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H&H take prize of National Dance Instructors of the Year

Giving twins have favor returned via Greatmats award


By Brett Hart

Giving back to the community is anything but a second thought for this year's Greatmats Dance Instructors of the Year. For the first time, the award will be shared by two instructors - 34-year-old Milbury, Massachusetts, twins Heidi Sulminski and Heather Gerardi of H&H Dance Academy. Known around the community simply as H&H, Heidi and Heather were stunned upon learning that they had been nominated for the award.

''We were very surprised and immediately touched by the thoughtfulness of some to nominate us,'' they said. ''It means a lot to us that someone felt we portray the qualities (of service, integrity and quality), and that made us feel special.''

H&H has made a habit of supporting others whenever possible - whether its the local soccer or baseball organizations, D.A.R.E program, Santa breakfasts, or benefits for students - past and present - with health concerns. They have even gone so far as to create a scholarship in the name of a member's mother who lost a battle with ALS and created a new program at their studio, called the Shooting Stars progam, in honor a past student with down syndrome who lost a short battle to leukemia. H&H have volunteered their time and skills to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research and Boston's Children's Hospital among others.

''Born and raised in the town our business is inn, we feel pride to be able to give back to many organizations, and encourage our dancers to do the same,'' they said.

The twins who will celebrate their 35th birthdays on the 27th of this month, have been professional dance instructors for 18 years and are currently celebrating their 10th anniversary of being owners and directors of H&H Dance Academy.

''We are honored to instruct so many students from year to year and have truly created a family friendly atmosphere,'' H&H said.

As winners of the 2017 Greatmats National Dance Instructor of the Year Award H&H plan to use the prize of new Greatmats mats improve their acro program.

''We make a great team together and feel very fortunate to be able to do what we love with so many amazing dancers,'' they said. ''We couldn't believe how many people took the time to like our photo. The response was overwhelming.''

Runner Up Danielle Fritz-O'Brien
When Danielle Fritz-O'Brien of 3d Dance Studio on Northampton, Pennsylvania, first learned she had been nominated for this national award, she started crying.

''I get so emotional over it because of the fact that someone went out of their way to write this up about me was so nice,'' Danielle said. ''And the person not telling me that they did it because she was just remaining so humble. I had to do process of elimination, and I figured it out.''

Those tears of joy came back again during the social media vote her picture reached 800 likes on Facebook.

''I had to leave the studio, and I got in my car and started crying,'' Danielle said. ''Because I don't even know if I know 800 people. It's been super exciting. ... I go to the hair dresser and people there are bringing it up to me. ... It's so sweet. ... It's really nice and exciting and overwhelming.''

Now 30 years old, Danielle started dancing at age 2 and opened her studio nine years ago when she was fresh out of college.

She has partnered up with the special needs community, integrated its students into regular ed classes as well as classes specifically for those with special needs. Her studio also works with the Miss Amazing Pageant giving those with special need a chance to experience all aspects of a beauty pageant from talent to modeling.

''It's been a huge rewarding journey to watch to of our special kids go on (to nationals) and do what everybody else is doing,'' Danielle said.
As for the contest, she she it's been fun seeing her community rally around her. ''Our studio is all about being fun,'' she said. ''Everybody has enjoyed this. ... It's just such a special community.''

H&H and Danielle racked up more than 1,700 votes combined in the annual contest that had a record turnout of more than 4,200 votes cast in its 3rd year.
Heidi Sulminski & Heather Gerardi
H&H Dance Academy
Millbury MA 01527
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