When Emily Finer opened Keystone Ballet Academy in the CAN BE Innovation Center in 2017, she had a vision of bringing ballet instruction with a world-class style to Greater Hazleton. Over the past two years, Finer has capitalized on the services that CAN BE offers to small businesses to grow her dance school to more than 40 students who range in age from three years old to adults.
Finer is a New York City native and a graduate of the famous High School for the Performing Arts. She began her ballet training with Russian Vagonova technique and was invited to study with Vera Nemchinova. She was a student at American Ballet Theatre from 1974 to 1980 and was able to study with some of the top teachers in New York City, including Finis Jhung, David Howard, Melissa Hayden and Wilhelm Burmann. She moved to Hazleton in the early 2000s, and in 2015 attended a week-long teacher training session at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet in Carlisle. The experience inspired her to want to open her own ballet studio and bring a higher level of quality ballet training to this area.
Although she is an accomplished dancer and teacher, Finer, like many small business owners, needed guidance on how to establish her business and, more importantly, was looking for the right space and someone with the patience to help her through the long process of growing a start-up company into a viable business. She found all of that when she discovered CAN DO’s CAN BE Innovation Center. Over the past two years, Finer has worked with CAN DO Coordinator of Entrepreneurial Services Jocelyn Sterenchock and said Sterenchock has been a valuable resource for her business.
“Jocelyn is always available for questions or issues related to your business or the CAN BE Innovation Center. She is helpful, supportive and resourceful. She is very dedicated to her job and to anyone in the incubator program,” Finer said. “CAN BE has been most helpful to my business by providing an affordable space and letting me modify it as a dance space. We are renting a dance studio space to teach classes and also have a separate waiting room/office area for parents to wait for their child in class. The extra space allows us to make available the necessary dancewear and shoes for purchase. The rent includes the physical space but also includes parking spaces, utilities, and use of common areas like restrooms and a conference room. Having a dance studio takes time to grow; CAN BE understands this and has been very supportive.”
When it opened, Keystone Ballet Academy offered four ballet class levels – Pre-Ballet, Level A, Level B and Adult ballet. Over the past two years, it has doubled the number of classes it offers and, Finer said, “is steadily increasing its students each week.”
The academy has added several new ballet class levels and pointe classes in the past two years, including Advanced Level C classes that are offered three times a week. This fall, the dance studio will offer two levels for beginner classical ballet training – Pre-Ballet for ages 6 and 7 and Level A for ages 8-12. The new Kinder-Barre class is for students as young as three years old up to those still in kindergarten. All classes are offered at least twice a week.
Many of Keystone Ballet Academy’s more than 40 students take classes two or more times a week. Finer teaches classical ballet and has another instructor for the Pre-Ballet training. A specialty teacher is brought into the studio periodically to teach modern, jazz, lyrical and contemporary dance.
Finer attributed some of her studio’s early success to being located near major transportation routes, including Interstate 81, and within a few minutes of shopping outlets like the Laurel Mall and Walmart, which makes it convenient for parents to find the studio and have something to do while their child is at class. “We are fortunate to be so centrally located within Greater Hazleton to attract students even outside of the area,” she said.
Sterenchock praised Finer and her staff for how quickly they have grown the business. “It has been amazing to watch them grow into themselves over the last two years. Having the opportunity to watch the process of growth for a start-up like Keystone Ballet Academy is one of my favorite parts about what I do.”
Keystone Ballet Academy’s growth is continuing. In just two years, the academy is already building a reputation as a studio where students receive quality classical ballet training. Finer designed the classes to be taught with a syllabus so the students progress to develop their technique with each class. Overall, Finer said many parents and their children find what they are looking for in a studio at Keystone Ballet Academy.
“We have students that just love ballet and it is what they want to learn. We have parents who want classical ballet training for their child because it is an artistic performing art that is considered cultural and traditional,” Finer said. “Ballet is great for helping kids with discipline and focus which is part of the tradition in the class structure itself. Some parents want their child to have dance and feel ballet has age-appropriate movements. The classes are taught in a traditional manner but with a caring and nurturing environment. All students are encouraged to believe in themselves and not give up. They learn to trust they will be able to do what is taught with patience and determination. A child has to feel positive about themselves to be successful.”
Finer said she appreciates having Sterenchock and the CAN BE Innovation Center in her corner as she grows her business.
“I recommend other business owners consider the incubator program within CAN BE because of the support you get in starting and maintaining your business,” Finer said. “They want you to be successful and they have the knowledge and experience a novice business owner doesn’t have. They will direct you to people who can help you figure out the financial aspect of your business.”