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Main Stage Dance Academy owner sells business to nearby studio

As children, wearing tutus and ballerina slippers, skip through the doors of Main Stage Dance Academy in Greenport next month to begin a new dance season, everything will look the same.

The blue sign on the white building will still be there. The wood floor beneath their feet will be the same one they’ve leaped across for years. 

But one major part of the business will be different — its owner.

After opening the dance studio in 2008, Lucille Naar-Saladino, 63, has sold the business. Karissa Despres, 36, who also owns North Fork Academy of Dance, closed on the space in June.

“I thought ‘Who could I sell this to that would be able to run it similarly to me, have the same passion for dance, have the passion for teaching and keep up my legacy,’ ” Ms. Naar-Saladino said. “I said, ‘I’m going to approach Karissa.’ ”

Ms. Naar-Saladino said she initially had no plans to leave the company, but after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma for a second time this past March, she knew it was time to step away from the business. 

She was first diagnosed with the disease in 2016, and after treatment it went into remission a year later. When it came back this year it was worse than before, requiring her to spend a few weeks in the hospital.

“I knew I’d have to have a bone marrow transplant; I knew it was serious,” Ms. Naar-Saladino, of Greenport, said. “And I knew I needed to change my life a bit, so I decided to sell the school.”

The sale of Main Stage, which has locations in Greenport and Shelter Island, went quickly and smoothly, both women agreed. 

Ms. Naar-Saladino’s final dance recital as the owner was on June 12. The sale closed June 15 and Ms. Naar-Saladino entered Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on June 21 to undergo a bone marrow transplant on June 27.

Adding Main Stage to her repertoire makes Ms. Despres the owner of five dance studios. North Fork Academy of Dance, which she purchased in 2013, has locations in Southold, Cutchogue and Aquebogue. 

Prior to owning NFAD, Ms. Despres worked in New York City in the dance industry, performing in “Lion King” on Broadway and working for talent representatives, including Honey Raider.

She is a graduate of Mattituck High School and currently lives in Southold with her family.

Similarly, Ms. Naar-Saladino worked in show business professionally for 15 years before opening Main Stage Dance Academy. She went to the High School of Performing Arts in New York City and later performed in Las Vegas and worked as a Radio City Rockette.

Ms. Despres said she hopes to keep everything the same at Main Stage.

“We are not merging,” she said. “I would like to keep them separate. I think it’s important for the students, for Lucille’s name, for the business. They’re two separate entities and it’s not going anywhere.”

And although Ms. Naar-Saladino is no longer the owner, she will continue to visit the studio and teach a few adult classes come November, she said. 

Classes at Main Stage Dance Academy begin Sept. 6 and enrollment is ongoing. Those interested in child or adult classes can visit mstagedance.com or call 631-477-1380. 

“I’m excited,” Ms. Despres said of the upcoming dance season. “I love meeting all the new parents and students. People have been very welcoming … Dance, whether they go on and dance or just do it for a couple years, is a big staple in a child’s life.”

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Photo caption: Karissa Despres (left) recently purchased both Main Stage Dance Academy locations from Lucille Naar-Saladino. Ms. Naar-Saladino decided to sell the business to her ‘friendly competitor’ after she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the spring. (Nicole Smith photo)