By Mike Chaiken, Editions Editor
There aren’t many dance studios that can say they are owned by a recent first runner-up for Miss Connecticut.
And the field narrows down a little further when the studio can also claim an instructor who also was a first runner-up at Miss Connecticut and another instructor can lay claim to the title of Miss Teen America.
But Apogee Dance Academy, which just opened on Spring Street, has those bragging rights.
The studio is owned by Cheshire resident, Alexandria Puglisi, who just missed being crowned Miss Connecticut by a hair in June. She was first runner-up, also winning the preliminary awards for health and fitness and talent.
However, Apogee, which is now registering for classes and opens after Labor Day, is not the byproduct of her accomplishments at Miss Connecticut. The movement for Puglisi’s own studio was already in process when she took the stage in New London, hoping for a chance to head to Miss America.
Puglisi said, “My goal was to go to Miss Connecticut, and win preliminary talent and put the ad (for the studio) in the (program) book, so all the parents will go, ‘You’re a wonderful dancer, where do you go.’ And then I can throw in, I own my own dance school.”
“When I was first runner up that was the cherry on top with whipped cream. That was wonderful. I wasn’t expecting that,” said Puglisi. “But it happened and that was really neat.”
Puglisi has had considerable success in the Miss Connecticut system over the years as have her two instructors. Waterbury’s Ashley Membrino and Bristol’s Brittany Monico. Membrino was first runner-up in 2012 and fourth runner-up in 2013. Monico, now a teacher at St. Anthony School in Bristol, was Miss Teen America in 2006, and won overall talent and third runner-up honors at Miss Connecticut in 2012.
Puglisi’s background in dance reaches back to the days when she first started walking. Her godmother opened up a dance studio, and Puglisi began taking lessons soon after at age 2.
When her godmother opted to close the studio, Puglisi moved onto a recreational studio and just danced for fun. Eventually, at age 11, Puglisi said, “I got into competition dancing and that was when I found my niche…”
“I loved competing,” said Puglisi. “I loved the girls I danced with. To this day, they are my best friends (this includes Membrino). They are my family.”
“That’s something I want to bring to this studio,” Puglisi added. “I really want to make sure all of my kids feel a sense of home and a sense of family when they’re together because I ate, slept, and breathed dance. My goal is to give my girls that same feeling.”
(A competition team is already formed at Apogee and Puglisi is looking for it to grow in time.)
At Miss Connecticut, Puglisi was saluted for her tap routine. But, she said she’s about more than that style of dance.
“Tap is my favorite,” said Puglisi, “however I’m classically trained in modern and ballet, which is what my college degree (from Naugatuck Valley Community College) is in.”
For Puglisi, who had a double major in business management, a dance studio had long been part of her career ambitions.
“This always has been the end game for me,” said Puglisi. “I wanted to perform first. But it’s a rough life. I realized I’m not the kind of person who wants to wait tables and hope maybe they’ll pick me.”
“I found my niche in teaching,” said Puglisi. And she can help her students become the best dancers and performers they can be. “It’s great to be part of that.”
Puglisi admitted that opening the studio this fall wasn’t about the right timing. “The timing is never right. Still to this day, I’m like, ‘I could use one more year.’ But if I kept saying one more year, I’d never do it. I just had to pull the trigger.”
Southington was chosen for the studio because it was a central location, said Puglisi. There is a good-sized population, she said. Plus, Puglisi said, “I love the Queen Street area. There are so many things to do.”
In regard to her teachers, Puglisi said Membrino has been “one of my best friends forever, we trained in dance together. It was really great to bring her in, she has an extensive tap background, and she’s great with the kids.”
Monico is trained in gymnastics, which gives the studio another dimension, said Puglisi. “I’m not really as strong in gymnastics so I want to be sure my kids are getting a strong acrobatic background because in competition you need a strong gymnastics background because you need to flip and turn and jump…Brittany is going to get them to that level.”
Apogee will be offering classes in tap, acrobatics, jazz, and ballet, said Puglisi. Children can begin learning even before they are potty with Apogee’s Mommy and Me classes. There also will be classes for children 3 to 5, and 6 to 8. After that, Puglisi said classes will be geared more toward ability rather than simply age.
Although the classes won’t begin till Sept. 8, Puglisi said she has organized a dance camp at the studio that begins Aug. 18. It’s open to all students and all studios. There will be master classes taught by visiting instructors. Among the instructors, she said, may be the current Miss Connecticut Acacia Courtney, who will instruct students in ballet.
Apogee Dance Academy is at 122 Spring St., Unit D-2, Southington. It can be reached at (860) 628-8998 or via Apogeedanceaca-demy.com.