Dance Factory to celebrate 35 years next week
Always a step ahead, the dancers at the Dance Factory on Clay Avenue is celebrating 35 years in Jeannette.
Lifelong Jeannette resident Mary Anne Douglas Thomas opened the Dance Factory in 1978. She is a graduate of Jeannette High School and began dancing at age 3. Thomas studied with Jean Cooke, Peggy Wilson, and Judy Davidson.
After graduation, she enrolled in Point Park College where she majored in dance and performed with the school's dance company.
Thomas has been married for the past 35 years to Sam Thomas, her high school sweetheart. Sam Thomas is also a local business owner and operates C&S Market. The couple has three children, Jordan who resides in Morgantown, Brian, who resides in Jeannette, and Sarah Thomas Ponzetti who lives in Jeannette and works at the dance studio teaching and assisting her mother.
Ponzetti is the mother of two children, Dominico, age 4 and Lorenzo, 11 months old.
“I very much enjoy spending time with them,” said Thomas.
Thomas has been active in Dance Masters of Pennsylvania for 35 years and she currently serves as first vice president. “Dance Masters promotes the art of dancing and provides different opportunities for students including scholarships and competitions,” said Thomas.
For more than 18 years Thomas choreographed the routines for the Jeannette Midget Cheerleaders and is still very active in the community. During her children's high school years she was very involved with the parents clubs for football, basketball and cheerleading.
Dance Factory dancers have performed eight acts of dance at Westmoreland Mall and performed at the Jeannette 125th Anniversary Car Cruise. The school also performed at “Danspirations for Emily” — a fundraiser for Emily Leyland who is suffering from cancer — in December 2012.
Near and dear to Thomas' heart is the Dance Factory Divas. The group of women, former students, now in their 30s, started performing 15 years ago at the school's 20th anniversary and has continued to perform on landmark dates for Thomas.
The Divas will perform at this year's 35th anniversary recital.
Instructors at the Dance Factory include Ponzetti, Jessica Pawlik Haerr and Christy Markitell Gregory, who has been involved with the Dance Factory for more than 30 years and is an integral part of its growth.
“I haven't done this all by myself,” said Thomas.
Many of Thomas's students have gone on to professional careers in performance and most recently former student Tammy Felice was cast in a part in the movie “One Shot” starring Tom Cruise which was filmed in Pittsburgh. Felices's role was a television reporter. She moved to California in 2006, to pursue a career in the performing arts. For more on Felice, visit tammyfelice.com.
On June 7, Thomas and the Dance Factory dancers will hold their 35th Anniversary Recital “Tour of New York” at Jeannette High School at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $12.
The Dance Factory offers classes in tap, jazz, ballet, pointe lyrical, hip-hop, and acrobatic dance for all levels from beginners to advanced. Contact Mary Anne Thomas at 724-527-6190 for information.
Margie Stanislaw is a freelance writer.