|Three generations of Dance Express owners - Tara Donelan Jurgens, Patricia Zint Hehl, and Sonja Harney|
Dance Express has been a staple in the Ft. Thomas community since it first began teaching students how to pirouette or execute the perfect shuffle ball change. On July 1, 2013, Dance Express will officially have a new owner when Sonja Harney takes over ownership of the studio from her aunt, Tara Donelan Jurgens.
The folks at Dance Express like to keep it in the family. Current owner, Tara Donelan Jurgens, took over the studio from her aunt, Patricia Zint Hehl, back in 1984. The studio was then named "The Patricia Donelan Zint School of Dance," and became "Tara Donelan Jurgens Dance Express" under Jurgens' ownership. When Harney becomes the owner, the name will be shortened to "Dance Express."
Dance has always been an important part of Harney's life. Harney grew up in Ft. Thomas dancing at the studio, and graduated from Highlands High School in 1998 before receiving a college education at Northern Kentucky University. Harney is now married to her high school sweetheart, and together they have three children. The transition to studio owner has been years in the making. "I always knew I wanted to own a dance studio. Being born into a dancing family, I guess you can say dance was in my blood. I started taking lessons when I was three and haven’t stopped since then. Since Tara bought the studio from her aunt/godmother, it just seemed like the next step would be for me to one day buy the studio from my aunt/godmother," said Harney.
Harney is more than qualified for her new role as studio owner. She has been working at the studio for the past fifteen years, and has developed a strong relationship with the the students as well as their families. "At Dance Express we feel we take a personal interest in each child. We take the time to get to know the children, their families, and what their other interests are. Not only are we their dance teachers, but role models. Hopefully, someone who makes a difference in their lives. While it is important to instruct the child with the proper technique and terminology, it is also important for us that this takes place in a fun, family atmosphere while leaving enough time for the students to participate in other extra-curricular activities," said Harney. This devotion to their students is what helps make Dance Express stand out amongst the other studios, and has allowed for a lasting presence in the area.
The slight name change isn't the only modification happening at Dance Express under Harney's new leadership. Next year, a dance team will be added to the studio's schedule. "Several students have expressed interest over the past couple of years and I felt it was good time to put it in place," said Harney. Her sister, Elizabeth Donelan, will help Harney coach the dance team. In addition to growing up in a family full of dancers, Donelan also gained experience dancing on Highlands High School's dance team as well as Centre College dance team.
To Harney, owning Dance Express goes beyond just teaching dance or owning a business. It is about the relationships formed with the students and the community. "It is touching the lives of the students, making a positive impact in their lives, and creating memories with them that will last a lifetime. I am excited to share my passion for dance with the students." Looking to the future, Harney hopes to continue the tradition of providing a solid dance studio for the community, which allows students to learn proper dance techniques along with building self-confidence. "Since my Great Aunt Pat opened the studio, she and Tara have touched so many lives," said Harney. "They have been role models, friends, and an inspiration to countless students. I can only hope to touch the lives of so many the ways they have while keeping the tradition of dance alive in my family."
Changing ownership is not something that the management team behind Dance Express takes lightly. They have worked to uphold their tradition of excellent dance instruction, and their strong presence in the community overall. Harney's new role is the logical next step in ensuring that the studio remains open for future generations of dancers. As for their current students? Well, they shouldn't worry at all about the upcoming changes. "Inspiring our students and instilling grace, poise and self-confidence is the main goal at Dance Express," said Harney. "I think the first step in achieving this goal is to let the students know that the transition of ownership will be smooth and the studio atmosphere will remain consistent. I am proud of the program Tara has developed and I’m going to continue that, I only hope to add more to what she has established."
If you would like more information regarding the summer or fall classes offered at Dance Express, you can contact them at 859-581-4062 or check out their website for more information. Also, the studio is hosting an open house on Monday, August 12, 2013 from 6:00pm - 8:00pm. You can stop by their location at 725 Alexandra Pike in Ft. Thomas, and experience the studio firsthand.