by Terry Rogers
On Thursday, January 23, Christine Rust and Alexis Cannon of M&T Bank presented a $2,500 check to TADA Dance Studios. The donation was toward TADA’s Grand Opening event at their new location in the old Argo’s Linoleum building and came from the M&T Charitable Foundation.
“TADA requested a grant from M&T for expenses in their new building,” Rust said. “We reviewed the grant and knew that we wanted to do something to help. M&T has a strong desire to support the arts in this community, so we decided to provide a small grant now to help them with their grand opening plans. In a few months, we have asked them to come back with a new request and we will see how we can continue to support this wonderful group.”
Misty Yencer, one of the directors at TADA, explained that the studio hopes to hold the grand opening sometime in mid-April.
“We want to wait until the weather is warmer so we can expand outside,” Yencer said. “We also have a lot going on right now. We have a big competition coming up in February where the dancers can earn some really great scholarships. Then, in March, we are planning on performing “Cinderella,” so the dancers will be focused on practices in preparation for that. Of course, then there is Easter break and students may not be around during that time, so it pushes us to the middle or end of April.”
TADA, which is short for Tatiana Akinfieva Dance Academy, is named for Yencer’s grandmother, Tatiana Akinfieva-Smith, while the performance part of the organization is known as Diamond Dance Company. In 1999, Akinfieva-Smith retired after spending several seasons with he Eastern Shore Ballet Theater in Salisbury. At the time, she was also guest teaching at another Milford studio, A Dance Class, owned by Maria Fry.
“The two women were approached about starting a non-profit community-based ballet center in Milford,” Yencer said. “Tatiana rarely, if ever, turned down an opportunity when dance was involved. She spent the next ten years building the dance company before retiring again. She passed away in 2011. The board of directors, myself, Aimee String and several motivated families did not want to let her dream die, so we got together and decided to open up the company to the public in 2012.”
Yencer had a vivid memory of standing in the office, which doubled as a costume storage room, in the first building they occupied above the barber shop in Walnut Street and discussing the fact they had to have 20 students to cover the bills. By 2013, they had those 20 students and were growing rapidly. That same year, we decided to separate the production part of the organization from the instruction part. They kept the name Diamond Dance Company for the productions and created TADA in order to honor Akinfieva-Smith. Today, there are between 100 and 130 students involved in either the dance company or the academy.
“We have only been able to survive, thrive and grow because of the support of our community,” Yencer said. “Donations like this one from M&T Bank go a long way toward helping our dancers realize their dreams. The younger ones may not be as aware of how important this support is, but our older dancers do because they know how much competitions, performances, costumes and everything else costs. We are so grateful to have a community who wants us to succeed and helps us as much as they can along the way.