A stage for everyone: New Bristol studio aims to make performing arts available for all families

JACK FIRNENO / WIRE PHOTO Gabby Favoroso smiles with her son at Standing Ovations, a new performing arts center she launched this month in a storefront on Route 13 near Bath Street. The studio features a variety of classes including ballet, tap dancing, singing and acting.html-charsetutf-8

Gabby Favoroso never realized how much all those singing, acting and dancing classes cost when she was younger. Now, she wants to make sure other children don’t have to think about it, either.

“I was in eight different things when I was a kid. I never knew how mom and dad paid for it. I just thought you showed up for class,” she explained. “Kids don’t know if mom and dad can’t afford classes.”
That’s the mission behind Standing Ovations, the new performing arts center she launched this month in a storefront on Route 13 near Bath Street.

The studio features herself and other professional teachers — one who actually taught Favoroso when she was young — in a variety of classes: everything from ballet, jazz, tap and hip-hop dancing, acting and singing to zumba.

What sets it apart is the pricing and unique class structures: classes start at $35 a month, with each additional course costing less. Students can also enroll in a la carte “punch card” classes on Sundays.

Each Sunday, there’s a different concentration, and kids can pick and choose which ones they’ll attend. Once they fill the card, however long that takes, they buy a new one.

“It’s for parents whose kids want to do everything,” said Favoroso.

It’s not the Bristol Borough native’s first philanthropic effort. It’s actually an outgrowth of Santa’s Helping Hands, a nonprofit she launched when she was 19.

As she puts it, especially for children reading the paper, Favoroso reads the letters to Santa Claus that Santa doesn’t have time to read.

“All these kids started writing in asking for dance lessons. So I reached out to studios in the area and they couldn’t do it,” recalled Favoroso. Occasionally, she could find a sponsor to pay for lessons, but it didn’t always work out.

Eventually, she decided to open the studio that these people needed.

“I’ve been talking about this since I was ten years old,” said Favoroso. Finally, one morning this year, the time was right: “Some people go to bed saying, ‘I want to do this.’ One day, I woke up and said, ‘I’m doing this.’ ”

So far, response has been strong. Nearly 50 children have signed up since Standing Ovations began accepting registrations last week. Favoroso is the rare studio that accepts children before they’re potty trained, so there are some students especially young.

One of those toddlers is her own son, Dominic. He just turned 3, making him slightly older than Favoroso was when she took her first dance lesson — not that it stuck with her immediately.

“I quit after my first day. I hated everything about it,” she laughed.

But her parents urged her to try it again a few years later. Favoroso was shy, and they thought it would boost her self-esteem. Dancing changed all that: “I made a lot of friends there. It was a way to express myself,” she said.

From there, Favoroso took acting, singing and dancing lessons. She danced at regional charitable events and was crowned Miss Burlington New Jersey, Miss Christmas and, twice, Miss Sunburst USA. She also performed in “Five Candles,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Annie” at the Bristol Riverside Theatre.

These days, she doesn’t do as much performing. She’s a banker by day, charging just enough at the studio to keep it afloat.

“I’m not looking to make a million dollars,” she said. “I’m looking to help people and help them achieve what I achieved when I was younger.”

Standing Ovations is located at 224 Bristol Pike in Bristol. For information, visit standingovationspa.com.

This article has been updated to reflect the correct class prices.