Dancing to the Lessons of Life

Two things jump out at visitors to Nancy Chippendale’s Dance Studios in North Andover: Flags and family. Beyond walls lined with framed headshots and international awards is a large lobby infused with color from flags of many nations: the Ukraine, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, malta and the United States. ”When all the countries come and visit we hang up their flag,” says owner Nancy Chippendale, who founded the studio in 1978 with just 10 students.
More than 30 years later, Chippendale’s has nearly 1,000 students and offers dance classes for everyone from tiny toddlers, to fun-loving adults, to competitive teenagers. Classes include Irish step, tap, ballet, jazz, hip hop and many other disciplines. And as the number of students and classes swells, so, too has the North Andover school itself: Chippendale’s just received a new addition to its headquarters, making for more studio space and an expanded lobby.
The school’s reputation has been bolstered along with all of this growth. In more than three decades in operation, Chippendale’s has become of of the most successful dance studios in the area, racking up awards at international competitions, welcoming students and teachers from around the world for dance and cultural exchange programs, and churning out fleets of dancers who are high achievers on stage and in life.
All of that is thanks to family. Chippendale’s is owned and operated not only by the matriarch, Nancy, but also by her husband, Robert Carberry, and their three daughters, Karen, Kelli and Krissy. ” The description of our family is the business, and the description of our business is our family,” Nancy says. “They are one in the same.”
The Carberrys credits the achievement of the studio to their strong family dynamic: All three daughters and Nancy are dance teachers and Robert handles the business side of the school. “The five of us doing it together is what makes it the success it is,” Nancy says.
The family values teamwork, dedication, ambition and respect. This is reflected in the way they run the studio. Students and teachers thank each other after every class. Students are rewarded for hard work and results. Not every child is going to be “students of the month,” Nancy says. “We are strict and firm and we are fair,” Nancy says. ” Everyone’s not getting a sticker.”
Instead, successes are earned and students are expected to be serious about their dancing. This philosophy is evident in the success of its alumni. Chippendale’s grads include dancers and choreographers for Disney World, cruise ships and NFL professional cheerleading teams. Others have studied at Harvard, Cornell, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. “The kids who succeed here succeed everywhere,” Krissy says.
Dance isn’t the school’s only concern when it comes to its students. “They need to learn hour to trip and fall and pick themselves up,” Karen says. “We’re basically just using dance as the medium.”
The Chippendale’s team believes that dance teaches life skills, whether it’s learning to win and lose gracefully, working hard to achieve goals, standing up to speak or perform in front of a crowd, treating their bodies with respect or learning about discipline and teamwork.
This ethic goes beyond the studio walls, too. The school features a mentoring program in which older students sign up to guide and support younger ones, as well as a free guidance program to help students apply for college and develop resumes, and prepare for life after high school.
Chippendale’s also uses dance as a medium for cultural exchange. In 2012 for example, students from United States, Germany, England, Ukraine, Switzerland and Czech Republic joined to study and perform in a festival called Tap United. This year’s around-the-world roster will include students from those countries plus South Africa and Croatia.
After decades at the helm of Chippendale’s, Nancy shows no signs of slowing down. Her daughters say she “runs circles” around every other instructor. And the school is still expanding; another addition is planned for this winter.
Nancy says her unwavering dedication to the school is because she like to work. “I like dance, I like to achieve goals,” she says. Karen offers a simpler explanation: “She’s superwoman.”

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