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Herald Hometown Hero

This week's Baldwin Hometown Hero

Melanie Vaughan, Pat’s Dance Studio owner and director


Everything is bedazzled and glittered, still, even through the pandemic. I always compare the feeling of the dance studio to the feeling of Christmas. You know that feeling that you get when you’re excited and it’s like a nervous anticipation? That’s what Pat’s is. Pat’s is that exact feeling every time you walk in the building — that nervous excitement. 

Unfortunately with Covid right now, I can’t meet with the parents . . . but that forced me a little bit to be on the phone, on email and talking with the parents a little bit more, so I still feel like I have that connection with them, with Instagram, with Facebook and Snapchat. When I’m messaging the parents on the side, we’re still having that connection — we still have that family relationship that my aunt started and I continued. I keep going with it because it’s not going anywhere. Forty-one years and this place is not going anywhere.

It’s just things like that where it helps to have this extra technology because you didn’t have to wait for the parent to call. A lot of my students do not go to in-person school — a lot of them are virtual. This is their only outlet, their only platform . . . They’re even more excited to come to dance, see their friends in the flesh, live and in person . . .

Just being in that building gives you that feeling — you get that happy and peppy — the only thing I can compare it to is Christmas, and I felt like that with that building since I’m a kid. And then continuing that, I was a teacher, I was assistant director and now I’m the director and owner. It’s just a cool thing that continued throughout my entire career. I still get that same feeling I did when I was a student walking in there.

The girls that graduated with Pat’s then come back to see, because it looks different. We did some upgrades to the studio . . . the alumni girls come in and they say it still feels the same. That energy, still, is in the walls even though the walls are a different color now.

What did help me through the pandemic — the [Chamber of Commerce]. We all kind of worked together . . . With the chamber, I do the social media. The social media is one thing and that’s helped through the pandemic. That was our lifeline. That’s how we all connected with each other, that’s how we knew what businesses were open. That’s how we knew what businesses needed things. It was the social media, so I was literally the monkey in the middle, the go-between between everything. With my business, with this dance studio, what helped me the most was the chamber and the Baldwin community.

It was awesome. You felt that love, you felt that push on the social media. You felt the community all coming together going, “Go take dance classes!’” You see all the helping hands. I say it to my aunt all the time, I’m just so grateful that she chose Baldwin because she could’ve put the studio anywhere. I say to her all the time, thank you for Baldwin, because it’s the melting pot. Everyone pitches in to help each other out. There’s so many connections.

The connections of people in our community is awesome. I am so thankful that we’re in Baldwin . . . I’m here for the community, I’m here for my studio and that’s it. I’m not here for anything else but to be there for the kids. Especially with the kids who are home, they need to be able to move . . . I can say that we have been doing every single thing in our power to keep everybody healthy, and keep everybody dancing. That’s the biggest thing — I want to keep everybody dancing.

My boys live at the studio. They’re boys and they take dance classes. My eldest son did a project in school when he was in kindergarten — they made a snowflake and the premise of it is, “I am unique because...” and he filled it in saying, “I dance.” And for a boy to say that he dances, it’s getting a little more mainstream, but there’s still that stigma with boys dancing. My boys love it. They love being there, they feel like it’s their second home too. In the studio, you’ll always see John and Justin hanging around because they live there, too. And my husband, Andrew, will be there greeting people. My family is there at the studio, like you feel like you’re a part of my family. My husband fixes everything that breaks and he’s there all the time and so are my boys. It’s little things like that that keep the family aspect of the studio there as well.