Sara DeGennaro started dancing when she was 3. She’s been a lover of literature for almost as long. Now she’s also a published author.
When DeGennaro was 7, her mother gave her a copy of the book “A Very Young Dancer,” by Jill Krementz, about a 10-year-old girl who performs at the School of American Ballet in New York City.
The book inspired DeGennaro, and she was accepted into the prestigious school as a child.
DeGennaro is following Krementz’s path again by writing her first book, “Sofia’s First Ballet Class: Ballet is Fun!,” published by Archway Publishing, a division of Simon & Schuster. It is a 28-page rhyming picture book that encourages children to read and is intended to inspire them to reach for their goals. It is available on Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com.
DeGennaro has owned Tap to Pointe Dance Center, in Malverne, for 27 years, and has taught hundreds of students not just how to dance, but also how to be stronger people. Her belief in teaching led her to publish the book.
“My passion for dance, love of teaching and my students made me want to write a book,” DeGennaro said. “Teachers play a major role in inspiring children.”
At least two of her former students have become professional dancers, thanks to her guidance and instruction. Kristen Smith, of Malverne, was a member of the Radio City Rockettes, and Ian Bethany, of Hempstead, is a member of Ballet Austin in Texas.
DeGennaro said she has seen both Smith and Bethany perform as professionals, and was filled with pride, having been an instrumental part of their dance journey.
“She started with me when she was 3,” she recalled of Smith. “Her dream came true. I was her teacher, and I was able to sit in the audience and watch this once-student of mine now fulfilling her dream on stage at Radio City Music Hall.”
The book’s message is an extension of what DeGennaro teaches every day — “I want children to know that you can fulfill your dream,” she said.
“Sofia’s First Ballet Class” is about a little girl who dreams of her first ballet lesson. DeGennaro said she started writing the book eight years ago, and when her niece and goddaughter was born six years ago, she changed the character’s name. She teaches her goddaughter ballet lessons.
“I’ve always loved writing, so I just sat down one day and said, ‘Let me write a book about a child’s first ballet class,’” DeGennaro said. “I wanted to inspire children to leap for their dreams, whether dance or anything else.”
Aside from teaching dance, from its basics to its intricacies, she aims to instill life lessons in her students. One of the beautiful aspects of dancing, DeGennaro said, is learning skills that will help throughout life.
“It’s a passion you have to have,” she said. “It’s a very hard profession. Dance is a beautiful art and sport, and it teaches dancers so much — discipline, strength, grace, confidence, hard work. Dancers share a passion.”