Kester School of Dance opened in 1964

WEIRTON – In the fall of 1964, Virginia and Clarence Kester opened the Kester School of Dance in Weirton, and 50 years later Peggy Zablackas continues to keep with the rhythm of her family’s business.

“They opened it for their daughter, Cindy, and the marching corps was called the ‘cinettes’ after her,” she said.

Virginia died in 1988, and Cindy took over the family business with her husband, Richard Irwin. She died in 2003, and Irwin handed the studio to Zablackas in July 2007.

Zablackas danced on her own in the few years leading up to her enrollment at the school, but under the Kesters’ influence she became focused on marching corps and baton twirling.

“We would go to National Baton Twirling Association competitions across the Northeast, which would usually end with the American Youth On Parade competition at the University of Notre Dame. Some of the dancers and twirlers even performed on cruise ships and islands like Puerto Rico, Bermuda and St. Thomas through a cultural exchange program,” she said.

Zablackas said twirling was hugely popular when she was in school.

“There weren’t as many sports for girls to be involved in at that time. Like many girls my age, it was pretty much my life through middle and high school, Monday through Thursday and every Saturday,” she recalled.

On June 8, the school held a recital for alumni to return and perform at their old stomping grounds again. More than 20 dancers arrived from as far as six hours away.

“We’re like a big family here. We have kids dancing now whose mothers used to dance here. Multiple generations have come and gone, and all of the instructors grew up learning here,” Zablackas said.

Both of her daughters, Erica Zablackas-Berg and Jennifer Zablackas-Lester, grew up learning dance there as well. Zablackas-Lester is now a veterinarian. Zablackas-Berg became a teacher at Weir Middle School, but she still finds the time to instruct at the dance school, too.

“I love it. I kind of feel lost if I’m not at the dance studio,” she said. “My husband, Bill, helps out and puts up with a lot.”

About 100 to 150 students, children and adults, are enrolled at the studio, although they’re taking a summer break this year. Registration will begin again in late August or early September.

“We try to teach children not only good dance techniques but also to respect others. They learn how to entertain while we build up their self confidence,” Zablackas said. “Our students are exposed to instructors that have taught worldwide.”

The Kester School of Dance offers classes in ballet, tap, jazz, acrobat and baton. They also have “Tiny Tot” classes for 2-to-4-year-olds. Dancers participate in local parades, such as the upcoming Fourth of July Parade in Weirton.

For information, visit the Kester School of Dance on Facebook or call (304)748-0770.