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Dance Academy to mark 20 years with this weekend's recital

WORTHINGTON -- In September 1996, Worthington native Kay Williams Prunty began offering local instruction in jazz, tap, modern and ballet to young dancers.The following May, Prunty's studio, The Dance Academy, mounted its first spring dance conce...

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Members of Kay Williams Prunty’s “True Colors” competition group are shown during Thursday rehearsal at Memorial Auditorium. (RYAN McGAUGHEY/DAILY GLOBE)

WORTHINGTON - In September 1996, Worthington native Kay Williams Prunty began offering local instruction in jazz, tap, modern and ballet to young dancers.
The following May, Prunty’s studio, The Dance Academy, mounted its first spring dance concert at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center with approximately 68 students featured.

Tonight at 6:30 p.m., and in performances at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, more than 200 students, along with several dance alumni and more than 20 “dancing dads,” will present numerous dances in celebration of The Dance Academy’s 20 years in existence.
“It’s such a joy to see the dancers progress from 3-year-olds to wonderful older kids,” said Prunty, who added an adult tap class this year as well as two competitive performance dance teams.
“Presenting dance as an art form and building dancers and dance families who respect the arts are some of the things I strive for,” she continued.
“But I’ve never felt I’m just out to create dancers; I’m trying to create performers and instill life skills that will help my students become successful adults, whether they’re performing in a choir or standing in front of a board room delivering a business presentation.”
At two studio locations in downtown Worthington, Prunty was aided this season by several adjunct instructors, including Randi Mimick, Molly Bishop, Caitlin Werder, Yao Thongmalong, Anna Koepsell, Lauren Martin and Laura Koepsell, the latter four having been dance students of Prunty’s.
“They’ve been terrific,” assured Prunty, who mentioned that the above assisted with a variety of classes, from ballet to competitive dance to a hip-hop boys group.
Because this weekend’s performances are themed “Celebrating 20 Years,” Prunty will invite all dance alumni in the audience to be briefly recognized during the shows.
“I’m not sure how many dance students I’ve had over the past 20 years, but I know it’s now well over 1,000,” said Prunty.
She delights in introducing new dancers to Memorial Auditorium annually, and in returning there each spring with her continuing students.
“Memorial Auditorium is a very special place to me, one that’s near and dear to my heart,” said Prunty. “I was 3 when I first performed there myself, and I danced and performed in musicals and other events there for what seemed like forever.
“It’s like home, and the day we get to ‘take possession’ each year in preparation for the dance concert just takes my breath away.”
And if Memorial Auditorium is like a second home, it’s to be expected that Prunty calls her students “a big family” of sorts.
“We truly become a family and are there for each other,” said Prunty of her dance families. “Watching these kids grow and develop over 10 to 15 years is so meaningful.”
Each spring brings a somewhat bittersweet note, as Prunty must bid farewell to her graduating seniors; this year, she has six who have danced with her for a combined total of 75 years.
“They (Emma Gerber, Ashley Hoefker, Shelby Kingery, Lexy Luft, Lauren Martin and Sarah Waldner) are all great dancers who have been with me for years, and I will miss them tremendously,” attested Prunty.
One of those seniors-Martin-has served as a Dance Academy teaching assistant for Prunty over the past four years.
“The little girls look up to her so much,” said Prunty of Martin. “She’s always positive, helpful, resourceful and respectful, and she taught a preschool dance class on her own this year - she did an amazing job.”
As she considers The Dance Academy’s first 20 years, Prunty is exceedingly grateful for her family, without whom she says she “simply couldn’t have done it,” and for Memorial Auditorium - both the facility and its staff.
“Tammy Makram and Mark Brodin have been absolutely fabulous, and I hope being at the auditorium will inspire other local families to want to support events there, and to support the Friends of the Auditorium,” said Prunty.
“Memorial Auditorium is a tremendous resource and facility for our community.”
Prunty is looking forward to The Dance Academy’s next 20 years, during which she aspires to teaching hundreds more children about the art of dance and the value of effort, whatever the endeavor may be.
“To be successful at something, you have to put in the time, and often you need to do more than the minimum,” exhorted Prunty.
“Hard work pays off, and everything in life that’s worth doing takes effort; I hope my students learn the value of a good work ethic as part of my classes.”
And while Prunty’s young students leap, prance, pirouette and tap their way across the stage tonight and tomorrow, rest assured she will be their biggest fan, cheering from the wings.
“My love and passion for teaching dance is still there,” professed Prunty.
“I love it as much as I did 20 years ago - if not more.”

Kay Williams Prunty’s The Dance Academy’s “Celebrating 20 Years” dance concert takes place at 6:30 p.m. today and 1 p.m. Saturday, with the 2016 Gala Dance Concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, all at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13th St., Worthington. Seats remain available for the two Saturday performances, and tickets may be purchased from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today at the box office or at the door. Call 376-9101 for more information. Visit kaysacademy.com for more information about The Dance Academy core classes and summer offerings.

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