Originally appeared July 25th, 2012, in the Asbury Park Press.. By Kerry Close
After growing up taking dance lessons, Bamonte took a job teaching at the township Recreation Department when she was 15 years old.
It was a job that inspired her to develop her hobby into a career.
“The kids were amazing,” Bamonte said. “I always knew that I wanted to own my own studio one day.”
So in 1984, Bamonte opened Howell Academy of Dance in Howell Plaza — a venture that was not immediately met with success.
She struggled with working multiple jobs before the business got off the ground.
“There was a lot going on,” Bamonte said. “It’s easy to get overwhelmed, because there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Bamonte said managing the business has become easier with time. “Everything comes naturally,” she said. “I’ve learned from making mistakes and have gotten better at the business. (Now) I don’t have to make too many changes. … And there’s always a positive side.”
Today the dance academy features two studios across the road from each other on Route 9. The school’s 13 instructors teach hundreds of students and classes each year.
Still, the focus of the schools remains on its students, Bamonte said.
“I keep my class sizes down,” she said. “I really value the person-to-person connection.” Bamonte offers a wide variety of classes in her studios, ranging from ballet to tap to lyrical dance. The intensity level during the lessons is high.
“The focus is dance,” she said. “The kids have to pull their own weight to learn.” But Bamonte also hopes that her students have fun while learning. “I want the kids to have a good time, because they’ll grow up fast,” she said. “I don’t consider myself a competitive person.”
However, the academy does offer the Diamond Dancers team, which attends competitions and performs at charitable events. In the past the Diamond Dancers have raised money for such organizations as the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
“These are the kids that want to compete at a higher level,” Bamonte said. “They join the team by invitation, and they really work hard.”
Ellen Gorin, the property manager at Howell Plaza, praised Bamonte’s enthusiasm for her work. “She’s obviously very talented,” Gorin said. “’She’s got energy. She lights up a room when she walks in, and she’s worked hard to make her business work.”
The early sacrifices she’s made to stay in business, Bamonte said, are well worth the enjoyment she receives from spending time with the children she teaches.
“I love being with the kids,” she said. “I like helping them through their routine and spending time with them. It’s a really special feeling.”