D'Marge dancers welcome summer with recital

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  • Photos by Laurie Gordon Savannah Norman, of Stillwater, prepares to go on stage.

  • Andrew and Anthony Carlson, of Newton, are ready for "Cruisin' For A Bruisin.'"

  • Savannah Norman and a fellow "butterfly" on stage.

  • Studio Owner, Lori Casey, thanks the audience and praises her dancers.

  • Ariel Franzone poses with her mother prior to the show.

D'Marge Dance Studio

Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Gymnastics
557 Trinity Street, Newton, N.J.
Fall Registration: Aug. 25, 26, 27
Ages 3 - Adult

Driving down Trinity Street, in Newton, there's a particular low-lying brick building with a large, whimsical dancing mouse in the window. That's D'Marge Dance Studio, and the wonders that happen within those walls are all orchestrated by a dedicated family who have kept children interested and thriving in the fine art of dance for decades.

Connie DeVries worked as a secretary for a number of years for Dee Price and Marge Hallock at their dance studio. They started it back in the 60s, and it was named D'Marge, combining the owners' first names. In 1984, DeVries and her daughter, Lori Casey, bought the studio and because it was already well established in the community, retained the same name.

Featuring ballet, tap, jazz, and gymnastics for children age three to adult, the mother-daughter team prided themselves on teaching students to appreciate dance as an art form, an outlet and a way to express themselves freely. Casey said, though the economy had some dives over the years, the studio has always remained vibrant.

"Maybe students would take say, two classes instead of three, one year, but we always had full enrollment," Casey said. "When the going gets tough, parents take from their kids last."

Truly a family-run business, in addition to Casey teaching, some of the classes were originally also taught by her sister, Beth Payne, and then her niece, Justine, started teaching as well. Justine continues to teach several classes, and though her mother no longer teaches she, and Casey's daughter, Carly, are vital coordinators when it comes to the studio's annual recital.

Annual recital
This year's recital was called "Love of the Summer" and included a variety of acts by D'Marge students all wrapped around summer-related songs. Students like Nora Coppers have been at the school for years and perform in multiple acts during both nights of the recital.

For new students, like little Savannah Norman, of Stillwater, the recital is something totally new. Norman certainly didn't have any stage fright as she not only danced but sang along to the song "Fairy Dancing." Her mother, Tammy filmed the performance while her father, Sean, held flowers to present to her at the end of the show.

Ariel Franzone, of Newton, has been in the recital for a few years now and said, "It's so exciting."

She was in three numbers, performing ballet, tap and gymnastics.

Twins Anthony and Andrew Carlson, of Newton, loved performing "Crusin' for a Bruisin.'" Casey choreographed the number in a Grease-like fashion with the dancers slicking back their hair and pretending to drive a car at one point.

"We love D'Marge," the boys agreed, "It's always so much fun and getting ready for the recital is great."

Miss Connie

Casey does all of the choreography, music selection and now, she picks out the costumes, too. That was something new for her this year. It was always her mother, who the children affectionately called Miss Connie, who was in charge of that.

Mid year, she'd take the kids' measurements then pour over dance catalogs to select the perfect costume to fit the song to which they were performing. Miss Connie also did the book-keeping and above all, was the voice on the line when you called the studio answering with her signature "D'Marge Dance Studio" in her calming, majestic voice.

Last May, tragedy befell the studio when Miss Connie very unexpectedly died. The classy, enthusiastic matriarch who also served as the studio's meeter and greeter remains in the hearts of all who had the pleasure to know her.

D'Marge prides itself on its nurturing, non-competitive environment which allows students to have fun and be themselves. D'Marge isn't just Casey's studio, it's her passion, and she thoroughly enjoys sharing her love of dance and movement with her students.

"I love watching them grow as dancers and individuals," Casey said, "I'm proud of all of them."

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