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Good golly, ‘Miss Molly’

Business owner, instructor surprised by impromptu parade of her dancers

Photos submitted to Times Observer Alaina Leach, 5, with the sign she made for the parade in honor of Miss Molly.

It seems parades are the hot thing right now — with the call for social distancing due to COVID-19.

Birthday parades. Parades for students. Parades for teachers.

And they are all spectacular in a time when smiles and love is even more needed.

A parade held Saturday along Conewango Ave., heading north toward Molly Dies’ Dance Unlimited, was a last-minute addition, and dozens upon dozens of dancers and their families came together for one common theme; perfectly painted on a vehicle’s window beside a “Molly Dies’ Dance Express Company” car sticker… “We Love You, Miss Molly.”

“Dance Unlimited is our dance studio in Warren…,” said Katie Courson, a dance mom. “It has many levels and all styles of dance. The 2019-2020 season is the first year under new ownership of Molly Dies. She took it over from her mother, Linda Dies, after 35-plus years. This weekend was to be the 36th dance recital for Dance Unlimited students. Generations of community members have passed through the doors. Myself, I have three daughters — all three have danced or are currently dancing. Every May, over 200 dancers — ranging in age from three to 18 — take the stage to entertain hundreds of proud family and friends. Given the recent events, we obviously (did not) have our recital.

“Molly Dies is not only the owner, but she is a teacher of many, many classes, a choreographer of countless dances, and the coach of Molly Dies Dance Express — the competitive dance team,” said Courson. “Despite the preparation for our competition season, all competitions were canceled as well.”

That has hit Molly hard — as told in a Facebook post Friday night:

“On the eve of what would have been our dress rehearsal for our 36th annual dance recital, I am sad,” Molly wrote. “Just. Sad. Up till now, I’ve been OK. I’ve rolled with the punches and remained optimistic, and I know I’ll get back to that, but for now… I just want to be sad. This isn’t a status topic to get attention or get compared to, I know we’re allllll effected and everyone is impacted, this isn’t to get sympathy, or the “it could be worse”. (Actually I’m going to try and turn off commenting cause I don’t want any of that. I just want to be sad. Let me be sad. This is me on my social media soapbox being sad, using FB as my diary.)

“I’ve been working on a project to air tomorrow night in lieu of recital weekend, so maybe that’s where all this emotion is coming from — from looking at 287 faces and names who have worked so incredibly hard and passionately throughout this year to get their time on that stage,” Dies continued. “To the 10 seniors who won’t get the chance to dance on that stage one last time. To the 14 ten-year award recipients and the two 15-year (dancers) that won’t get to walk across that stage this year to get their honor. To my teachers who put so much time and heart into making our dancers look their best…

“So to ALL my dancers out there: I get you,” she said. “I feel you. I’m right there with you. It’s ok to have a cry, it’s ok to be sad, you deserved everything you would have gotten this weekend. And it sucks we’re not getting it. Just sucks. After tonight, we’ll put our smiles back on and look towards a future where I will do my absolute best to make this all up to you. But, for tonight, right now, I’m just sad.”

It didn’t take the dancers long to team up and do what needed to be done — put their “smiles back on.”

“To celebrate Molly and thank her for her years of dedication and instruction… we are having a SURPRISE drive by parade,” Katie Courson said Friday night. “We’ve reached out to the Dance Express team and parents, Dance Unlimited students, along with alumni and teachers. We have sheriff office escort, too!”

Katie’s daughter, Rachael, is a dancer and a junior at Warren Area High School. She was obviously one of the approaching 100 people that took part in the surprise.

“This year is (usually) one of the most rewarding times for all of us at the studio, not only the competition dancers but also everyone involved at Molly Dies’ Dance Unlimited, so it is very difficult not to be able to perform for everything we have been working so hard on,” said Rachael. “However, yesterday’s parade for Molly meant everything and more to be able to see each other again even if from six feet apart! We were able to laugh and smile — even in one of the hardest weekends we are going through!

