{Local Gem: Center of Performance Arts, North Andover}

Hello there my loves,

doing a little happy dance as I finally have a sick toddler napping long enough to get this post up. Local Gem is a semi-regular series that spotlights all types of companies, brands, locations, that I have grown to love in this new chapter of my life (that I so lovingly call BURB LIFE) and that I want to share with you. Which leads me to introducing my next Local Gem, Center of Performance Arts, North Andover.

Creating a balance of activities for our kids has been important for us, as it is for many parents. I always say that being the child of a single mom who worked so dang hard to give us everything but couldn't afford the frills, has shaped me as a mom. It made me a better stay at home mom, spring for all types of mama & me classes, heck it humbles me on days like today when Ms Zoe has a high fever for the second day and there was no question about who was staying home with her. Because my mom didn't have that freedom but I know how much she wished she did.

So when it came time to start a new class this Fall I decided on dance, mainly because who can resist a toddler in a tutu? But also because I have read about the importance of an organized no-parent class that your tot takes direction from another adult. It can't hurt in the whole sassy two-ager department. So I scoped out a few local studios, tried a few classes and knew I found THE ONE when we walked into this no pressure class with kiddos having so much.

Here is my interview with the lovely, sweetest Meghan O'Donnell from Center of Performance Arts in North Andover. Who in collaboration with her mom, Jane O'Donnell, run an incredible performance arts studio, Where Everyone's a Star!

I am not only impressed with this place but lucky to have these folks as a part of my village and that is why I am sharing it with all of you.

Tell me about yourself?

I started dancing when I was 3 and fell in love. My mom also started dancing when she was 3 and continued dancing her whole life. She went on to open her first studio, Jane's Dance Studio in Lynn, MA when she was 18. She closed that studio when she got married and had kids. I studied dance throughout high school and then went on to St. Anselm's College to get a degree in Business. I started teaching at CPA when I was 17 to help out. I did not think I would end up running the studio with my Mom! In fact, I went onto get my Masters in Marketing and was in charge of Marketing for a recruiting company in Newburyport. I loved my job, but as I was still teaching classes at the studio, I slowly started to realize it was my true passion. My former job was amazing at letting me transition out and into a full time role at CPA. Today my Mom and I run the studio together, both full time.

My mom has done a great job of recognizing what benefits dance can have for children, and sticking to that philosophy. Our non-competitive mission is different from every other studio in the area.

We believe that having children learn to dance in a truly noncompetitive environment allows them to make lifelong friends, focus on the fundamentals of dance, and if they choose, go on to master technique and pursue dance as a career.

How long have you been in business?

This is our 16th year

Why North Andover?

I grew up here, have spent my whole life here with my family. We are connected to the town and love the people in it! There are also a lot of wonderful towns in the surrounding NA that are a part of CPA community .

What do you love about this town?

The sense of community. 90% of our new customers come from current student referrals, or Mom groups (such as Facebook "Moms"). I love that people are open to sharing their feedback, recommendations and advice to other families. We are so grateful that this community loves us as much as we love them!

Best thing about what you do?

Watching children grow at the studio. Some parents have told us that we see their kids mature and grow more than any other non-family member. This year we have 11 seniors graduating, most of them started with us when they were 3 or 4. There are not many other activities that allow you to have the same people in your life for 15+ years. We also have 2 faculty members that danced with us for most of their lives, went on to college, and have since come back to teach for us! We really have the best "CPA Family"!

When is the best age to introduce your kiddos to dance?

We always tell parents - you know your child best. When they are ready, so are we. We've seen 2 year olds come in for the first time and waltz into class with no issues. We've also had 6 years olds that are not ready for a classroom environment. It all depends on your child.

If there is a mom of a son interested in dance, what's your advice?

We love boys who dance! If your son is interested in a cool movement class, try hip hop (We offer an all boys hip hop class on Wednesdays). We also have other boys that do ballet, tap and jazz. Dance is for anyone that wants to learn, be creative, and have fun.

Advice to a first time "dance mom" of a toddler? (especially those that have clingy babes)

Our studio is unique in that we have full viewing windows in each room, so you can see your child and they can see you. Know that during the first few classes every child will be apprehensive. This is a new environment with new people. Our teachers are trained to slowly encourage students to participate, and not force any child to do anything that makes them uncomfortable or nervous. We ask everyone to give it as least 1 month. After that if your child is not wanting to come to class, or crying when you leave, it might not be time yet. We try and work with every family individually to come up with a good separation process that works for them. With Zoe you sat in the room the first 2 weeks, then stood in the doorway for 2 more weeks, and this week she went in without you while you watched in the window! It was great!

I'm a toddler mom (Zoe will be 3 in December) and love that my daughter is learning so much, getting exercise and enjoying herself, but what are other benefits of starting these dance classes with your littles?

Dance has tons of benefits including exercise and learning to dance. While students are younger, we really focus on the fun aspect of dance and introducing the fundamentals. As they get older, if dance is something they want to pursue, in addition to focusing on dance technique, performing and choreography, we really encourage our older students to learn discipline, responsibility, being proactive and time management. These qualities go far beyond dance class.

CPA is located at 1820 Turnpike Street in North Andover, phone number : 978-681-1820 - and website here.

CPA, thank you X a million for your time and dedication to the kids in this (and surrounding) towns, you have made this new experience so much fun, stress-free and as corny as it sounds life changing. My little clingy "nerbous" lady, has walked out more and more independent after every class. We are beyond thrilled to be a part of this family.

And best of all we are sharing a deal for our local readers! All you have to do is subscribe to the blog, mention this post and try any class for the rest of October ($40 value) and then if you decide to sign up they will waive the registration fee ($25)?

Shoot Ms Meghan an email

to ask about any openings and sign up for a class (we go to the Wednesday at 10:30am which has a lot of openings and they also have a fun class for babes who aren't yet ready for a dance class on Fridays!) and make sure and post a pic on Instagram (and tag us @chic_boston_mama )

Back to resting and This Is Us on my DVR, (anyone else wishing we could binge watch this show?) and maybe some muffins because muffins solve everything! Happy Hump Day.



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