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A historic dance studio & performance space just outside of Chicago.
A humble start.
Stephanie started teaching in Oak Park in 1971; she rolled up the living room rug and invited a couple of neighborhood children to take a creative movement class. By 1973, Stephanie had moved into a local Tai Chi studio where she traded office work for space; in 1974 she moved into the rented storefront next door and asked three other teachers to work with her. By 1977, as she moved into a larger storefront on Marion Street, and incorporated as the Academy of Movement and Music. In June 1977, the Academy gave its first recital at Oak Park River Forest High School’s Little Theater – with 77 children dancing to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. At the end of 1982, the student body had outgrown that space and it was
time to move again.
Our Building's History
The Academy opened for business at the Bishop Quarter building on Lake Street in January 1983 – it had taken an army of volunteers to sand floors, paint walls, run new electric and scrub everything clean, but in three weeks the old Bishop Quarter Military Academy had been transformed into a wonderful space for dance. The building dates from 1929 and is a landmarked work by Gerald Barry; it was built as an addition to the original older Victorian building that had been the first Oak Park River Forest High School, and then was run as a boys’ Catholic boarding school by the Dominican nuns and named for a prominent bishop. In the early 1970’s the older building was torn down, and newer townhomes began to surround the classroom and gymnasium building standing in their midst. The Villages Parks and Recreation had offices in the building for a time as did a gymnastic school and an artists’ coop. When the Academy bought the building from the Village of Oak Park, there were trees growing on the roof and in the gymnasium. Shortly after renovations allowed Academy classes to start, Stephanie Clemens, Larry Ippel and James Tenuta founded MOMENTA in 1983 – as the Academy’s resident dance company. The big gymnasium slowly grew into a wonderful space for dance classes, a flourishing preschool based in the arts, and with the capability to convert to a black box theater for dance and music performances.
The Academy is now in its fifth decade – and is looking forward to the next 50 years. The old building has had a number of improvements and the school continues to educate and train students from two years old through adults in dance and music, and the preschool is still introducing children as young as two years old to performing and visual arts along with academic readiness training. Our excellent faculty includes teachers who were themselves students at the Academy – and our parent body represents generations who call the Academy home. We welcome a diverse student body of all backgrounds, identities, abilities, and ages; we have classes for beginners looking for a recreational introduction to dance and music, as well as pre-
professional training. Many of our graduates have gone on to prestigious companies and university
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