“Megan Leach had the idea and, after that, my mom Katie organized it and the next thing I knew at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning about 50 to 70… dancers of all ages from the studio were meeting in the Calvary Baptist Church parking lot to surprise Molly,” said Rachael, who will be entering her 15th year of dance by the time she’s a senior at WAHS. “The past few months to stay busy we’ve been given so many virtual dance classes online for free and have been able to utilize those since we can not be in the studio.”

Rachael’s mom said, “This isn’t just a job to (Molly) — it truly is her life and it shows.”

It certainly showed on Saturday.

“Best. Day. Ever!” said Molly.

“Thank you SO much everyone! Can’t thank you enough! I was in such a funk and this absolutely helped me right out of it! What an awesome surprise and amazing memories!

“… From my WHOLE heart… THANK YOU!”

“Seeing each vehicle drive by, decorated, blaring their dance music, poster boards with well wishes, it absolutely took my breath away and tears filled my eyes,” Dies said. “I’ve never get so humbled. And to see the looks on their faces — the dancers and parents — was a memory I will never forget. The smiles, the waves, the kisses blown were all so heartwarming and visions I will remember for a long time.”

It seems their coach has done much more for them, and the parade was the least they could do.

“My 9-year-old daughter, when asked what dance means to her, answered ‘everything,'” said Megan Leach Addison. “For us, as a family, the dance studio has become a home away from home — a family of cheerleaders, and extra moms and dads who are helping shape our girls into stronger people.

“Miss Molly and the other teachers are teaching our girls that hard work pays off, strong bonds make it easier, and failure is a part of success,” said Leach. “This weekend was the best time to show our appreciation for those lessons and for their hard work and love for our family and all the Molly Dies School of Dance families.”

Megan’s five-year-old daughter, Alaina, didn’t want to be left out. She said her favorite part of dance is “dancing with Miss Molly and my friends.”

“Sorry, she was insistent she get a say, too,” said Megan.

“In the absence of a recital on the weekend that should have been our daughters’ third and sixth recital, we were feeling awfully sad,” added Megan. “It was obvious that Molly was feeling that sadness, too, maybe more than anyone. When my husband, Paul, suggested a parade for Miss Molly and the dance teachers when the stay-at-home order was first issued, I brushed it off, but this weekend it suddenly felt like something everyone needed. We have a parent Facebook page for the Dance Express parents. I put it out there for thoughts. Before I had time to check back to see if anyone was interested, Katie Courson had it all planned!”

Leave it to Molly, herself, to put together a YouTube video of the “Surprise Car Parade.” It can be viewed at https://youtu.be/k2a2QftWnxA

But that’s not it.

“(Molly) loves to make a video,” Megan said.

Molly had already made one — at https://youtu.be/TTjoHnSE_c0 — “showcasing our 287 dancers, 52 dances, honoring our 10 seniors, 14 ten-year award recipients, two 15-year award recipients, our teachers, choreographers, and staff, countless hours of dancing, friendships, and memories — all in one video to help fill the void of this recital weekend.

“This wasn’t how we expected the year to end, and we still hope we’ll be able to have a virtual in-studio performance by end of June, but until then, let’s enjoy this video memory we will have forever,” said Molly. “Thanks for an amazing year dancers! We miss you and love you all so very much!”

The feeling is obviously mutual.

“Dance means happiness, hard work, and fun,” said 10-year-old Lara Pearson. “Miss Molly knows how to push us to where we need to be in our dances. She is like our second mother. She also teaches us good life lessons. She loves to have fun with us, too, by doing fun sleepovers.”

“When Lara found out about the surprise parade, she said, ‘we need to go big,'” said Lara’s mom, Dena. “She made signs and decorated the car. I think we knew this was really a tough day for Miss Molly. Everything we worked so hard for was canceled. We wanted her to realize we are her team and we will always be with her when things are good and bad. Just like she is for us.”

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