Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Nancy Stark, director at Nancy Dianne Studio of Dance in Menomonee Falls
MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Nancy Dianne Studio of Dance has been a mainstay in Menomonee Falls for 50 years.
Nancy Stark took over the studio when she was just 20 years old, and over the years she's taught too many students to count. Over the last five decades, she's connected generations through the art of dance.
"Hello, welcome! Hello. How are you?" Nancy Stark greets students and their parents as they come in the door. Classes at the Nancy Dianne Studio of Dance always start with a warm welcome -- usually from Stark herself.
It's been that way for 50 years.
"Here's a picture of your grandfather, myself and your grandmother, who came to the opening," Stark said, flipping through a scrapbook with her daughter, Holly.
Stark has kept track with a scrapbook filled with photos from the 1970s.
"This was my very first ad in the Menomonee Falls News. Back in the day, that was how you got the word out," she remembered.
Stark had been dancing with the Milwaukee Ballet Company when she made the leap to teaching.
"It's hard to believe when I started the school I was only 20 years old," she said. "And to think that my parents were behind that decision at age 20!"
The decision, though, turned out to be a good one.
Students start dancing here at just three years old, learning ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance.
"I enjoy the fact that they're seeing dance as an art form. So, for me to introduce dance to them as art, rather than a sport, I think that's great," Stark said of her philosophy.
It's an art these little girls are eager to learn.
"And I like dancing because it's just pretty, so I want to do it," said student Naomi Baker.
Miranda Zielinsky teaches contemporary dance and modern jazz, but she started here as a student herself.
Her class photo is alongside so many others who've come before and after.
"Nancy has been teaching for so long and touched so many lives, it's amazing to put that in perspective with each of the pictures," Zielinsky said of the framed class photos that line the walls.
Stark can't guess how many students have come through the doors, but she knows many of them come back even after graduating.
"Others will come back and say, you know, these were the best years of my life. This is where I made my friends, this was my happy place," Stark said.
The studio is also a family affair.
Stark's daughter, Heather Kempen, following in her mom's footsteps.
"I didn't really think about it until high school when it was time to decide what to do in college, and then I thought, I can't imagine doing anything else," Kempen said of teaching at Nancy Dianne Studio of Dance.
Her daughter, Ella Kempen, is generation number three.
"Dance is all I've ever known. Like, being behind the scenes and everything, and it's become a really big part of my life. It's something I think about and do every single day," Ella said.
Stark enjoys having her family involved.
"Now my granddaughter! She's involved in dance here as well, and she just said to us, maybe a month ago, I think I might go on to college and maybe do dance, like mom," Stark said with obvious pride.
Stark inspires not just her own family -- Rachel Heckenkamp danced here and now watches her own daughters.
"I wanted them to just be able to come in and enjoy being a little girl on a dance floor, and they make it incredibly magical," Heckenkamp said.
An additional fun fact -- CBS 58's own Nicole Koglin danced at the studio for years, too, and remembers the experience fondly.
Five decades of building community, friendships and family.
"I think she's very humble. Doesn't realize how many people she's reached," Heather Kempen said. "I hope she'll be around for many more years."
For more information on Nancy Dianne Studio of Dance, click here.
And if you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at [email protected].