SARANAC LAKE - Melissa Posthauer cries onstage at the end of every year's dance recital, but this time, quite a few of her students were crying, too.
And not just preschoolers wanting their mommies when hit by the glare of the stage lights. Some of the teary-eyed girls were high schoolers, saying how much they'd miss "Miss Melissa," as she's generally known.
Posthauer led her final recital here Saturday. She's been teaching dance in this community for 12 years, the last 10 of which have been through her Mountains in Motion studio.
Melissa Posthauer comforts a sad little ballerina onstage during the Mountains in Motion dance recital Saturday at Saranac Lake High School.
(Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)
On Friday, she plans to move to Media, Pa., where her husband Brian Posthauer's family lives. Married eight years, last year they had a son, Samuel, and they want the little guy to grow up closer to family, including hers based on Long Island, where she grew up.
Brian has been working in Pennsylvania since January. They bought a house there over spring break. Melissa has been packing and moving while preparing for her final rehearsal and teaching 285 kids.
Yes, 285 - and that's down from 350 when she was still teaching in Tupper Lake as well, something she gave up last year when she had her baby. Some Tupper Lake students still come to Saranac Lake for her classes, though.
She taught all those students personally, except for one Wednesday evening tap class this year taught by Melissa Fisher. Posthauer has help from current and former students, but she still has to lead each class. She quickly admits that teaching so many students is "unheard of." Has she ever felt burned out? "Definitely," she said, mentioning agonized phone calls to her mother when she felt like she couldn't take it anymore.
But that's partly because loves it so deeply and gave it pretty much everything she had.
"I'm so heartbroken," she said. "I have such an amazing community with my students, because I've known them so long. ... There's no way that'll ever be replaced."
The big question for her young dancers and their parents in the Adirondacks is whether Mountains in Motion will continue under someone else, and if so, who and when. Posthauer said she wants to sell the business and has some leads, but she decided to put all that off until after the final recital is over.
"This new phase of our lives is in part heartbreaking for me because my heart and soul went into MIM," Posthauer wrote in an email to parents. (Full disclosure: This reporter is one of those parents.) "Every class, every morning when I choreograph and seek inspiration, every conversation with a student about dance, and every recital was intensely personal for me. As such, I would hope to see dance continue in our town, and I am looking into ways by which MIM can keep going in Saranac Lake. I am open to suggestions so please email me any thoughts you may have.
"This region took a chance on me 10 years ago when I decided to start MIM and invite dancers of all ages to join me. Our experience together has been magical, and I am grateful to you all."
She first came to the Adirondacks for a summer job, cleaning great camps during her college years. She loved the area so much she moved up to Saranac Lake right after college and started pitching herself as a dance teacher. That was 12 years ago.
"I would go to the Blue Moon Cafe in the morning, work on the business plan and then go put flyers up all over town and hope people would show up," she said. "Sometimes they would, and sometimes they wouldn't."
Her first classes were in the basement of the Presbyterian church, followed by upstairs from Salon Mirage, the Lake Placid Center for the Arts and Holy Ghost Academy in Tupper Lake. For the last few years, Mountains in Motion has been based on the second floor of a green building on Bloomingdale Avenue, across from Stewart's Shop.
Posthauer thanked many people from the stage at the end of her final recital, but the first, and the one she singled out in her interview with the Enterprise, is Kathleen Bullard, her only employee, who took care of business off the dance floor.
"I couldn't do any of this without Kathleen," Posthauer said. "She takes care of the parents while I take care of the kids."
There are other kids dance classes in nearby Lake Placid, but Mountains in Motion is, without a doubt, very popular. Dancing is to girls (and some boys) what all sports wrapped together are to boys (and some girls).
People who don't have family members dancing in the annual Mountains in Motion recital may not know how big a deal it is, partly because it's never advertised. It doesn't have to be. At $5 a ticket, it's sold out with family members alone. This year there were two, on Friday and Saturday.
For the newbie, attending one is an eye-opener: the packed house, the video montage, the bumbling little girls in their frilly tutus, the obvious improvement of the elementary schoolers and the obvious excellence of the older kids, the complex choreography and major energy of their ballet, hip-hop, tap, jazz and modern dance routines.
Several of the dancers, plus alumni who helped out, have been with Mountains in Motion since the beginning. Those included Jacqui Parker and Summer Schneider, handing out programs to ticket holders at the entrance.
"She makes all the dancers feel really comfortable," Schneider said of Posthauer. "She's like a mom to everybody."
"She's a super woman," Parker said. "I don't know how she does it. I don't know how she doesn't have a heart attack."
Rebecca Buerkett was one of many dance moms in attendance. She said Posthauer's departure was "devastating" for her 11-year-old daughter who's been dancing with her for eight years.
"Not only is she a great teacher, but she's a great role model," Buerkett said of Posthauer. "She's kind, and she's talented, and I'm always amazed by how much she gets out of those girls - without raising her voice."
Saturday happened to be Posthauer's birthday - her 34th. After her husband announced it from the stage, she said her first recital as a dancer was on her birthday, too; she turned 3 that day.
She danced in this recital, too - to Billie Holliday's version of "I'll Be Seeing You."
Posthauer said she does plan to teach dance in Pennsylvania, although she's not sure whether she'll work for someone else's studio or start one of her own. Her mother, who was with her before the recital Saturday, is nudging her to do the latter, to find a Blue Moon Cafe equivalent, put up flyers and make it happen again.
Maybe, Posthauer said, but not just yet.
"I'm going to take a little while to be a mom and get to know the area," she said.
Contact Peter Crowley at 518-891-2600 ext. 22 or firstname.lastname@example.org.