Forty-three years ago, Helen Redding opened the Helen Redding School of Dance in Statesboro. At a time when most would be winding down and getting ready to retire, Redding just kicked off her first dance camp of the summer in her brand new studio.
"We are so excited to have all of this space," Redding said. "We now have two large dance rooms with ballet bars and mirrors. Each room is about 800 square feet. It is just wonderful. Our students are just going to love it."
Redding's 2,000 square foot dance studio is located next door to her former location on South Main Street across from the Honey Bowen recreation building. Redding is very happy that she was able to secure a larger space without having to move to a different geographical location.
"I just love this spot," Redding said. "It is the main thoroughfare between Georgia Southern and downtown. It's just a great location. We had outgrown the other space, and we needed more room. Donald Nesmith built this for us, and I am just ecstatic."
Redding has taught dance in a number of different venues over the last four decades including 13 years at her most recent studio. Instructors that have worked with Redding are thrilled for her.
"Miss Helen has been like a second mother to me," said Ryan Bledsoe, one of Redding's dance instructors. "I have been teaching dance for Miss Helen since coming to school at Georgia Southern eight years ago. I know how hard she works, and how much she loves the children that she works with. This is just great to see her in this studio. It is so nice."
Bledsoe said she has never seen anyone with as much energy as Redding. "Just watch her go," she said. "She is constantly on the move, working, instructing, and encouraging. It is amazing to watch her. She is so busy that a lot of the time she forgets to eat. Her daughter Rory gets onto her for that."
Pam Whitaker, a former student of Redding, has a daughter Anna who also takes dance at the studio.
"Helen has always had a ton of energy," Whitaker said. "More importantly, she has a wonderful way of dealing with children. She is the epitome of a dance instructor - graceful, gentle, and kind."
Redding said she plans to continue to teach dancing for as long as her body will allow it.
"I hope that I can teach another 20, maybe 25 years, whatever the good Lord will allow," she said. "Right now, I have my health and my enthusiasm, and I still love what I do. So as long as I have all of those, I will continue to teach."
The longevity of Redding's dance studio is a testament to the passion that she has for instruction. Even though Redding has the longest running dance studio in Statesboro, she continues to be an innovator.
"I was the first dance studio here to have summer dance camps," Redding said. "Girls just didn't want to stop dancing because it was summertime. We began to bring in guest instructors, experts in different areas of dance. I want to make sure that we are providing the best instruction that we can."
Redding graduated from Georgia Southern with a degree in art and a minor in sociology. "I was offered a job teaching art, but my heart was in dance," she said. "I had taught dance while I was in college, and I knew that is what I wanted to do. So, I opened my own dance studio, and have continued to do that all of these years."
Julia Branch has been a student of Redding's for the last 12 years. Her mother Carla Branch said her daughter has thoroughly enjoyed taking dance from Redding.
"It has been a wonderful experience for Julia," Branch said. "She is about to start classes at Georgia Southern, and she is really going to miss dancing at Miss Helen's."