The History of Mitchell's Dance Studio
In 1932, after being called on repeatedly to provide Entertainment and instruct Dance Routines for shows, Mary Manuel Mitchell opened a Dance Studio in the "Music Room" of her home at 27 Chapman St. in Beverly. Her first Recital consisted of performances by her 7 pupils plus other variety acts. Thus the title "Follies of ___" became a reality.
With her sister, Sally Manuel as her Studio Pianist, she was able to provide a very flexible schedule. Some days began at 7:30 am when a young man would arrive to learn "Buck & Wing" before going to work at the Beverly Times. They would end when a group of Nurses would take a 10:00 pm class before reporting for a 3rd shift at Beverly Hospital.
In the Fall of 1933, Mary's young teenage son, Alvin proved that he could teach and conduct lessons. At 10 cents per lesson, they provided anyone with an interest in Dancing, the opportunity to take classes. The Studio's popularity grew to include students from all over the North Shore. In 1935, a Studio was opened in Danvers and another in Essex soon followed.
In order to provide extra practice time for the preschool pupils, Mitchell's Rhythm Nursery was opened in 1939. Then in the early 40's, Al with his uncle Dave Manuel as the pianist, began teaching Ballroom classes in the public schools. Their circuit included the cities and towns of Swampscott, Marblehead, Nahant, Saugus, Lynnfield and Wakefield. Tap classes were now being taught in Lynn and Peabody. In the mid-40's Tap and Ballroom classes were added in Manchester and Ipswich.
In the early 50's, "the thing for teenagers to do" was attend Mitchell's Thursday Night Ballroom Classes at the G.A.R. Hall in Beverly. Along with the local youth, teens came from as far away as Everett, Wilmington and Tewksbury!
In 1955, a fire damaged the Chapman St. property. While in the process of repairing, a decision was made to provide for additional Studio space. The present Main Studio addition was constructed in 1960.
The 1960's also brought forth the elite Mitchellette group which included the best of the best dancers under the direction of Al Mitchell. Perdito became the staple dance of the group (for those who could keep up!) as they performed in venues all over the North Shore.
In the 70's, Modern Ballet was introduced to the Studio along with Dramatic Acts performed in the Follies. Al's neice, Joyce Boccia began teaching and after high school she assisted Al in operating the Studio. Joyce was able to introduce the new style of Jazz and it took off without a hitch! Sadly, the founder "Aunt Mary" passed away in August of 1984. However, the studio still thrived through the support of the community as generations of dancers continued to take lessons from Mitchell's.
In June of 1999, the Mitchellette's held a reunion to celebrate Alvin's 80th birthday. Many former dancers came from many different states to attend the event. In 2007, in honor of the 75th Anniversary, three lines worth of former and present Mitchelletes performed Perdito. So many former dancers wanted to continue dancing that the Perdette group was formed.
Owner Al Mitchell passed away in July of 2011, but the show still went on. Mitchell's celebrated it's 80th season the following June led by Joyce. The Studio continued as a part of Mitchman, Inc. which was formed in 1998 as a way to continue operation of the family's day camp, Camp Mitchman led by Joe Boccia.
The summer of 2014 was the last summer of Camp Mitchman but through the expertise of Joe Boccia and his daughter Bethani Boccia Moremong the studio continued with summer theater workshops which kept the Mitchman spirit alive as well as offered pupils to remain with Mitchell's during the summer months.
Bethani continues as the 4th generation owner and operator of Mitchell's and was honored to help celebrate with the studio's 90th Follies this past spring with a show held at The Cabot Theater that had students dancing through the decades from 1930's to present day.