Former students surprise Kochert

Deborah Kochert has no idea how it was all pulled off.

During a recent 25th anniversary Dance by Deborah recital at Crawfordsville High School, dozens of former students threw a surprise performance of their old routines, bringing together alumni from across the country.

“I could not even physically contain my excitement, that’s how cool it was to see these people do this,” she said.

Plans for the tribute began at least three months before the recital, when a number of former dancers said they wanted to reunite for the anniversary.

Ashley Schinker, who now teaches alongside Kochert, put together a 20-minute video of well-wishes from alumni across the globe. 

The students then dug out their old dance tapes. Mallory (Bannon) Kessler, Kathryn (Denhart) Foland and Morgan (Reese) Morris also helped organize the act. Foland and Morris are teaching assistants at Dance by Deborah.

The group re-learned the routines and posted clips on a private Facebook group for out-of-state dancers. They held a team practice at the Athena Center.

“It was a really cool feeling when we all did the dance the first time, and everyone knew where to stand,” said Schinker, a fourth-year pharmacy student at Purdue University.

On recital night, the dancers sneaked backstage, as Kochert rounded up current students for the opening number.

Once the younger dancers left the stage and Kochert had made announcements, one of the former students took the microphone. 

Kochert was asked to sit in the front row, next to her younger sister, Lisa, and mother, Gloria, as the tribute video played.

Then the curtain opened, revealing more than 30 dance alums on the stage.

“How no one actually leaked it to me is a miracle,” Kochert later said, “because a lot of these people actually talk to me, and I do keep in touch with former students and… know what’s going on in their lives.”

The alums also bought customized Nike shoes for Deborah and Lisa,  and gave Grace a special pendant.

Kochert wants to bring together former students again, this time away from the stage. Thousands of dancers, young and old, have taken her classes.

It all began with a pair of dance shoes.

Kochert needed them for a childhood gig with the Sugar Creek Players, and when the play was over, Grace suggested taking dance lessons until the shoes wore out.

By high school, she was teaching dance at the Park and Rec.

After graduation and bound for Purdue — where she didn’t know what to study — Kochert spent a summer as choreographer and backup dancer for an inspirational singer she met in the PRIDE program.

Gloria recommended making a living out of dance and going back to school if it went bust.

By 1992, she was balancing dance classes with choreographing school musicals and show choirs. She was active in Vanity Theater.

When a place on North Green Street came up for rent, she decided to start her own studio.

Friends helped her renovate the building, which opened with less than 100 students and a single dance room.

In the mid-to-late-90s, Kochert borrowed a minivan and drove children to their first dance convention in Cincinnati. On the way over, a window wouldn’t roll up, and coming back they had to rope closed a broken sliding door.

The whole experience was a key moment for the studio’s early days.

“They were learning all about this big world of dance, but so was I,” she said, sitting in the lobby of her studio. “I was learning how to run something.”

A few years later, more than 60 children and their families went to a nationals competition in Florida.

The studio moved to the former Dellekamp’s Department Store at 131 E. Main in 2002. Kochert and her instructors now teach roughly 225 students ages two and up.

Classes are offered in jazz, tap, ballet, pointe, tumbling, hip-hop and cheerleading.

The business is a family affair. Lisa has taught since the beginning, while Gloria orders supplies and keeps the books.

Marcie Morgan, Hannah Rich and Kaitlyn Nordenbrock are the other instructors.

Kochert has thought about expanding the studio so more of her former students can teach. But her 6-year-old son, Sebastian, 9-year-old daughter, Gianna, and 11-year-old nephew, Brenden, seem to have the future mapped out. 

The kids have already picked out which rooms they will teach in, leaving Deborah to run the business side.

“They’ve got it all done,” Kochert said with a laugh. “So I guess I can rest easy.”

C.R. 1150 South closed Tuesday

On Tuesday the Montgomery County Highway closed County Road 1150 South between U.S. 231 S. and County Road 75 East. Employees are replacing a culvert. Homeowners will continue to have access to their homes from U.S. 231 S. The project is approximately one-quarter of a mile west of County Road 75 E. The road is expected to be open by 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Residents encouraged to be tested for HIV

The Montgomery County Health Department is encouraging Montgomery County residents to learn about their HIV status on National HIV Testing Day which is Tuesday. The Montgomery County Health Department offers free and confidential HIV and Hepatitis C testing on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon at their office located at 110 W. South Boulevard. 

 HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, makes it hard for your body to fight off disease and infection by weakening a person’s immune system and can progress to a severe condition called acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS.  HIV is most commonly transmitted through unprotected sexual behaviors and needle/syringe misuse. While there is no cure for HIV, it can be successfully managed through proper medical care. Getting tested and knowing your status is an important way that you can protect yourself and others from the spread of HIV.

“HIV is both preventable for those who don’t have it, and manageable for those who do,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “Everyone benefits from knowing their HIV status, but testing is even more important for those who engage in high-risk sexual behaviors or injection drug use. When you get tested, you aren’t just taking a step to protect yourself – you are protecting those close to you.”

For more information visit the Montgomery County Health Department website at www.montgomerycounty.in.gov/health and visit our Facebook page MontCoHealth.

REMC Donates to New Market Firefighters

REMC Multi-County Community Trust (Operation Roundup) recently awarded $3,000 to New Market Community Volunteer Fire Department to assist in the purchase of a backup generator. The importance of this backup power supply is a direct link to the communications readiness and always ready status of the fire apparatus. Secondary applications include the facility being used as a public shelter for catastrophic weather conditions as well as tactical operations for local emergency management. Operation Roundup Board members pictured are: Cathie Keith and Kathy Collom. Accepting the award are, from left, Brian Cosby, volunteer firefighter; Ryan Adams, assistant secretary/treasurer; Tracy Budd, fire chief; Ken Rice, NMCVFD board member; Eric Brewer, NMCVFD board president.

Reception to honor Johnson set

David Johnson, executive director of the Montgomery United Fund For You, will complete his tenure with the fundraising organization at the end of this month, and MUFFY is honoring him with a public reception and open house 2-4 p.m. Thursday.

“David has ably and professionally led MUFFY for nearly 12e years and has raised millions of dollars for the residents of Montgomery County,” said Kathy Brown, president of the MUFFY Board of Directors. “We, along with MUFFY staff, partner agencies, and the public, would like to thank David for his dedication and hard work for our community.”

The open house will take place at the MUFFY office on the second floor of the MainSource Bank building, 221 E. Main St., Crawfordsville. The public is invited and light refreshments will be served.

The MUFFY board is currently interviewing candidates to fill Johnson’s position and anticipate announcing a new executive director by mid-July.