Not long after she finished her degree in marine biology at Stony Brook University, longtime dancer Jen Kranenberg was offered the chance to become the owner of the dance studio she had been teaching at in Setauket.
"I never really thought I was going to own a studio. Everything just kind of happened," said Kranenberg, who grew up upstate and has now settled in East Northport. "I thought I would have a job in marine biology somewhere and would teach dance on Saturday on the side."
She could have stayed on track in her marine biology career; around that time, she also worked for the Okeanos Ocean Research Foundation, the predecessor to the Riverhead Foundation. But Kranenberg took a chance and accepted the opportunity, calling her new studio
Fifteen years later, her studio has a few hundred students and a nearly brand-new location on North Belle Meade Road in East Setauket in which she consolidated her two previous Setauket and Port Jefferson locations.
"I love what I do. I don’t think there’s anything better than coming in every day and loving what you do," she said. "It’s not work, it’s fun. To see the kids and their smiling faces ... I think they feel like they’ve found a place to call their own."
Chance To Dance offers ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, musical theater, and hip hop, along with Zumba and yoga in the morning for adults. It features a community-based dance team that participates in special events and fundraisers throughout the year, and employs a staff of five other teachers. Oftentimes, there are three classes happening at once in each of the studio's dance rooms.
Acknowledging that her North Belle Meade Road location may be a bit unusual for a dance studio – where it is nestled among dozens of medical offices and service-oriented and real estate businesses – Kranenberg said the location has attracted students from not only Setauket, Stony Brook, Mt. Sinai, and Port Jefferson but also Smithtown and Patchogue.
Long Island is widely considered a hotbed for dance talent, with nationally-ranked dance teams and what sometimes seems like multiple studios in every town. But while there are a handful of other dance studios in and close to the Three Village community, she said she thinks "there are probably just enough."
"We’re all very different, which I think is good," Kranenberg said. "There’s a place for everyone to have a chance to dance."