By Jill Nagy
Even as a child taking ballet and tap lessons, Mary Beth Besler knew that she wanted to own and operate a dance studio. Eight years ago, she abandoned her “backup career” as an accountant and signed the lease for her first studio as the Dance Lab on West Avenue in Saratoga Springs.
She quickly outgrew that studio space and, five years ago, moved to her current location at 538 Maple Ave. (Route 9) in Wilton. Within a year, even that space grew too small, but the COVID pandemic hit and she stayed put. By 2020-21, the dancers began to return and Besler began to search for a new site.
She sought a new location and she knew she wanted to remain on the Maple Avenue corridor, a location that was convenient and had great visibility. Last month, she closed on the purchase of a 4.76-acre piece of land at 604 Maple Avenue and is awaiting the necessary permits to begin construction.
“We already have the approvals. We are just waiting for the permits,” she explained.
The new facility will be a 5,000-square-foot building with space for three studios, a viewing area for parents to watch their students, some office space, and plenty of parking. If all goes as planned, the new building will open this year.
“I am keeping my fingers crossed,” she said. “I’m really excited. I can’t wait to see people dancing in the space. Community support has been amazing.”
The larger building will allow Besler to accept more students and introduce additional styles of dance. Currently, Dance Lab offers classes in ballet, hip hop, jazz and musical theater. The studio has about 400 students, mostly children, and a teaching staff of ten.
“I love working with kids,” Besler said, but also pointed out that working with adults is a different kind of experience that she also loves.
As head of the Dance Studio, “my hours are 24/7,” Besler said. Generally, she teaches in the evenings, using the daytime hours for administrative tasks and paperwork. She has also been raising three children, one of them born at the same time that she signed the lease for her first studio space.
Besler said she had strong support for the new building from the Small Business Development Center at the University at Albany.
“I could never have started a project of this magnitude without their help,” she said, “They were beyond amazing.” The center is a nonprofit organization and their advice is free.
Although she has had her own dance studio for only eight years, Besler has been teaching since she was 18 years old and assisted with teaching since the age of 11. She has danced at concerts, recitals, and as part of the Sienna College dance team but, she said, was never a professional dancer. She always knew she wanted to teach.
A Utica native, Besler received her accounting degree from Sienna College and is a CPA.
More information about the Dance Lab is available at thedancelabsaratoga.com. The telephone is 518-306-5009.