Local dance studio brings friends, family together

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Meg Fenton Funk with some of her students

When Meg Fenton Funk was growing up, she was very close to her nieces and nephews. With Funk being significantly younger than her three siblings, she felt like her nieces and nephews were like the younger siblings she never had.

“I really had been dancing since the moment I started to walk,” Funk said. “And I loved teaching my little nieces and nephews to love dance as soon as they could walk.”

Funk said that she remembers helping her nieces and nephews stretch on a daily basis, teaching them routines to songs from the movie, Grease, and having dance parties as often as they could. Soon, Funk began dancing her nieces’ and nephews’ friends, too. Not long after that, parents were asking Funk about teaching dance.

Funk’s oldest nephew, Frankie Rome, couldn’t say “Auntie Meg” when he was young, and so he began calling her “Nutmeg,” which stuck. All of Funk’s nieces and nephews and their friends began calling her “Auntie Nutmeg,” and so it became a perfectly fitting name when she began the studio.

Funk majored in dance at Marymount Manhattan College. During her first college summer, she began a summer program, where she taught dance to young children on the Rome’s front porch. The program started with 11 dancers, and by the end of summer, Funk had taught over 50 children. The program continued and grew every summer while Funk was in college. During her last year of college, Funk’s senior project was creating a business plan for opening a dance studio, and once she graduated, that’s exactly what she did.

“Putting on our first show was one of the most joyous, exhilarating events of my life,” Funk said. “It was something I had only dreamed of doing, and once we accomplished it, we couldn’t wait to do it again.”

From the beginning, Funk and the rest of the Nutmeg’s Dance and Theatre Co. always wanted their show to be so much more than a dance recital. They wanted to truly entertain and engage the audience and create pieces that would convey a range of emotions to share that with the audience. As the studio grew, the shows grew as well.

Young dancers at Nutmeg Dance studio.

In 2010, the Nutmeg’s Dance and Theatre Co. sold out their first show at Granby Memorial High School. “What a wild and wonderful experience,” Funk said about its first sold-out show.

Since then, the Nutmeg’s has sold out many shows and added more performances to its show weekends, so that no one is turned away from a night of dance and joy.

“These shows have only been possible with the help of my incredible family, our fantastic teachers, and all of the families that make up our studio,” Funk said.

Funk’s husband, Tyler Funk, and her brother, Bill Fenton film the show, her good friend, Joe Loftus, runs sound, and her friends and parents create its poster design and show playbills. Funk’s mother, Donna Fenton, is in charge of ticket sales, Funk’s sister, Jennifer Rome, runs concessions, which they appreciate so much, because every cent they make on concessions goes right to the scholarship that they provide to a high school senior pursuing a degree in the Arts.

“And of course, the dancers. Without their effort and passion, there would be no show. The list goes on. This beautiful event is the culmination of so much hard work and so many amazing people.” Funk said. “It really is a family affair.”

“As much as I love dancing and creating shows, the best part of our dance school is the family we have created. We have been in business for 15 years, and so our family is ever growing, and changing, and beautiful,” Funk said. “I’ve attended the weddings of former students, we have second generation little ones dancing with us, and we continue to have new families joining us and making our group more special every year.”

Last year, Funk had a high risk pregnancy with identical twins. She intended to dance and teach right up until her children were born, but, they tried to come a little too soon. She had to be on bed rest for a few months. It was a difficult time for Funk; she doesn’t like being away from the studio. Her best friends and teachers stepped up to keep things running smoothly. The kindness and generosity dance families showed to the Funks, was one of the most beautiful, humbling experiences of her life. The friends and teachers provided meals, visited often, and threw a baby shower she attended by Skype.

“I always knew we were a close studio, but this experience made it even clearer. That is, hands down, the greatest part of this studio,” Funk said. “This family is a gift.”

The Nutmeg’s Dance and Theatre Co. holds its shows in May, which is earlier than a lot of studios. Because a lot of kids have many interests, having the show earlier in spring, is easier for the children to commit to more than one activity. Funk said she dislikes seeing children being forced into choosing one activity when they’re so young. Funk is tickled when she sees one of the boys running into partnering rehearsal in lacrosse gear, and a girl running in with her softball uniform.

“I just think it’s so wonderful and impressive to watch how well rounded and diverse these kids are, and how great they are at managing their time and participating in different activities,” Funk said.

This year, in December the Nutmeg Dance and Theatre Co. will produce a holiday show of The Nuttycracker Suite, to raise funds for the children of St. Jude’s Children’s Cancer Research Center. The attendees at summer programs and classes will be learning the dances for the show and will be invited to perform in December.

This show will be a fun, fresh, funky, joyous Nutmeg’s take on the traditional Nutcracker. In addition to using some of the beautiful score created by Tchaikovsky, we will add a diverse variety of dance styles. “Most of all, we are excited to put on a fantastic holiday show, for a great cause that we hold so dear to our hearts.”

The Nutmeg Dance and Theatre Co. summer programs are open to all. Children and adults are encouraged to join them this summer and be part the event.

This year’s spring show is entitled, Good Vibrations and will be performed on May 4 and 5 at Suffield High School. Check Nutmeg’s Dance and Theatre Co.’s Facebook page or visit the website at NutmegsDance.com for ticket information.

Submitted photos.

Ballet dancers rehearse a number.