Story and photos by Joshua Maloni
It's hard not to root for Adell Hoover-Wizner.
Here's a girl who, at the age of 3, was pigeon-toed and relegated to leg braces. Through hard work and dance, she was able to overcome her hip problem. Seeing what dance could do for her physically, she leaned on it for emotional support, too.
"I still have not found the precise words to describe why 'dance,' " Adell says. "It's just the way it was supposed to be, I guess. I was born extremely pigeon-toed. Dance was suggested by my doctor in order to strengthen the muscles surrounding my knees and ankles.
"I think one of the key components that inspired me, besides the movement, was the music. Music is so universal. ... It creates an outlet for everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity or sex."
Dance became Adell's guiding light -- the device that kept her out of trouble when mischievous temptations sprung up. But when she entered Niagara Catholic, she discovered her high school didn't have any dance outlet for her to plug into.
Adell's mother, Judith, and grandfather, Barney, helped her find after-school programs where she could refine and expand her abilities. Dedicated to learning her craft, Adell shied away from high school distractions, devoted time and energy to dance, and became an award-winning performer.
Moreover, she grew into the kind of person capable of winning the Miss Niagara pageant in 2003.
"(She's) dynamic; motivated; inspiring," event coordinator Ron Anderluh once said.
Adell used her Miss Niagara platform to speak to school administrators about adding dance programs to their curriculums.
"Music can change my mood entirely," Adell says. "The worst day can change with the 'right song.' Throw some choreography to the 'right song,' and you have not too bad of a day. Teach children the choreography you created to the 'right song,' and it puts a smile on their faces. ... Now you've got yourself a great day.
"It sounds a little crazy, but that's how it works for me."
Crazy or not, Adell's philosophy works for her students. When she opened Adell's School of Dance on Porter Road in 2007, she instantly discovered the space was too small to accommodate the ever-growing number of youth interested in learning at her feet.
"She's nice," 16-year-old student Destinee Joseph says. "We stay in a good mood in class. It's never boring."
With Adell, Joseph says it's "all about the fun."
"You forget about what's happening that day -- you just dance it off," she says.
"Dance has always made me tick," Adell says. She's taught dance for 14 years, and says, "You can't fake your passion for dance and teaching. It has to come from within. I was fortunate enough to love dance and teaching. Some are not blessed with a passion or the ability for both. I view it as a gift, to be able to touch lives with something that I love."
Earlier this fall, Adell moved into a larger dance space at 2420 Military Road in the Town of Niagara.
"Now I have the opportunity to share my passion and gift in a larger facility that promotes more creativity and comfort for not only me, but the students and their supportive parents," Adell says.
Student/teacher Ali Casale, 18, says she likes "a lot of things. The space -- the parents have more room to talk and chat."
She said it's easier to move students in and out of classrooms. Once inside, "We just feel like ... we can do a lot more," Casale says.
"Having more space allows for more creativity," Adell says.
Extra space, she notes, means extra places to store props, and larger performance floors that more closely resemble a recital stage. The new amenities also make the 8,000-square-foot-plus studio more enticing to guest dancers and workshop coordinators.
"I wanted to provide my students with the best dance environment possible," Adell says. "Which means we need more space for movement. Also, I wanted to accommodate the parents. Parking was a major issue -- as well as the waiting room area. I want parents to feel like they're welcome to stay and watch; and they're welcome to see the environment that we create for the kids versus not giving them enough room. I don't want them to be uncomfortable."
"You can just tell there's a lot of love that's put into the studio," Casale says.
For Adell, now 29, the trials and tribulations of her own journey pale in comparison to where she is, what she's accomplished, and the benefits her students reap each week.
"I definitely feel like a lot of hard work has paid off, from a personal point of view," Adell says. "Definitely the joy I get is the kids are just so proud to be part of this studio. That's what puts the smile on my face, is that I'm giving these kids the opportunity to not only be happy where they're dancing, but be proud to say that they dance at the studio. They look forward to coming here."
"I'm proud to have accomplished it all. It was worth it. It made everything worth it. ... And I'm tired," she says, laughing. "I'm a little tired!"
Not one to slow down, however, Adell readies herself for incoming classes and says, "What makes me feel good about it is, if you put your mind to it -- and you're passionate it; you work hard -- I feel like it inspires the younger kids that if you believe in what you love to do, and if you believe in yourself, you can absolutely achieve anything you want."
Course offerings include tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, modern, hip-hop, acro, baton, cheer, ballroom, adult classes and Kindermusik with Amy Teal.