It’s always amazing how one person’s decision can affect so many other lives.
When Donna Estes took a chance after graduating Lynn English School in 1973 and opened her own dance studio, there was no way of knowing that her career would affect so many students in such a positive way for decades to come.
This fall, Donna Estes will open the doors to Donna’s Dance Studio, 15 Bessom St., – right next to the Holy Family Church – for her 48th consecutive year of teaching dance.
“I was 18 years old and I was very determined and very hard worker and my passion was my love – I had danced since I was three years old,” recalled Estes about her beginnings as a dance studio owner.
The daughter of Grace Derby Moholland, who used to perform in daily shows at the Capitol Theatre in Central Square, Lynn, Donna enrolled in Dolly’s Dance Academy on the Lynn Common as a young child.
Inspired by her mother’s success and talent for dance, Donna studied dance and dedicated herself to dance all the way through her senior year at Lynn English.
That September, Donna opened her own studio at Ionic Club in Swampscott (and later at the Church of the Redeemer) after becoming professionally certified by Dance Masters of America. Forty-four students enrolled in her first class. By December, there were 90 students. By the following September, the enrollment had doubled at Donna’s Dance Studio to 180.
Fifteen years later, Donna and her husband, Ken, a highly respected Lynn Police officer who is now retired, purchased a home on Bessom Street and after being granted a variance to convert their three-car garage into a dance studio and fully renovating it, Donna Estes had built her own home of dance just a few feet from the family home.
“The studio in my backyard,” said Donna. “It’s very convenient.”
The two Estes daughters, Gracelyn and Delaine, were dancers at the studio and remain very supportive of Donna’s Dance Studio to this day, often helping out at recitals and performances.
Thousands of Lynn students have learned to dance at Donna’s studio, learning not only tap or jazz but how to be self-confident, have poise, and believe that any goal is attainable.
“Now it’s generation after generation of Lynn families dancing at my studio,” said Donna. “I tell a lot of my students, ‘come and dance like your grandmother did.”
Donna thanked all of her outstanding, professionally certified instructors who have taught alongside her at the studio for the past 47 years. One instructor, Cara Lane, has been a dedicated member of Donna’s staff for 40 years.
“My staff is my extended family – we call it our dancing family,” said Donna.
This year due to the coronavirus, the season-ending Donna’s Dance Studio show had to be canceled.
But Donna’s students wanted to show their appreciation to their beloved instructor. On Recital Day, the students participated in a gigantic drive-by parade, stopping with their families in the church parking lot next door to say “Thank You, Donna” for all you have meant to us every day.
“We have been with you on this day every year and to let it go by and not be with you somehow – we couldn’t do it,” the students and parents told Donna Estes.
“That day was awesome,” said Donna.
One student at a time, Donna Estes has been a bright, shining star in their lives. To enter Donna’s Dance Studio is to become a member of the family.”
“Dancing helps make students outgoing and confident in their abilities,” said Donna. “It’s so wonderful the friendships that my students have maintained with each other through the years,” said Donna.
This fall, that tradition of excellence and camaraderie will continue at the popular dance academy on Bessom Street.