For April Bamonte, dance has been an important part of her life since she was 4-years-old and for more than two decades she has been sharing that passion with younger dancers in her hometown.
As the owner of the , with locations on both sides of Route 9, Bamonte said as she settles into a new spot in the Howell Plaza she is proud of what she has accomplished. "I went from a girl that everyone thought would go nowhere, to an adult who owns three successful studios, employs amazing staff and trains beautiful students," she said. "Because of my love of kids, I knew I had to make this work. We all face obstacles in our lives, but when we can stop and enjoy children's happiness, in the end, that's all that matters."
Bamonte has a lot to be proud of in that time, from winning national championships to seeing students go on to tour professionally or teach dance at the college level. Walking into her new studio the first thing she sees is a tree painted on the wall with gems falling from the leaves. The stones symbolize not only the Diamond Dancers who compete at the national level but also the other classes who she hopes develop a love of dance during their classes.
Several hundreds of girls and boys take lessons at the schools including the 120 who are part of the competitive team. What they do may not be considered a sport Bamonte said her students still work hard like athletes to be the best they can be. "It's cardiovascular and you need so much strength and there are a lot of kids that use weights for endurance," she said. "We have a lot of kids that are in sports and are very strong because of dance."
It is more than just the physical aspects of dance that she said helps her students. "It builds up their self esteem and it makes them more well rounded," she said. "It gets them out of their shell and it's good exercise."
She said the dance studio is a place where they can tune out all the other problems in their lives and just enjoy themselves. "They get really close friends. They almost grow up here," she said. "It's very bonding so especially when they have outside pressures or problems, when they come into the dance studio everything releases and in five minutes they're laughing and have high energy."
Many of the students at the school start at the same age Bamonte was when she first started training. There is a definite sense of pride seeing how far they come. "I just look at them and I'm so amazed at how they improve and I hope the parents realize how great this is and how hard dance really is and how amazing these kids look," she said. "I'm so proud of them because they work really hard."
The two studios are a very different from where she started, teaching with the Howell Recreation Department at Land O'Pines and Taunton School, but it is exactly where she hoped she would be. "As I got older I just loved it," she said.
Not only did she know she wanted to open a studio, she knew she wanted it to be in the Howell Plaza. "Nowadays people don't walk the streets like we would do when we were young," she said. "I always said someday I'm going to have a dance studio there and now I'm thinking this is something I said when I was 13 or 14 years old."
After all these years of teaching Bamonte could take her talents anywhere but said it is important to her that she can be in her hometown and pass her passion to children going to the same schools she went to. She said she stays in Howell Plaza because parents who bring the students to class can leave them there and go to one of the other shops to take care of their shopping needs without having to move their car.