Students Learn Dance, Friendship and Discipline at the Trenton School of Dance
The Trenton School of Dance was opened in 1976 by Trenton resident and experienced dancer Judy Shamanski.
"Shoulders straight, Reagan."
"Spring through, Reagan."
"Palms to you, Reagan."
With her arms jutting from her sides and toes pointed, Reagan Wellman spun and jumped across a large room with a wall-sized mirror on one side and pictures of ballet dancers on another, while two instructors called out directions.
Reagan is a student at the Trenton School of Dance. She's 10 years old. She's been dancing at the school since she turned three.
"It's something I can put all my passion into," Reagan said.
Reagan is one of hundreds of girls who've spent countless hours over the past 37 years practicing ballet under the tutelage of the instructors at the Trenton School of Dance.
In 2009, Meredith Shamanski, 28, of Detroit, took ownership of the school after her aunt, Trenton resident Judy Shamanski, decided to retire.
"She comes in to check up on me," Meredith Shamanski said. "She's well-loved among current students."
Meredith Shamanski, her cousin Errin Menna, 29, and Charlie Howard, 26, make up the school's staff; each began dancing when they were very young.
Meredith Shamanski has a bachelor's degree in dance from Eastern Michigan University and has been dancing under her aunt's direction since she could walk.
"My aunt was trained in Detroit in the Cecchetti method, which is a strict ballet training method," Meredith Shamanski said. "She danced for the Detroit City Ballet, which is no longer around."
Menna and Howard have full-time jobs during the day, but from the time the school opens at 4 p.m. to the time it schools at 9 p.m., their focus becomes teaching ballet, jazz and tap dancing.
Menna, a high school teacher in Dearborn Heights, said she likes teaching the younger students.
"They wanna be here and they always have a smile on their faces," Menna said.
While staff encourage everyone ages three to 18 to register for classes, acceptance to the school can be tricky. Registration is only available in August and some previous dance training is often required.
"It can be very difficult to teach dance to an older student who has never taken dance before," Howard said.
Meredith said students often begin taking classes at the school at a very young age and return year after year because they want dance to play a major role in their lives. Students often make strong friendships with fellow dancers.
Dance mom Michelle Toth's two daughters attend up to five classes per week.
"They love going to dance class because they have such good relationships with both the staff and their friends they dance with," Toth said.
One-by-one students marched in through the glass door of the Trenton School of Dance and out onto the gray tile floor as quietly as the soft, slick shoes strapped to the bottom of their feet. With their heads still and eyes straight ahead, their hands felt for a long wooden bar hanging from the wall. The music played. And they danced.
"It's a passion for me," Meredith Shamanski said. "I love the connection with the kids."