Gallery dances its way to a new location

Click here to see a slideshow of Erin Brinkerhoff's Ballet 3 Class

Through the doors at the Gallery School of Music & Dance’s new location is a world of possibilities.

“We are a full performing-arts school, as well as a creative-arts learning center for little ones,” explains co-founder Kara Morket, who runs Gallery with her sister, Erin Brinkerhoff.

The school, which has been in operation for 14 years, continues to be housed in part of property owner Mansour Samadpour’s recent Port Orchard acquisitions, which total more than $3.7 million. But the school recently relocated downstairs in the building at 702 Bay Street.

By moving, the school has almost doubled in size — the upstairs studio was less than 6,000 square feet, the new space is 11,000.

And they also have gained some new flavor.

“We call it the French Quarter because that’s kind of the spin we took,” Morket said. “We took the New Orleans kind of feel — the French kind of verbiage in some of the retail stock shops.

“Some people are looking forward to using this in a non-bar-related music and dance (facility).”

Overall, she said, the community reaction to the new space has been “wonderful.”

In addition to such traditional offerings as ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance, Gallery also offers contemporary, lyrical, theater, ballroom and funk classes. The school also offers pilates and yoga, and instruction in instruments including violin, piano, guitar and flute.

They have about 400 students enrolled in Port Orchard, and 150 in Silverdale. Dance class start at 18 months, and music classes at four years.

“It’s a really fun bond for the mother and the child or the father and the child ... to experience momentum and music with the closeness,” Brinkerhoff said. “They can just look around and see the space in the floor and the mirrors and just take it all in.”

Brinkerhoff explained that similar to other schools, Gallery’s core program starts at age five. “When you take a look at the nation, if they’re a level six here, they’ll be a level six there,” she said.

“We try and prepare our students as well as we can for whatever they want to do.”

The school charges $48 for an hour-long dance class for a month. Music is $28 for a half-hour. Pre-dance, ages 2-4 years, for a half-hour is $33 per month. The fee allows each student to participate in one session per week. Morket said they offer multiple classes for each group per day.

They also will not turn away anyone with a passion.

“Even the child who is the most financially challenged, if they have a dream, they can absolutely find their way through the front door,” Morket said.

And they pay it forward to the community, too.

The school is getting ready to put its own spin on “It’s a White Christmas” as part of a benefit show with a local foster-care agency.

“We have such a wonderful experience with our productions that we thought, ‘How can we give back to the community? How can we be a business that’s viable and also gives back?’ ” Morkert said. “We decided to find a charity where we could put on a production and give the proceeds to (it).”

The school does two shows a year — past productions include “Cleopatra,” “Alice In Wonderland” and “Ship of Dreams.” And in addition to studio-wide shows, they also have a competition team.

“We didn’t always have it, but the industry really has taken a turn,” Morkert said. “The Pacific Northwest is really instrumental in some of the changes that have come about in the industry.

“Everything from costumes to style to the way we’re actually seeing our trends reflected in some of the catalogs nationwide.”

And they also run a retail store.

“If you’re a one-time theater student and you’re like, ‘I need some goofy shoes and a long-sleeved goofy leotard,’ you can come in here and get what you need for a reasonable price,” Brinkerhoff promised.

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