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Lifestyles

February 6, 2012

And the beat goes on ...

Getting Duncan on the map in the dance world

DUNCAN — For 27 years, Heartbeat Dance studio has been providing young girls the opportunity to follow their dance aspirations — whatever they may be — thanks to owner Stephanie Gregston.

Gregston began studying dance at age 4 and knew growing up that she wanted to teach and own a studio one day. She was captain of the pom squad in high school and once graduated, she joined the University of Oklahoma pom squad.

After college, she moved back to the Duncan area with her husband Jeff. Stephanie decided to open a dance studio at the same location Heartbeat occupies today. The dance program opened in 1984 in the building behind Urgent Med off of North U.S. Highway  81.

“(Operating a dance studio) has been my life dream and my only desire when I was a child,” Gregston said. “(The business) was real small in the beginning.”

In its first years of operation, Heartbeat offered not only dance, but also aerobics classes. However, when the Simmons Center opened, Gregston decided to focus strictly on dance. It was what she had striven for and there’s never been a day she’s regretted going into the business.

“I love children and I feel (teaching dance) was God’s calling for me,” Gregston said.

“It’s expressive and I can be artistic, while still running a business. And this is a fun place to do it.”

Over the years, Gregston’s students have included her daughters, as she taught both Jillian, 23, and Jerica, 17, at the studio. Jerica is now a student teacher at Heartbeat, along with several of her high school pom squad, including Jenifer Jones, Samantha Hall, Alison McMurrah and Lauren Wilmes.

The other instructors, who Stephanie Gregston says she couldn’t do without, are Cindy Hicks, Lauren Mitchell and Chelsea Shores, who has been a student since she was 2. Gregston said Shores will likely be the one to take over studio when it’s time for Gregston to retire.

In 1990, Gregston added another facet to the operation, a competitive group that went through several name changes before settling on the moniker Heartstars. The dance company is now comprised of 69 dancers, who are in groups based on their age and dance level.

“(The Heartstars) have requirements, such as going to summer camp each year, it’s more commitment (than in regular classes),” said Gregston.

“It’s not super-competitive but they practice two to three times a week and go to workshops.”

The dancers compete at the regional level about three times a year and are planning to compete at Nationals in Branson, Mo. in June. Over the years, Heartstars have won numerous awards, which Gregston felt was credit to the dancers and their parents.

“We really have a great group (of dancers) and the parents are great,” she said.

“Moms work on the costumes and a lot of work goes into that and several of the dads help with the sets.”

Heartstars is a source of great pride to Gregston and her staff. They have performed in the pre-game show at Oklahoma City Thunder NBA games and have been asked several times to come back.

“I’m very proud of all of (the dancers),” she said. “We’ve gotten Duncan on the map in the dance world.”

As the owner and lead instructor, Gregston noted that from the beginning she has just taken it one year at a time, because “you never have it all figured out.”

There are new challenges every year and her goal is to teach the students what they are interested in learning. She wants to continue to do what she can within the community.

“There are so many little girls who want to dance,” Gregston said.

“I will give them some of the confidence and pride they’ll need in the future, they’ll already know what it’s like to be on stage.”

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