Cultivating more than just performances, Pat’s Dance Studio creates a second home and community for local dancers in a stress-free environment. He’s likely to walk into Pat’s house and see dancers doing homework in the meeting room or parents discussing their child’s entry into a new class. Owner and manager, Melanie Vaughan, wants the public to know that everyone is welcome and home.
Buying the business after her aunt Pat Randazzo in 1979 founded and worked at Pat’s for 38 years, Vaughan is now in her fourth year and 42n/a studio season. The performative community studio welcomes children of all genders ages 2-18 who learn jazz, tap, ballet and musical theatre.
Vaughan says it’s important for students’ self-esteem and mental health to let them thrive in an environment free of stress and competition. She likes to let the kids have a say in operations, like which movie to watch for movie night.
“Our kids are pretty good at competitions…but this should be their happy place to go when they don’t want to be home,” Vaughan explained of the studio’s performance-based ideology. His passion stems from “helping[ing] these children go through their adolescence and become better people.
During Covid-19, 65% of dancers were not present due to the move to virtual and other pandemic-related reasons. Now back in the studio and following all Center for Disease Control guidelines, it would take a 23% increase to reach the original number of children in attendance. For Vaughan, reopening the studio was a step in rebuilding her business, but she’s not yet a full member.
Reflecting on Covid trials and due to close on her birthday, she ‘kept everyone healthy’ by limiting capacity, banning parents from entering the building, installing new sanitation points, installing new filters in the HVAC and making boxes on the floors to keep everyone six feet apart. As a member of the Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, she says they also helped every step of the way.
“It’s important to be here and open for my students and my parents. Having that safe place to go. That camaraderie, having that connection; we are a hub. We’re kind of at the center of it all,” Vaughan said, emphasizing how important relationships within the studio are.
Swearing there’s a mysticism to the building, she said: “There’s a feeling to this building, and I don’t know what my aunt put in the wall, but there’s something in the walls. that makes you feel at home.” As a tribute to his aunt, who put so many hours into the business, Vaughan has his aunt’s dining table in his study as a symbol of where the family gathers.
The connections made from the studio are lifelong, Vaughan attests. Every day, she receives a message from former students on social media to talk and update on their dancing career. Fostering ongoing relationships is especially important to Vaughan, she concluded: “Once you’re a Pat dancer, you’re always a Pat dancer… It doesn’t matter when you came in, when you stopped, or if you came for a year and never came back. , you’re still Pat’s family.