CLINTON — For 30 years, Stacey Hagge has had one passion and one inspiration in her life — dance.
A recital at the Vernon Cook Theater today will celebrate that milestone of what Hagge has accomplished with her studio, Steppin’ With Stacey, and the generations of dancers she has taught.
“I have loved each and every one of my students,” Hagge said. “Kids that I taught years ago are now bringing their own children in to learn; it’s pretty amazing.”
One of those students, Bree Crigger, has danced at Steppin’ With Stacey for 13 years and now her daughter is a part of the studio.
“It’s an experience that I didn’t want my daughter to miss out on,” Crigger said. “She’s now in her third year at the studio.”
Hagge’s dancers have preformed at the Vernon Cook Theater for the past 29 years and today’s show will mark the 30th performance for the group.
When Hagge looks back on her years performing and teaching only one thing comes to mindL: “Where does the time go?”
After an opportunity to open the studio fell in her lap in August 1983, Hagge decided to roll with it and see what happened. Now, 30 years later, she continues to teach with the same passion she had as a young woman, opening her very own dance studio.
“If you have a passion for dance you will always find a way back to it; for me, I’ve never left it,” Hagge said.
As the years pass, and dancers have come and gone from the studio, one thing has always remained the same; the street name listed on the Steppin’ With Stacey brochure.
Although the buildings may have changed, Steppin’ With Stacey has been located on the Main Avenue strip in the Lyons District of Clinton for its 30 years of existence.
“I started across the street from Rastrellis in ‘83 then about five years later I moved to the 200 Main Avenue location,” Hagge said.
After a fire in May 2007 destroyed Hagge’s second studio, distinguished by its anterior, plate-glass windows, the studio once again moved east toward the river to its current location at 81 Main Ave.
Now, in her third year at the location, Hagge feels content with her studio and all the things she and her dancers have accomplished in the years. The awards and trophies displayed along the walls in the studio attest to Hagge’s pride and satisfaction.
One thing she attributes that success to is her constant drive to push herself and her students to the next level.
“I’m still very passionate about dance and sometimes Marian and I have to stay on the younger girls to try to keep up with us big dogs,” laughed Hagge. “I always say, ‘I’m out here doing it, you can do it too.’”
Marian Bernstorf, Hagge’s closest friend and point dance instructor, has been by her side for the last 25 years at the Steppin’ With Stacey studio, but she is not alone.
Mary Hansen, who has danced with Hagge since the studio opened in 1983, is not only her sister-in-law, but considers Hagge to be one of her best friends.
“She’s one of the most generous people that I know,” Hansen said. “Everybody loves her; she’s just a great person.”
The connections Hagge has made in her 30 years are ones that will last a lifetime, and for many of her students, she is not only a teacher and mentor, but a family member and a friend.
Justine Lind has danced for Hagge for 24 years and said the things Hagge taught her in dance, are aspects that she applies to her every day life.
“My life revolves around dance and we’ve become such a family (over the years) that I wouldn’t know how to function without her or the studio,” Lind said.
The passion for dance in Hagge and her students continues to grow and blossom, and after 30 years she can look back and feel proud of where she has come.
Although the future is unknown to Hagge, she hopes for the opportunity to continue doing what she loves, and teaching others the beauty and art of dance.
“I’m looking forward to the next 30 years,” Hagge said.