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Dancing Through Time: Emily Kingsbury’s 40-Year Dance Legacy
By Kyla Taurasi
Nestled 15 steps down, through two doors, in the basement studio, Emily Kingsbury, affectionately known as Miss Emily, has created a vibrant world of dance and community in the heart of West Roxbury. Dancers thrive under her guidance as studio owner, dance teacher, and mentor extraordinaire. She builds inspiration for dancers ranging from the age of three to 18. You can often hear her energetic Saturday morning yells echo through the waiting room as she recalls telling her dancers: “Wake up! It’s 8:30! What better place to be than the studio!”. Or her parting words, relayed to teens after class resonating “Nothing good happens after midnight!”, one of her unforgettable sayings.
My journey with Miss Emily’s studio began at three years old, and it was during my weekly Wednesday shift working at the front desk, that I decided to delve into the story behind this dance haven that I have cherished for the past 13 years.
In 1984, the West Roxbury School of Dance unexpectedly emerged after Miss Emily was approached by a cousin who had two little girls wanting to take dance classes. She started with $2 classes conducted in her living room. Fast forward to 49 Corey Street in West Roxbury, where the school has found its permanent home after traversing locations like the Sons of Italy in Roslindale and down the street to Saint Nectarios. A testament to Miss Emily’s passion and commitment, this dance haven has transformed from its humble beginnings into a thriving community; what started with casual classes quickly spiraled to 350 dancers.
As the school flourished, so did Miss Emily’s dedication to honing her teaching and dance skills. She returned to school to dive deeper into ballet, tap, and jazz dance. From her first dance teacher Miss Pauli, she moved to the Leon Collins Dance Studio, where she encountered tap leaders like Pamala Raff forming her appreciation for unique rhythm-style tap. At the Boston Chamber Ballet School, under the instruction of Alexandria Bullock, the “queen of technique,” as Miss Emily refers to her, she delved into the intricacies of ballet, developing a profound understanding of movement, spinal alignment, and foot placement. Her dedication to jazz took her to Jeannette Neill’s morning classes in Boston, where she would spend her train ride home taking meticulous notes, eager to share this knowledge with her students in the following fall dance session.
Amidst the rhythm and choreography, Miss Emily’s motivation shines. For her, the joy lies in witnessing children grow and imparting something of herself that nurtures their development. Memorable moments, like a former student’s return with front-row Broadway seats to Wicked and his success in producing musicals in New York City, underscore the profound impact she has on her students’ lives, extending beyond the realm of dance.
Miss Emily’s teaching philosophy is a fusion of discipline, respect, and, above all, fun. In an evolving dance landscape, she prioritizes maintaining a family-friendly environment, emphasizing the importance of fun as a precursor to passion. She believes that when “you are motivated as a teacher, and you come in with a happy smiling face and you have on bright music, then you are going to send that energy right to [the dancers] and the whole class will be happy.” When walking into class on early Saturday mornings, when all you want to be in bed, Miss Emily can put a smile on her student’s faces easily along with a good laugh… especially when breaking out into random dancing to her new favorite song “Lil Boo Thang.”
Beyond dance steps, she imparts life skills, fostering a sense of discipline, respect for others, and the belief that hard work paves the way to success. Her commitment to equality within the studio is embodied in her approach—everyone wears the same outfit, and learns the same dance, fostering a sense of unity and teamwork. She finds it important that “when you are teaching children it’s not just about dance, it’s about how they are going to relate to their peers in the classroom and how they treat other children.” The studio becomes a safe place where individual differences in skill levels are embraced, echoing her mantra that “it takes four weeks to learn a new step,” alleviating the pressure on those who might feel behind.
Beyond the studio’s four walls, Miss Emily extends her goodwill to the community. Her yearly donations from recital ticket proceeds to the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation reflect a personal connection, as her brother battled the condition. She also actively supports local schools through fundraisers, embodying the spirit of giving back that spreads through her dance studio.
As a seasoned figure in the dance industry, Miss Emily’s advice echoes the rhythm of her accidental journey—take one step at a time, stay informed, and develop good personal skills. What began as an unplanned evolution now stands as a testament to her dedication, 40 years later.
In the dimly lit basement studio, where echoes of laughter and the shuffle of dancing feet resonate, Miss Emily Kingsbury continues to inspire a community of dancers. Her journey, marked by passion, commitment, and an unwavering desire to impart both dance and life skills, strengthens her legacy as more than a dance teacher—she is a mentor, motivator, and the driving force behind a thriving dance family in West Roxbury, which I am lucky to be a part of.
I just wanted to say thank you so much for such a wonderful preview this watch week – the amount of choreography these girls have already learned is so impressive and a true testament to your amazing teaching. As a former dancer myself I find it absolutely magical to be able to watch my child now. While I’ve never pushed Faye to dance I must say I am sooo happy she found it and loves it as much as she does. She is always excited for class and always has wonderful things to say when it’s done. Thank you so much for all of your time and dedication – you’re an inspiration!
