By Maralisa Marra
In 2015, Ingra Hunt Pratt purchased the old Princess Theater building downtown and transformed it into her dream dance studio. For the last eight years, Ingra & Co. has enlivened Pike Street with creative window displays and packed streets every night of dance classes.
“It’s nice that people are interested in taking dance, and it’s definitely a dream come true for me,” she said.
Pratt saved the historic building and gave it some much needed tender love and care, and now the unforgettable, classic black and white façade is a Shinnston staple.
Pratt said she started off with 70 students.
“I’ve been doing the same thing for eight years,” she added.
Now, Pratt has about 125 students enrolled and keeps a waitlist, and she said that the majority of the dancers take two to four classes a week.
“I’m just thankful that I was able to do something that actually did grow. It’s very surreal,” she said.
She has students from all over the surrounding areas—Bridgeport, Idamay, and Fairmont, as well as other cities.
She said she calls those on the waitlist the following year.
She said the hard work that goes into each dance season is rewarding.
“The kids especially, I’ve watched them grow up. I have kids that started when they were three that are on the middle school dance line now,” Pratt added. “I really get close with the kids and get to know them. It’s special, it really is.”
Pratt is also the choreographer for the Lincoln Middle dance team.
The majority of Pratt’s dance routines are inspired by her students.
“I have to get a vibe from the students. I can’t just make a routine and take it to them. It’s generally on the spot or something they inspire me to do,” she said.
Each year, Pratt develops themes for their recitals, and she said she likes to switch it up every year. One year the recital might be a little more emotional than the last, and the next year it might be a little happier and upbeat.
She said, “I just try to keep the themes mixed, so it’s never the same thing, it never gets boring. I also try to incorporate a little bit of everything into the shows because I feel like we’re going to reach somebody by doing that. Somebody’s going to see something they like.”
As Pratt moves forward, she said, “I just want to keep growing.” She said she has given thought to having a competition dance team, as well.
Every year, Pratt said she tries to take one room of the studio and renovate it.
“I take one room a year, even though it’s all done, but I like to make it different all the time,” she said. “I like to change it up. Change up the windows. Change up the classes. As far as a goal, I’m just going to keep growing and see what happens.”
Her students also dance in various parades in surrounding areas. If there is an Irish parade in Shinnston, Pratt said she plans to have her Irish dancers dance in it, as well. According to Dance U.S., Irish dance is “performed traditionally with intricate footwork and is most known for the dancers performing with a stiff upper body. Unlike other dance forms, Irish dancers do not move their arms or hands so that footwork is accented.”
Ingra & Co. has brought an elegant, creative touch to Shinnston, and Pratt is determined to continuously make her mark on the town through instilling confidence and creativity in the youth, all while sharing her knowledge and love of dance with them.
Registration and open house took place Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. Classes are scheduled to begin Oct. 3.