Pointe-ing in a new direction

Contempro Dance Theatre opens a brand new location in Fairless Hills

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Earlier this month, Contempro Dance Theatre cut some ribbons — but not the pointe shoe kind. In a special ceremony attended by colleagues and students, instructor Jennifer Lentz officially opened the doors to the new location of her dance studio at 612 Lincoln Highway in Fairless Hills.

The right moves: Artistic director Jennifer Lentz held a grand opening ceremony for Contempro Dance Theatre’s new location in Fairless Hills. PHOTO: Stu Coren

Previously located down the road and known as Wendy’s Dance Studio, Contempro has become renowned over the years in the dancing community for its commitment to providing stellar dance education and career building skills for its young artists.

Owner and artistic director Lentz started her postgraduate dancing career at Wendy’s in 2001. While double majoring in dance and business at Temple University, she became acquainted with the owners of Wendy’s who saw something special in her and asked if she’d like to teach there. Lentz couldn’t let the opportunity go to waste.

After some time, it became clear the owner of Wendy’s, was nearing the end of her career. Lentz had proved herself during her time teaching and was the first choice to take over the building. Training on how to run a successful dance studio was provided on the backend, so it was a seamless transition when the owner retired in her 70s.

As something Lentz had envisioned as a little girl, she was more than ready to sit in the “captain’s chair” of her own studio.

“It was a dream come true,” Lentz said.

Most students, who had come to know and respect Lentz through Wendy’s, stayed with her as she transitioned the building into Contempro. With her current numbers and new students, Lentz quickly realized her studio was outgrowing its space. After a year and a half of renovations, the new 612 Lincoln Highway facility was completed and ready to let in the talent.

While Contempro has all the familiar classes such as ballet, tap and jazz, it goes far beyond the basic “dance school” experience. Lentz wants her students to learn from the best and be challenged in their classes. This all starts with her staff. Among her 15 instructors are classmates from Temple and previous students who went on to get their BA/BFA in choreography. Each brings a unique energy to the studio, such as Miss Maggie and her Lion King and mermaid-themed creative movement classes, which aren’t complete without arts and crafts.

But even the best instructors need a break sometimes. This year, a choreographer from So You Think You Can Dance will fly from Los Angeles to Bucks County to teach a hip hop class. Acclaimed tap dancer Darrell Williams, who can usually be seen in Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, will also come demonstrate his agility and skills during a lesson.

Thanks to their elite training at Contempro, many students continue to dance through college, either studying it or joining their school’s dance team. One currently performs with the Knicks City Dancers. In the last two years, according to Lentz, her students have received more than $100,000 in scholarships to study dance academically at major collegiate dance programs including Boston Conservancy, New York University, Point Park University and the University of the Arts.

At the heart of classically-based Contempro is ballet, and as students get older, there are many opportunities for them to enhance their knowledge and skills. At age 3, basic vocabulary is taught. A special pointe class is offered at around age 10, and once they master the technique, students can take advanced classes such as contemporary pointe.

In addition to classes, students have the option to join a competition team. Unlike the exhausting experiences portrayed on shows like Dance Moms, Contempro dancers are able to do as many or as little dances as they wish. While some students learn one dance for the competition, others choose to perform 17.

A recital is held each June to allow family and friends to see the culmination of hard work the students put into their dance training throughout the year.

“It’s when all the kids shine,” Lentz said. “They’ve spent nine months practicing and this is their shot.”

Every other year in the winter, Contempro also puts on a Christmas performance with renditions of The Nutcracker and a Rockette-style routine.

Though running a business, working with large numbers of students and preparing young adults for careers can get stressful, Lentz doesn’t lose sight of why she initially set out on this journey — to see a child enter Contempro’s doors who never danced before and watch them fall in love with it.

“We’re lighting that fire within them,” she said.

For more information and to view available classes and past performances, visit contemprodancetheatre.com or call 215–945–8843. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com