Julia Dubreuil (Faye’s mom)”
I wanted to share with you how amazing the performances were yesterday! All of the feedback from all the parents upon exiting the auditorium doors was beyond great. You could tell that despite the crazy restrictions and conditions you were forced to meet- you rose above and certainly conquered!! I’m so glad you were able to pull it off for the kids, the parents, and for yourself. I hope you have a chance to sit back after the exhausting year you’ve had and realize just how much you absolutely crushed it! It doesn’t go unnoticed- the countless hours of preparation not only for each class everyday, but to be able to pull off a show- with what seemed like virtually NO ISSUES. It speaks volumes to your dedication, love of the kids, and the community in which daily you have been molding with the young adults. I want you to know how proud I am of you, and what you accomplish- you are the epitome of what a true role model is for these kids. The fact that you have so many come back to help out- is living proof that you have made such a positive impact on their lives, and it means the world to all of us as parents.”
“Hey Miss Emily,
The brick-red door located at 49 Corey St, West Roxbury MA, is a sight that is ingrained into my memory. This is the door that my mom opened for me when I was just too short to reach the handle, the door that I greeted multiple times a week for 14 years of my life and the door that saw me approaching on both my best days and my worst days. This door however, is different from just any old door. This door is the entrance to the happiest place on Earth for me, my second home. Since the age of three, I have been able to walk through this door and forget about any problems existing outside.
I have always had a passion for dance of all kinds: ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical and even irish-step dancing. Participating in multiple dance classes a week since a very young age has shaped me into not only the strong dancer, but the person that I am today. When I was 3 ½ years old, my mother dragged me into the West Roxbury School of Dance to sign me up for dance lessons, as I kicked and screamed the entire way over. However according to my mother, once I saw my dance teacher, Miss Emily, I immediately stopped crying and ran right into the room and began tapping away. Emily Kingsbury is the most talented, hard-working, inspiring and eccentric woman I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She has been a tremendous role model for me my entire life. It is an incredible advantage to have such a strong woman who runs her own business to look up to, as many little girls do not have such a person to admire. She inspires me everyday to keep dancing and to continue pursuing my dreams.
As I became older, I began spending more and more time at the studio by volunteering as an assistant teacher in children’s classes. This was when I discovered my passion for working with children. I loved teaching them and watching them grow into their dancing abilities. Last year, Miss Emily asked me to work for her at the front desk of the dance studio. I was so happy to be able to have a job and spend more time at one of my favorite places on Earth. This job consists of sending out emails, handling confused parents on the phone, organizing mailing lists, cleaning the toilets etc. It may not seem like a very exciting job, but it made my junior year one of the best years of my life. I learned so much about the dance world, Microsoft Word, how to lock the big red door correctly because it’s sensitive, and most importantly, I learned so much about myself and who I want to be after high school. I have made so many friends who have become my second family, and I realized that it is indeed very possible to find a career in something that you are passionate about. I learned that I should begin prioritizing my own happiness and well-being, and to go after the things that I want.
Today I asked my dance teacher what I should write my college essay about. She immediately told me, “You have to write about something profound, something that changed your life and made you who you are”. As I thought about her words of advice, I came to realize that there is nothing else in my life that has impacted the person that I have become more than my dance studio. I have never felt more comfortable, safe, and happy in any other setting. Behind that big, red door, I am able to just be me.
Bridget Dougherty, Senior 2020
Thank you so much, Emily. It was great to meet you the other night. You are wonderful with your girls, I can tell already, and the other teachers were very sweet as well. What a lovely environment you have created in your studio! Alex can’t wait to start on Monday.
Thank you again, see you next week.
This is Olivia Tambascio! You may or may not remember me but I danced at WRSD for 10 years up until about 2014. I just wanted to say thank you for all that you did for me. I haven’t been dancing exclusively but the skills, athleticism, and determination that I learned in your classes has stuck with me throughout my high school career and will remain present for the rest of my life. I have been doing theater at Boston Latin School, utilizing my dance skills in musicals such as the iconic Cabaret and the infamous tap dancing in Spamalot. I’ll be studying Pre Med and Theater at Boston University and definitely would not be there without my foundational skills, so thank you.
Hi, Ms. Emily:
Thank you for an amazing year. Our daughter has really loved seeing you every week and talks about you all the time. The recital was definitely a first for us, I certainly cried way more than I expected. Pure joy and the pride I felt watching my lady on stage was beyond words. It was really impressive to see such talented young people do what they love. Mostly though, it was heartwarming to see how much love you have for your students. It’s always refreshing to see someone else in a profession that they feel so passionately about. It was clear to us, more than ever, that we picked the right studio for our little girl. She may not be the most coordinated of the bunch, but god does she love it! Thank you for making her feel like such a superstar. We’re so grateful for your work this year.
Sending wishes for a relaxing summer!
Jen and Jason Godin
The recital was truly amazing- it made me cry! It brought back so many happy memories of dancing with you. I am so happy that my daughter got to work with you this year. She absolutely loves you!
I hope you all are doing well! I am emailing you to inform you that I have received the Quinn Martin Scholarship at Santa Clara University.
About the award: “Through the generosity of the late Mr. Quinn Martin, television producer, the Quinn Martin Scholarship was established to assist students seriously intent on a career in any of the Theatre Arts — acting, directing, script-writing, design, or production for stage, film, or television.”
I am honored to have been awarded this scholarship for film and theatre, which I believe will pay for about a year of college tuition.
I wanted to email you all to thank you for your unwavering support and help throughout the years. You have been positive mentors in my life. The high level of training I have received from you has been invaluable. I am so grateful for the professionalism and determination you have instilled in me.
I hope I will see you when I return from California on June 16 for two weeks.
All the best,