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Dance and Movement Studio anchors old library pilot project in Harvard


HARVARD — The Hapgood room in the basement of the old library is now a dance studio with all the right stuff: wall mirrors, barre, black “marley” floor and a line-up of dance, movement and exercise classes taught by independent teachers renting the space. Two of those teachers, Sheila Peters and Edie Hettinger, set the place up.

It’s all portable. The transformation is temporary by design. But the new look is destined to last for at least the next few months.

Part of the Pilot Project at the Old Library, the Dance and Movement Studio anchors an envisioned cultural arts/community center, a reuse option planners are trying on for size. They hope to attract a moveable feast of start-ups as the experiment moves forward.

Teachers and students alike will appreciate the movement-friendly space created by Peters and Hettinger, two dancers whose careers have come full circle.

They were not business partners in the past and not quite contemporaries now, the two women said, but they have become fast friends. Maybe karma brought them together. Their paths nearly crossed during their separate careers and now they live in the same town. These days, they speak the same language, share similar philosophies about the purpose and purview of dance and the how and why of teaching techniques. And they move in sync, striking a graceful pose, balanced, strong — so skillful it looks spontaneous.

The room-size marley floor is the priciest piece of equipment. It absorbs shock, feels soft and springy and provides maximum safety for dance and exercise. It was purchased second-hand from a local dance studio where Hettinger taught but which has now closed.

Sketching the genesis of this new, cooperative enterprise, she and Peters said it was a serendipitous venture born of opportunity, shared interests, circumstance and timing, plus a nudge from Selectman Tim Clark, who approached them about the idea. It clicked.

Peters grew up in Harvard. Formally trained in ballet, dance was always her passion, she said, and after graduating from The Bromfield School, she left for New York to pursue a performance career. Changing direction, she morphed into modern dance. Later, she also experimented with creative movement techniques and got into jazz when she moved to the West Coast, where she was a founding member of the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance.

She holds a BA in Dance from the University of California, Santa Barbara and an MS in Leadership from Northeastern University in Boston.

From performance to choreography to teaching dance at universities, private studios and prep schools in California and Massachusetts, Peters built an impressive resume in the dance world. Locally, she has taught at the Groton School and the Acton School of Ballet, as well as at dance schools of her own.

Currently, she is developing dance and movement-based workshops with partner JP Harris, teaching skills that help improve personal and professional relationships.

Peters moved back to Harvard several years ago, when her son started first grade. Now, her kids, both Bromfield graduates, are 25 and 29, and she’s still dancing.

Hettinger holds a BFA in dance performance from Ohio State University, She has worked with several well-known choreographers and has been a member of at least a half dozen dance companies in the Midwest and the Boston area, where she relocated 11 years ago.

Currently, she choreographs for the children’s musical theater company, Superstar Productions. She also taught dance at the Moving Arts Dance School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in Harvard, until its closing.

Hettinger and Peters now teach dance classes in the Dance and Movement Studio.

Other teachers include Jennifer McGowan, Michele Laura and Laurel Ackles, with a range of dance and movement options for all ages. A schedule may be obtained from