Bountiful • Forty years ago, then-21-year-old Kate Ostroski and Sandra Swenson, 25, sat side-by-side on a lawn on the University of Utah campus, contemplating their futures.
Both were trained in ballet while attending the U., and Ostroski mentioned to Swenson that she wanted to open her own studio after graduation — but she didn’t want to do it alone.
"On a whim, we said, let’s start one together," Ostroski said.
Fast forward to 2013, and the duo is celebrating the 40th year of their business, Bountiful School of Ballet, a classical ballet studio with a 350-student enrollment.
The women’s studio dreams started with humble beginnings. Ostroski said they each asked their parents for a $175 loan to rent a small studio in Bountiful, sparsely furnished with tiled square mirrors that split the students’ reflections when they danced.
"It was really the least we could go on with 25 students," she said.
Ostroski said they moved their studio five times through the years before finally settling 15 years ago at 566 W. 1350 South, a hand-built studio neighboring a Chinese restaurant that lacks in fancy details, but houses the essentials, including a proper sprung wooden floor that allows the students to dance safely.
Four decades of teaching young students has filled Ostroski with memories, from frustrations over sewing costumes — "When we are immersed in costumes, I sometimes think we can’t sew one more stitch," Ostroski said — to the joy of watching students become supportive friends throughout their years spent in the studio.
But when Ostroski tries to pin down her favorite memory, she picks a more recent one: During May’s recital of Alice in Wonderland — a celebratory story recital marking the anniversary — the two owners were surprised with a video tribute before the performance, complete with 50 former students on stage to help them celebrate their years in business.
"It was very special that there was such fondness from all these people attached [to the studio]," Ostroski said.
Seventeen-year-old Madison Taylor has been a student at the ballet studio for nine years. The teen has grown up dancing with other girls who also started at the studio at a very young age, creating a bond with not only the other dancers, but with the teachers who have mentored them.
"All of the teachers are my second mom," Taylor said. "They’ve always cared about my life."
The secret to their success? Ostroski’s daughter and studio ballet teacher, Megan Ware, said the teachers don’t have room for their own egos. They know they each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and together they create a well-rounded package that instills proper ballet techniques in young students. Technique, Ware said, that is sometimes difficult to master.
"Ballet is not an easy art," Ware said. "It’s a very slow process."
Taylor, along with students Amy Andre and Ashley Leishman, both 17, recently reminisced about the challenges of learning classical ballet at the Bountiful studio. One girl remembered Ware getting after her at every practice for what seemed like years to straighten her arms when she danced. They remembered the constructive criticism the teachers gave, but also the friendship and trust that they’ve gained from one another.
"I think we’ve all shed some tears," Andre said. "But it’s always worth it."
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