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TV dance icon visits Seaford studio


A dance studio devoted to developing stars received a visit from one of the industry’s biggest stars last week.

Cathy Nesbitt-Stein, of the popular Lifetime reality show “Dance Moms,” came to the Jennifer Napolitano School of Performing Arts on June 11, and spent an afternoon with the studio’s young dancers. She answered their questions, watched them perform and led a ballet class.

“Dance Moms” follows Abby Lee Dance Company’s junior elite competition team, based in Pittsburgh. Nesbitt-Stein owns Candy Apple’s Dance Center in Canton, Ohio, one of Abby Lee’s rival studios.

Haley Huelsman, 13, of Connecticutt, was a student at Jennifer Napolitano’s studio for three years and is now on “Dance Moms” as a member of the Candy Apple’s team. Haley in the past was on the second season of “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition,” an elimination show.

Haley’s mother, Melanie, was instrumental in bringing Nesbitt-Stein to Seaford last week. “They’re lucky because Cathy doesn’t do a ton of these events,” she said. “This is an amazing opportunity for the kids.”

More than two dozen dancers from the studio were able to experience the celebrity’s visit. During a question and answer session, Nesbitt-Stein discussed how she came up with the name Candy Apple’s, talked about the differences between herself and Abby Lee, and told the children that her favorite type of dance is ballet.

She also introduced the group to her daughter, Vivi-Anne, whom she adopted from Guatemala. Her daughter also dances, and appeared on the first season of “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition.”

Napolitano, who is wrapping up her fourth year of dance instruction at her studio located on the second floor behind the Seaford Cinemas, said that having Nesbitt-Stein visit was a huge honor. “It’s a thrill,” she said. “I’m very grateful. This is very rare.”

In her accomplished career, Napolitano has danced on Broadway, and judged regional, national and international dance competitions. Her students have danced on Broadway, and her studio has produced a Tony Award-winner in “Billy Elliot.”

Napolitano said her studio is one of a kind, in which she focuses extensively on dancing techniques. She explained that dancers travel from other states to train with her in Seaford. “We train children to be dancers,” she said, “and dancers to be stars.”

She added that she is very proud of Haley Huelsman’s accomplishments, with appearances on two reality dance shows. Napolitano hosted a viewing party at her home when Haley first appeared on “Dance Moms.” Napolitano said that she has four other students who are finalists for the show.

Napolitano said she hoped that Nesbitt-Stein, in her visit last week, left with a good impression. “To have a dance icon come to your studio is a very big honor,” Napolitano said. “I’m hoping she sees the talent that comes out of my school.”