When Nan Klinger's

Excellence in Dance opened in Cuyahoga Falls 60 years ago, it was one of a small handful dance studios in the nation that focused on youth, said Mia Klinger, the current artistic director at the studio and Nan Klinger's daughter.

"When my mom first started, she was the first ballet teacher in the area to teach ballet for 1 1/2 hours, and made the students wear leotards," Klinger said. "My mom really liked working with the kids, that was her forte. She was really good at getting kids to move. I feel so lucky, I get to build on what my mom had done. People know it as a great training school for young dancers."

Excellence in Dance was founded by the late Nan Klinger, who started the studio in the basement of her home in 1953; the studio has been at its current State Road location since 1989. Currently, Excellence in Dance provides classes from toddlers through adults. Their class offerings include ballet, variations, jazz, tap and hip-hop classes for beginner to advanced students.

Mia Klinger joined the faculty of Excellence in Dance in 1989, where she has continued in the legacy of her mother, while developing the studio programming to meet the artistic needs of the community. Under her leadership, she has introduced variation classes, men's classes and partnering classes and a choreographic workshop, showcasing veteran dancer's work at the annual spring workshop.

"In 60 years, we've only had two artistic directors," said Klinger.

One change Klinger said she has made is offering classes to younger children.

"We have students as young as 7," she said. "The younger they start, the more likely they will emulate the older dancers. It's exciting."

Currently, Excellence in Dance has about 175 students, plus 44 students who are also involved with Ballet Excel Ohio (formerly known as the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet), a pre-professional ballet company. Ballet Excel Ohio traditionally performs an annual spring production; this year, it will be a new production, "Beauty and the Beast," choreographed by Tom Gold, along with "Cliques," choreographed by Tom Smith. These ballets will be staged March 15 and 16 at the Akron Civic Theatre.

As if debuting two new ballets weren't enough to keep Ballet Excel Ohio busy, the members of the troupe also will perform March 8 along with the Akron Symphony Orchestra in a fully staged production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron.

"It's an opportunity," Klinger said. "I couldn't pass it up. I wanted to take the opportunity. My kids are tough, they are ballet dancers. We don't get a lot of live music and ballet in Northeast Ohio. The two don't often get to merge. It's nice for audiences here to experience live music and dance. I'm really excited about it."

Future goals include looking for further touring opportunities, Klinger said. In the past, the ballet troupe has gone to Europe, Japan and Pennsylvania. Klinger also said she would like to "build on our musical theater role more" for Ballet Excel on Tour and Reach Out and Dance, programs which bring dance into area public schools.

"Musical theater brings a new aspect of the arts to the public schools we work with," she said.

Klinger said she would like to do more with classical ballet, which she says has often "fallen by the wayside."

But a key goal is to look for more opportunities for her students to perform.

"My mom put it like this," Klinger said. "When you only do classes, you can only learn so much. You need to perform. It's like with football, if you only had a player who practices but never plays in a game."

For details, visit the Excellence in Dance website at www.klingerdance.com or contact Mia Klinger at 330-928-6479.

Email: ahelms@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9438