Kathy (Gallo) Abbondanza is celebrating 50 years of teaching the community's young people the art of dance.
Better known as Miss Kathy, co-owner and operator of the Lewiston and Grand Island Dance Centers, "She has touched so many lives throughout the years," says Rachel Novelli, Miss Kathy's daughter and partner in the Lewiston and Grand Island Dance Centers.
Miss Kathy started her dance career many years ago at Miss Bev's when it was located on Third Street. From there she went on to New York City to teach for her Aunt Marie Alexander, or Miss Ricky, who had one of the largest and most successful dance schools in the area. Miss Kathy auditioned and was accepted into Juilliard, where she furthered her dance training.
"Juilliard at the time was at 120 Claremont Ave., near Harlem, and was an amazing place to study," Miss Kathy said. "There are so many stories of walking in the hallways and having creativity of all the arts happening right there. To have lunch in the cafeteria was like being in a movie with people doing turns, leaps, combinations, sax players and trumpet players doing scales, and actors rehearsing. But, it was hard, and difficult work every day dancing for at least eight hours a day. Modern dance was bursting on the scene, so I had the opportunity to train and take class from some of the pioneers of this art form, such as Jose Limon, Alvin Ailey, Donald MacKayle and others. Alfred Corvino and Elizabeth Keane were two of my ballet teachers and Paul Draper taught tap. "
From Juilliard, Miss Kathy came back to live in Niagara Falls with her husband Jim and opened her own dance school so she could share her knowledge and love of dance with the community. Free transportation was offered for the students to and from the studio on Main Street. She also danced with Tanzen at Niagara County Community College in 1974 and was one of the groups chosen to perform at Fredonia College for their State Festival. She went back to Tanzen in 1989-91, and performed with her daughter Rachel, who was also a member of the ensemble under the direction of Kyle LoConti.
When Novelli opened her own dance school in 1993, Miss Kathy was there to help.
"She is my mentor," Novelli said. "She has taught me so much, not just about the art of teaching dance, but about understanding the students and what they need. I am forever grateful for her expertise and never-ending wealth of knowledge. Everyone that has worked with Miss Kathy or taken class from her can tell you she is great. All of her students love and respect her. We even have dancers who are the children of her former students."
Miss Kathy just celebrated her 66th birthday in March and is still going strong teaching ballet and tap classes at Lewiston Dance. She also oversees all the other instructors and classes and keeps everything running smoothly.
"I am so lucky that I am able to teach these students about something that I love," Miss Kathy said. "The world is changing so fast and dance gives these young girls a sense of self-respect and higher self-esteem that is so important. It is a real joy to watch our students grow from baby ballerinas to strong, confident young women and to know that they will always keep dance as part of their lives."
The Grand Island Dance Center (3432 Wallace Drive), and its sister studio, the Lewiston Dance Center (781 Cayuga St.), are now accepting students for the 2010-11 dance season. They give professional instruction to students ages 3 and up. Classes that are offered are tap, jazz, ballet, pointe, hip-hop, modern, musical theater, contemporary/lyrical and, new this year, break-dancing.
Call 773-1075 with questions.