Three generations of techniques survive 60 years of business in North Tonawanda
Soon to marry her high school sweetheart, the pair headed to North Tonawanda in the 1960s, where she opened a second dance studio in the basement of her home near Wurlitzer Park.
Testing out different locations in North Tonawanda and hoping to find the one that felt like home to her, Blakely opened the doors of her Dance Studio to residents at locations on Goundry and Main Streets, and Webster Street, until she found the perfect spot on Erie Avenue in the mid 1980s.
Little did she know, this location would create four generations of opportunities for her daughter, grand daughter and great grand daughter to start their dancing careers.
Her daughter, Lynda Blakely Cox, began dancing at 2 years old under the direction of her mother. Following in her mother’s footsteps and falling in love with the art of dance, Cox began teaching her skills to other dancers in the studio at age 16. Learning to dance at 2 years old and teaching dance to others at 16 years old, have became a tradition for the Blakely family.
Andria Harrington, Blakely’s grand daughter, who followed tradition and started her dancing career at 22 months old, has a passion for dance and a love of teaching.
Choreography came easy to Harrington, she describes her dancing as something that came “natural” to her.
Even with a mechanical engineering degree from The University at Buffalo, Harrington chooses to put dancing first.
“What I love about teaching is that it’s the only job where, at the end of the year, people get to see what you did,” said Harrington. “You get to display your accomplishments. My students are like my artwork, they work so hard for me and I am so dedicated to them that at the end of the year, it’s just a blast to see what they can do.”
When asked why both Cox and Harrington chose to follow their mothers’ paths and teach dance, Cox stated, “It was just one of those things where - it [dancing] was just in me. It’s something I grew up doing.”
“There is something it, that you just keep coming back to when it comes to dance,” added Cox.
Marjorie Blakely Studio does not take part in competition. Both Cox and Harrington focus more on teaching their students the skills they need to take dance at any level possible.
“I teach the way my mother was taught by her teacher, which was Geraldine Hoffman. That is going back almost 75 years,” said Cox. “We teach the same basics from 1953. It’s consistent. Ballet hasn’t changes, so why would we?”
Harrington added, “We have a great education, technique, and strong basis of dance without the pressure of competition. We stay fresh with the styles that are out. We are always educating ourselves with the newest dance. Even though we teach the basics, we always change and keep up with the times.”
Harrington stands behind the skills that her students leave the studio with and believes they are equipped with the technique they need in order to compete against other dancers in a competitive setting and do very well.
Michael Rose, a former student now dance teacher at Marjorie Blakely Dance Studio who started dancing at 5 years old, is proof of the skills and technique that students learn when taught by the Blakely women.
“As soon as you enter the door, you become part of the family,” said Rose who has been teaching hip-hop, jazz and acro for two years.
Kendra, 6, is the fourth generation dancer in the family. She, too, learned to dance at age 2 and will hopefully follow in the footsteps of her mother, grand mother and great grand mother.
“As a parent, you just keep pushing them [your children],” said Cox. “And you hope they like it one day.”
Blakely, now 76, claimed to retire from dancing about 20 years ago. However, her friends and family often find her in Florida, dancing her way around a studio and teaching her friends a few new dance moves.
The studio is celebrating their 60th anniversary this year.
The cost of dance lessons offered at the studio are competitive and include costumes, DVD’s of the recital and tickets to the show.
Students will obtain the full knowledge of ballet, tap, jazz, acrobatics and hip-hop and leave with the flexibility and bendabilty they need to apply those skills anywhere they choose.
Fall registration for Marjorie Blakely Dance Studio will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6 at 1275 Erie Ave., North Tonawanda. For more information contact Lynda Cox at 689-7464.