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It’s about more than dancing.
When you walk into the Guys and Dolls Dance Studio at 1390 Peck Settlement Road in Jamestown, NY, a life-size cut-out of Elvis invites you to “Come in, we’re OPEN.”
Open for Business has been the key to success at the studio for 55 years. On Saturday, May 14, from 7 to 10 p.m., Laura Cimino, owner and director of Guys and Dolls Dance Studio, will host an Open House party to thank her thousands of friends for their patronage over all those years in business.
“Cookies, cake, punch and fun,” Laura promised with all the enthusiasm she is so well known for. “There is a lot to see and hear. Come and be part of history.”
Memorabilia, collected over a lifetime occupies shelves and corners, lines the walls of the entryway and continues throughout the large space inside. Much of the memorabilia belonged to her parents, or otherwise represents her parents’ lives. Much of the studio is about the collections, and they are organized by theme.
“I love old things, especially music,” Laura said.
One area is for stuffed animals, another for magazines. A corner is devoted to Laura’s musical life, highlighted by keyboards and bongo drums. Record albums and posters cover most of the walls. Fancy dresses, including dresses Laura wears to charity balls are prominently displayed.
“I’m going to wear my ‘Yes I Can’ shirt,’” she says as she caresses the garment. “With my Wonder Woman tutu…and red headband.”
It’s about love.
“It’s about love,” Laura says breathlessly as she dances from station to station where the various collections are arranged.
“When a couple is here dancing, they’re holding each other for an hour instead of watching television or playing with their telephones. Guys and Dolls Dance Studio is about love.”
According to Laura, she has hundreds of clients, and thousands have learned to dance in the studio’s long history. The website, www.gddance.net, lists current offerings, but couples and singles can learn ballroom dancing, country western dancing, jazz, swing and more. Laura taught dance to children for 25 years, but now it’s adults-only.
“Dancing is a life changing experience,” Laura said. “Dance on and be happy. And remember to do something you love.”
The studio is largely devoted to the legacy of Laura’s mother, Naomi, who started the dance studio in 1960. It was known as Prince Dance Studio then, Naomi’s maiden name. A part of the studio has been set aside as Naomi’s museum. It contains relics from her life. Certificates and awards for dancing, costumes, photographs and other mementos of Naomi’s time as a student of Fred Astaire in Cleveland are displayed. The museum’s acquisitions continue through Naomi’s time as the owner and instructor of the dance studio in Jamestown.
“My mother was the first one to do it all, in terms of dance,” Laura says. “She was a toe ballerina. Absolute perfection. But she taught everything: jazz, swing, cowboy dancing, disco, tap and toe, you name it.
“Hers was the first dance studio in Jamestown to have a float in a parade. Her dancers were the first ones to be Smurfs.
“I want to leave a legacy,” said Laura. “I want to be a legacy. I want to live out the legacy of my mother.”
Laura started dancing when she was two, and began teaching in 1981, when she was only 13 years old. She worked harder because she was the owner’s daughter.
“If you want to become a dancer,” she says, “come on down. Dance on!”
“My mother invented this phrase: ‘Walk in, dance out’,” Laura said. “Here’s the phrase I made up: ‘We make people dancers.’”
The Simon and Garfunkel song “Bookends” plays softly in the pink studio as Laura discusses her plans for the anniversary party. After a while, she joins in singing: “Preserve your memories…they’re all that’s left you.”
The conversation about the history of this place and the lives of the people involved took on a different cast when the death of the artist known as Prince was announced. The connection between her mother’s original Prince Dance Studio and the artist Prince was not lost on Laura.
To contact the studio call 716-487-0918 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beth Peyton is the author of Clear Skies, Deep Water: A Chautauqua Memoir. You can find Beth at www.bethpeyton.com To read more of Beth’s creative and informational contributions to the Jamestown Gazette, please go to www.jamestowngazette.com.