We had the good fortune of connecting with Kirsta Sendziak all the way from Cambridge, Massachusetts and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kirsta, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
My first job out of college was an office job, and after working it for a couple of weeks, I just knew I needed to run my own business someday. In order to prepare for that, I was hired at a small, locally owned store named Nomad here in Cambridge, MA. Working there gave me experience and first-hand knowledge in running a business so when the opportunity came to take over The School of Classical Ballet in 2009, I felt prepared to do so. At that time, I had been dancing for twenty years and teaching for ten years so running a dance school seemed like the perfect way to work for myself doing what I love. I had a business partner for the first year, and when we took over the school, we wanted to provide quality instruction while creating an environment that was welcoming to all.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
The School of Classical Ballet was founded in 1985 by Anna Myer and Patricia Adelmann. For over 30 years the school has provided students with classical ballet training and helped to develop student appreciation for dance as an art form. In 2009, Ariella Amshalem and I took over the school and incorporated additional dance forms into the curricula. Over the years we have offered classes in ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap, and hip hop. The School of Classical Ballet is a technique-based school with emphasis on learning. Performances are all-inclusive opportunities for students to showcase their technique and gain experience performing for an audience.
When we took over the school in 2009, we had 13 students registered for our first Summer Term of six weekly classes. Ariella moved away in 2010, and I have been the sole owner since. By 2019, we had 32 weekly classes, 200 students, and six employees. I grew the school by working, working, working; six-seven days a week for years. I spent that time doing administrative work in the mornings, teaching in the afternoons and evenings, going home and doing more administrative work into the night. On vacations, I spent time writing emails and processing registration forms at midnight. It was challenging, but overcoming it was seeing the community being built full of lovely families, students with a passion for dance, dedicated and caring employees, students who are now dance teachers and professional dancers themselves. Over the years, countless students and employees have moved away, but I am still in touch with them. I feel rewarded in knowing that we are all part of this community, even though we do not see each other on a daily or even yearly basis.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Some of my favorite places in Cambridge, MA:
First and foremost, The Dance Complex. This is the building where I rent our dance studio space and we are a school-in-residence in the building. The Dance Complex is a 25+ year old central hub of dance, and their building is an 1884-circa Odd Fellow’s Hall in the heart of Central Square. They are a home to a diverse range of movers and dancers, and they host professional, pre-professional, and recreational movers. All can access affordable studio space, and participate in dance classes and programs to help strengthen their choreographic, performance, and production skills.
Right next door to the Dance Complex is The Mad Monkfish restaurant. Live jazz, sushi, and their personal interpretation of Japanese, Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese cuisines are the mediums through which they aim to disperse kindness and loving service. In the summer they have an outdoor patio, and it is fun to sit and watch the city go by while enjoying delicious food and talking with the nicest servers and staff in Cambridge!
Three blocks away is Upward Spiral Studio, a fitness studio providing high quality instruction in Pilates, the GYROTONIC® Method, and Buff-Bones®. They offer private and small group classes on the equipment, and group mat classes both in-studio and online. Clients range from athletes to new-to-exercise, from ages 13 to 100. The three co-owners Martha, Bess, and Paula are some of the most knowledgeable body-work instructors I have ever learned from. They care about every client and their instruction is so smart, detailed, and motivational, you cannot help but feel good after working with them.
Venture to Harvard Square for two of my favorite places to see films, The Brattle Theatre and The Harvard Film Archive. Movies have been shown at The Brattle Theatre since 1953, and they currently show the best in classic, cutting-edge, foreign, and art-house films. They also show first-run films and new releases of classic films, but their specialty is a repertory programming format consisting of films from a particular director, genre, or subject shown over the course of a week, or on the same weekday throughout the month.
The Harvard Film Archive is one of the largest and most significant university-based motion picture collections in the United States, with a collection of 40,000 audio visual items, a growing number of manuscript collections, and nearly one million still photographs, posters, and other promotional materials from around the world and from almost every period in film history. The building that houses the Archive, The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, was designed by Le Corbusier, and it is special to me as well. Pre-pandemic, they used to host great special events for the opening of a film series. The outside of the building consists of a covered section with built-in concrete benches. During the pandemic, I taught private dance lessons outside, and we used to hold lessons under the canopy during rainy days.
Travel towards Porter Square to discover Nomad, a little neighborhood store with a big world beat! I used to work here, and I still try to drop by when I am in the neighborhood. The owner, Deb Colburn, works so hard finding beautiful, unique, and special items, supporting and creating lasting friendships with many artisans from around the world. Inside is a delightful mix of fairly-traded clothing, handpicked folk art, accessories, and home decor – everything from wondrous to wacky!
Head towards Kendall Square, and there is one more movie theater I tend to frequent, the Kendall Square Cinema. They showcase a wide variety of films — ranging from independent and foreign film to popular films from Hollywood.
The MIT campus has a huge amount of public outdoor art, and during the pandemic, I walked the campus, listening to and viewing many of their self-guided tours. Being able to go outside and experience art gave me something interesting to do since museums were closed. When MIT starts a new construction project, they commission a new work of art, and their outdoor collection is spread out across their entire campus. Their List Visual Arts Center website offers a variety of public art tours you can take for yourself and a map of their entire collection.
And finally, Curio Coffee is one of my favorite coffee shops. Offering all the classic coffee drinks and Liège waffles everyday of the week and burgers and wine on Thursdays and Fridays, it is the perfect neighborhood shop.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I need to give the Shoutout to my mom, Donna, and my first ballet teacher, Clare Fetto, of Festival School of Ballet in Buffalo, NY. My mom enrolled me in ballet classes at age 7 and when I wanted to quit a year later she would not let me. Every Monday before class was a battle between us, but when I got to the studio, I was fine while participating in class. She would check in with Clare afterwards, and they both agreed that while I was dancing, I really seemed to be enjoying myself. Clare recommended to my mom not to let me quit. A year later the studio had to close for a couple of months in order to find a new location. During that time away, I missed dancing so much! After classes started up again, I signed up for multiple days per week.
Headshot photo: Bill Parsons Performance photography, photo with umbrellas: Jeffrey Engel Performance photography, photo of dancers in yellow skirts: Siobhan Beasley Studio photography: Kirsta Sendziak