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A dream realized: New dance studio opened by high school student in downtown Chesapeake

By Taylor Burnette

For The Tribune

CHESAPEAKE — Kenzie Buchanan, a student at Fairland High School, fulfilled her lifelong dream of opening her own dance studio in the area on July 25.

Studio 301, 518 Third Ave., held its grand opening at 5 p.m. on July 25, where students registered for classes. Classes the studio offers includes beginner through advanced ballet, including pinte and an adult ballet class, acrobatics, jazz and contemporary. Additionally, there are classes for younger dancers, including “Tiny Tappers & Tumblers” and “Mommy and Me,” classes.

Students can still register for fall classes, Buchanan said. If anyone was unable to attend registration, they can get in contact with the studio to register, or even show up 15 minutes early before a class to register throughout the fall.

Tuition is $10 per class, or $130 for unlimited classes throughout the month. Buchanan wants to make dance accessible to the area, and encourages those who are interested, but may be struggling, to pay to contact her.

“We’re not in this for the money,” Buchanan said. “Obviously, making money is what a business is, but that’s not what my concern is. I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what your age is; you need to dance. Everybody needs to dance.”

The studio is taking extra care amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Buchanan said, by providing free masks to those who need one and strongly encouraging all of their students over age 10 to wear one. There will be hand sanitizer available as well and they will be deep cleaning each evening after classes. Buchanan has closely monitored state guidelines, she said.

Buchanan began her own dance journey at age 3, and dreamed of owning her dance studio since age 5. What inspired her to open her own business at age 16 was her lifelong passion for dance, and a dream of sharing the art with others.

“I always wanted a dance studio my entire life,” Buchanan said. “It’s always been a dream of mine, and it kind of just came into place. When the governor told us we had to stay at home was when everything kind of clicked into place for me, because I finally had a chance to just sit down and take a breath.”

Buchanan began work on the little studio in downtown Chesapeake amidst the global pandemic, painting the walls pink and hanging up her dance-themed artwork.

Although Buchanan will teach many of the classes herself, some of her other teachers will include her mother, Melissa Buchanan, who has been dancing since a young age as well, Marshall students, and many other talented teachers from around the region.

The challenges of running a dance studio as a high schooler became a bit more manageable with the global pandemic moving classwork entirely online, Buchanan said. She is a College Credit Plus student at Fairland High School, taking many of her classes through the local branch of Ohio University, something she recommends to other students as well.

When discussing opening the business, Buchanan said she feels like she didn’t really work very hard, but that she was just doing what she loves.

“If you’re doing something, and it feels like it’s hard work, it’s probably not your passion, you know, this doesn’t feel hard for me it just comes naturally,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan said she hopes to provide a unique experience to her students with a teaching style very focused on technique, building a good basis for each dancer as they progress.

Additionally, Buchanan will be offering a competitive dance program, something she said opens up opportunities to learn from a diverse set of teachers.

“The competitive dance program is great too because we don’t have any costume fees and we don’t have any rehearsal fees, which it goes back to if you want to perform, if you want to dance, we will make it work,” Buchanan said. “We want you to be here dancing.”

She said her studio will help prepare dancers no matter what their goals are, whether that be a professional career in dance or dancing for fun.

“It’s something new, and it’s a great way to meet new people,” Buchanan said. “It’s a great way to exercise, and it’s a great way to have a new creative art outlook on it.”

Buchanan’s students will have performance opportunities in the spring, based on how things are going with the pandemic. In October, her baton students will have the opportunity to perform in their own personal parade in Ritter Park.

For Buchanan, she hopes to see her studio become an integral part of the community, a place where everyone has been through before, bringing a unique opportunity for those from “18 months up through age 99” to dance.

“I want it to be something bigger. and I want it to be somewhere that everyone in the community can kind of be like ‘Yeah, I’ve been there before. Yeah I had a great time there,’” Buchanan said. “I want it to be the community’s dance studio.”

Buchanan’s mother Melissa said she is immensely proud of her daughter, and that she wishes she could say her daughter “learned it from her.”

“I think it’s awesome,” Melissa said. “I think it’s really cool and obviously I’m proud of her, super proud of it, but sometimes it’s mind blowing to watch her take this on and know what she’s doing.”

For Buchanan, she hopes to continue teaching dance classes and owning her dance studio for the rest of her life.

“Hopefully my future looks like owning this dance studio for the rest of my life, and that would be my 100 percent dream,” Buchanan said.