Aug. 24--Dave Ragnacci never participated in a dance class until he was 21 years old, but that fateful step into the dance world resulted in a storied career that marks 25 years this Sunday.
The Dunmore native will celebrate his 25th anniversary in business with an open house at his Scranton studio at 1212 S. Main St. from 2 to 6 p.m.
The event is free and will offer former, present and prospective students and clients the chance to learn more about the school.
Demonstrators and vendors will be on hand with information about the new karate programs, Zumba and yoga classes in addition to dance classes that teach tap, jazz, ballet and hip-hop.
A Dunmore High School graduate, Mr. Ragnacci always was involved with drama and chorus productions, and later performed with local theater groups. His original career plan was to become involved in special education or to be a nurse, but Mr. Ragnacci discovered a love of and natural talent for choreography after taking his first dance class all those years ago.
He began teaching one class on Friday nights and was asked back by local acting troupes such as Standing Room Only that sought his choreography services, helping him establish his original studio in Carbondale. He opened his Scranton studio three years later. These days, Mr. Ragnacci splits his time between those locations with the support of a full staff at each.
"I never thought it would turn into my career," Mr. Ragnacci said.
For years, he was the resident choreographer of spring musicals for local high schools, including Bishop O'Hara, Bishop Hoban, Valley View and West Scranton, as well as the Corner Bistro Dinner Theater in Carbondale.
"When I create a concept of what a show is going to be, I try to make them very entertaining," Mr. Ragnacci said. "The feeling I get when I look out and hear the audience laughing and applauding, I can't even explain.
"For three hours, I make everyone forget about their problems," he added. "Creating the show is the one thing I love more than anything. I would be lost without my dance studio."
Throughout his career, Mr. Ragnacci has dedicated much of his energy to working with special-needs youths as well, including them in his classes and productions in roles that give them a chance at the spotlight that helps build their self-esteem.
One big family
"I love teaching that group, because when they perform, the house (audience) goes crazy for them," he said.
"The one thing that makes me feel really fantastic is that a lot of dance studios cater to their top-notch dancers, and the underdog is hidden in the back," Mr. Ragnacci said. "But at our studio, we make everybody feel special. They're not competing with each other, it's like a huge, huge, huge family."
In all, he estimates, he has about 500 dance students who collectively attend his two studios.
In the last year, even more people have come through the doors to try the other classes the schools offer, especially the karate and kickboxing program established by brothers Bob and Mark Kleha.
Mr. Ragnacci said he hopes the open house will give the public a chance to see the facility and learn more about the alternative programs.
"I'd like people to see the beautiful art form to karate," he said. "It's more than kicking and punching."
Contact the writer: email@example.com, @pwildingTT on TwitterIf you go
What: Open house celebrating 25 years of business
When: Sunday, 2 to 6 p.m.
Where: Dave Ragnacci School of Dance, 1212 S. Main Ave., Scranton
Details: Admission is free. Vendors and demonstrators will be on hand. For more information, call the studio at 342-5436 or visit www.dragnaccidance.com.
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