524 7th St N, Fargo, ND
Kathy Gasper began to teach dance as a way to get in shape after giving birth to her son, Marty.
It didn’t take long for word to spread that Gasper, a former prima ballerina who had recently moved to Fargo with her family, was teaching lessons in a local church basement.
That was back in 1983. Since then, the Gasper name has grown synonymous with dance. Kathy and her husband Eddie, a former Bob Fosse assistant and Broadway hoofer, opened various successful studios and staged numerous dance productions. They helped start up dance programs at local organizations like Trollwood Performing Arts School. And, along the way, they taught hundreds of kids and adults how to tap, leap and plie.
Now their middle son carries on the tradition. Matt Gasper returned to Fargo in 2005 to help oversee the family business’s transition from a rented space to the purchase of their own building at 524 7th St. N. “I saw the amazing job the architects did with the new building and my parents needed a fresh pair of legs,” Matt Gasper says. “So I decided to move back.”
With the financial backing of local arts “movers and shakers” like Ruth Landfield and Doug Burgum, Gasper’s School of Dance and Performing Arts has not only survived but thrived. Enrollment has swelled to more than 200 dance students, ages 3 to 62. An additional 100 people are enrolled in fitness classes like Zumba.
Although Eddie retired from teaching when Matt returned home, Kathy, now 63, continues to teach part-time. And Matt has set aside his own performance career, which included dancing with the Cleveland San Jose Ballet, to teach others about the joy of movement.
He and the school’s eight other instructors teach dance from a sun-filled, 4,300-square-foot building that owes its vibrant facade to the work of local graffiti artists. It’s hard to believe this is the same drab, squat building that once housed a dental supply manufacturing business. Kilbourne Group General Manager Mike Allmendinger was project manager on the renovation, which involved installing more joint-friendly “sprung floors” atop concrete in studio spaces and adding a long hallway to run adjacent to studios so parents could observe classes.
When Matt and his team aren’t teaching classes that range from competitive dance to advanced ballet, he also works to expand dance programs around Fargo-Moorhead. Through his efforts, NDSU offered a theater-dance minor for the first time this year. And he has launched the F-M Ballet Company, which received glowing notices for its performance of “The Nutcracker” this season. (Matt, of course, played the Nutcracker Prince.)
“With the help of Kilbourne Group, we’ve re-established Gasper’s School of Dance as a staple in the FM Community. Now Gaspers has a permanent home,” says Matt. “We’ll be here as long as we can kick our legs.”