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Ohana School of Performing Arts to Host Ribbon Cutting on Sept. 5

CHICOPEE — Ohana School of Performing Arts will celebrate its new location, 41 Sheridan St. in Chicopee, on Thursday, Sept. 5 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by refreshments. Expected attendees will include Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos and state Rep. Joseph Wagner.

The journey to the new location was a chaotic road for Ohana, after being forced to relocate from its previous building in South Hadley less than two months before its annual end-of-year showcase in June. The building the previous studio occupied was sold abruptly in the spring, leaving Ohana only six weeks to find a space, renovate, and move. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will celebrate not only a new chapter for the studio, but an expansion in studio size and class offerings.

Classes include ballet, tap, hip hop, musical theater, contemporary, parent/child combo classes, adult-level classes, fitness, and more. While quality education is crucial, it’s even more important at Ohana that each student leaves the studio having learned to value kindness, compassion, and inclusivity.

Owner and Creative Director Ashley Kohl was a professional dancer for most of her life. Her inspiration for the school came from her previous job working as co-host and associate producer on the local WWLP-TV show Mass Appeal. She filmed a story highlighting a local dance class for all abilities, helping her realize her true passion and purpose. Seeing the impact dance had on people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds, she immediately focused on the journey to create her own studio that educates and trains dedicated, disciplined dancers, but also raises good humans with love and compassion for all.

“My goal is to bring dance to everyone, no matter their age or ability, and to give people a supportive outlet to be creative,” Kohl said. “It’s much more than shaping incredibly trained and disciplined dancers, it’s about believing in the arts, celebrating each other, and giving back to the community. We are not only shaping bodies, we are shaping hearts, too.”

Once a month, students gather for team-building exercises that promote kindness to others while showing the importance of helping others through a program called Wingman for Dance. The program teaches students about kindness, self-acceptance, diversity and inclusion, giving back, and community service.

Community is a core value of the studio, and one way students give back is through annual charity performances, supporting local organizations including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the We Love Riley Foundation, the Willpower Foundation, and One Ohana, among others. To further promote her mission, Kohl founded One Ohana Inc., a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that awards scholarships to dancers of all ages and abilities throughout the Pioneer Valley.

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