By Theresa Goffredo / Herald Writer
W hen Dawne Barela read that The Dance School was opening, she cried.
Not all dance schools evoke this emotion in Barela. But this isn’t just any dance school.
The Dance School has opened at the former site of the Betty Spooner School of Dance, an institution in Everett for 79 years until it closed in 2004.
Barela’s daughter Francessca, 13, had danced at the Spooner school for four years. When it closed, she drifted from school to school, never connecting anywhere.
The Barela family decided they would travel far to find the right school for Francessca. Then they learned they didn’t have to.
“We had made that commitment to travel for her because of her passion,” Dawne Barela said. “After we made that commitment, the next day, the story came out in The Herald and I cried and she cried.”
Francessca never wanted to leave the place that first lighted her fire for dance.
“I love it. It feels the same. The memories are the same,” Francessca said of the new Dance School. “It’s cool, the little kids look in the window at me while I’m performing and it reminded me of when I used to do that.”
The Dance School’s artistic director, Steve Casteel, agreed that some of the students have returned because they spent so much of their lives in the building.
“It means so much to them and we wanted to create a studio that feels like home,” Casteel said.
The Dance School is a not-for-profit corporation formed by a group of committed parents and community leaders.
A week ago, The Dance School had 71 students. The school is still holding open registration and inviting potential students to take a free class and check it out.
The board of The Dance School knew all along they wanted a new school because they couldn’t replace the Spooner school or Spooner’s son, Michael Jordan, who for 37 years taught tap, ballet and jazz dancing to thousands of Snohomish County children. Jordan died May 6, 2004, at age 69.
After Jordan’s death, the school shut down. The historic Vasa Building sat in disrepair.
The board renovated the building, adding a second daylight studio and dancer-friendly sprung floors.
Hannah Larson, 14, who had studied under Jordan, was relieved about the remodeling.
“I was kind of nervous. It was hard to go in that building,” said Hannah, who took classes there immediately after Jordan died but wound up walking out in the middle of a session.
“But now it’s changed,” Hannah said. “It’s not the same place really.”
Other changes can be found in some new class offerings geared to the younger set – the real younger set.
There’s a parent and toddler class that starts when the child is walking and introduces a wide variety of music, props and rhythm instruments. There’s also a parent and child class for ages 21/2 to 4 that’s geared to refining motor skills and creative thinking.
Casteel said students and parents alike are excited about the remodeled building and the new classes. He believes those are changes for the better.
Casteel said the board wanted to pay homage to what Jordan created but added that The Dance School is a new school.
“And we’re hoping students accept the new school for what it is,” he said.
Jordan’s death was traumatic for Francessca. He gave her the love for ballet she has today, Dawne Barela said. Now Francessca loves being back.
“I didn’t like any place I went,” Francessca said. “It wasn’t the same.”
Arts writer Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424 or goffredo@ heraldnet.com.