I’m Karissa Despres. I am the owner and artistic director of North Fork Academy of Dance. We have locations in Aquebogue, Southold and Greenport. I purchased the business five years ago from Harry Precht and this is our 31st year of business on the North Fork.
I started my dance training in Ballet Austin in Austin, Texas. Then we relocated here because of my father’s job and I was a student of Mr. Precht’s when I was in sixth grade. I started in 1994 and would dance with him until my senior year, went to New York and studied arts administration at Baruch College.
Unfortunately, he passed away six years ago. He was a very comedic man and was like a grandfather to me. He showed me all the ropes. I was always interested in being a dancer, but he made me interested in being a teacher. He taught me how to engage with children, the public, the parents — he shared the love of the art. It was never about running a dance academy, it was about teaching the children.
I teach ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, breakdancing. We start at the age of two and go up to adults. We have 103 students and I have a staff of nine teachers at all locations.
There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work. We come in, we answer all of our phone calls and all of our correspondence. In the afternoon is when our clients come in and our classes start.
We always start with our warm-ups, progressions across the floor and then we usually end our class with some type of combination.
I love coming to work. I love being on a set and being on a stage. I love to perform. And I did do that for a certain amount of time in my life, but I really enjoy teaching and seeing the kids learn and watching them from day one to the end of our recital or annual showcase. It’s great to see how much they grow and how much they enjoy dance just as much as I do.