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Express yourself at Performing Arts Dance Academy

HAMBURG — “I feel like everything we go through in life has a reason,” said Suzanne Mall, owner and director of Performing Arts Dance Academy in Hamburg. Mall has been a dancer since she was a young girl and said that she has always known she would want to be a dance teacher when she grew up.

“When I was 9 or 10 years old, I opened my own dance studio in my basement,” she said. “I would go house to house in my neighborhood and pass out index cards with all of the information about the classes.”

Her dedication led to her teaching approximately 30 neighborhood kids dance lessons. After graduating from high school, Mall taught dance and danced professionally throughout Western New York, got married and had children. She opened her first studio, Fine Arts Dance Academy, in 1990, with a woman she danced with.

In 1994, when she said that it was time to leave her partnership at Fine Arts, Mall signed a lease and Performing Arts Dance Academy held its first dance class, that fall. The studio now sports 12 dance instructors and combination, ballet, pointe, ballet technique, tap, modern, jazz, hip-hop, break, music theater and theater jazz classes.

Performing Arts Dance Academy has two dance studios, a parent lounge/waiting room and a dance store, Studio B Dancewear, on the main floor. There are also two staircases to go up to a dancer lounge – equipped with a microwave, refrigerator, vending machine and tables for meals or homework – bathrooms, a shower, dressing room and music room.

“The dancer lounge is like their little home,” Mall said. Many of the dancers will relax in that space, between classes. Once a month, the parents are allowed to go upstairs into the lounge, which overlooks both of the dance studios, to observe their children’s classes. There is also a camera in the smaller dance studio, streaming video to a TV in the parent lounge, so parents can always see their little ones’ dancing.

The shower upstairs is available to students ages 16 and older, who would like to clean up before leaving. The music room is available to students auditioning for musical roles.

“My younger daughter was in ‘Cats,’” Mall said. “When kids are auditioning for a part in a school musical, she’ll have the kids bring in their music and will work with them, on their audition process.”

Those who are in need of any dancewear may utilize Studio B Dancewear. This movie theater-styled store is stocked with everything from leotards to skirts to dance shoes and more. There’s even a movie screen on which children can watch movies, while waiting to try on dance shoes.

“I go to a huge convention in January or February in Baltimore, where all of the different vendors come in,” Mall explained. “That’s where I get all of my ideas. I try to keep up with everything that’s trendy.”

One trend Mall does not allow at Performing Arts is dancers’ showing their stomachs. “Not that I think it’s wrong, it’s just my own personal approach,” she said. “We’re conservative with how we dress.” Mall said that she is also conservative with the music used at the studio. “We listen to every word, to make sure there are no swears or sexual connotations coming on,” she said. “We try to keep it very family-centered.”

Mall’s two daughters teach at the dance studio full time. She said that her favorite part of Performing Arts, other than the family atmosphere and being someone to talk to during a time of need, is allowing people to express themselves.

“For me, as I was growing up, I was very shy and didn’t know how to talk to people,” she said. “I had so much feeling inside of me and I couldn’t express it, except through dance. I came to life on stage. I want to be able to give that opportunity to other kids. Who you are inside is coming out through your movement and how you interpret the music. I can see where that has been an outlet.”

From teaching dance in her basement to seeing her daughters’ teaching full time at her dance studio, Mall’s love for dance has come full circle.

Performing Arts Dance Academy is located at 206 Lake St. in Hamburg. For more information about Performing Arts Dance Academy or Studio B Dancewear, visit or call 649-5000.

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