ year. “They love it, they love that moment on the stage,” she says.

Last year’s theme was “Arabian Nights.” Each and every performance of the night relates to the theme. After the show, Johnson usually tells the students what next year’s theme will be, but this year she’s keeping quiet: Instead, she is running a contest where the student who guesses closest to the theme will be awarded dance wear.

The recitals constitute a profound moment for the parents as well. “The parents are often overwhelmed with joy at the self-confidence and pride the students have for their accomplishments,” Johnson explains. “Some of the parents of the ballet students have been brought to tears at the sight of their daughters on pointe.”

Registration continues right up until the September 17 start date but space is limited. The Holly-Jane Dance Center offers discounts for multiple children or multiple classes. For registration times or general information call 929-4300.