February 2014 | On My Mind

18 On My Mind
Words from the publisher

Today I learned of the passing of Frank Hatchett, whom I admired for many reasons. Thinking about him takes me back to my childhood, and to my early career as a dancer and teacher.

Long before he founded Broadway Dance Center, Frank owned a dance studio in Springfield, Massachusetts. I was about 10 years old when my mom took me to one of Frank’s recitals. It was the first time I’d seen African dance, and drummers onstage, and I loved it.

One thing I’ll always remember is that the second act opened with Frank sitting center stage in an oversized upholstered armchair, surrounded by his preschool students. Some of the children were sitting on his lap and others were on the floor nearby. He asked each child to say his or her name, and then he would say something like, “Show everyone what you learned this year.” Each child would do a kind of improv to the live drumming. The moment was personal and kind. Frank was like a grandfather sitting with his flock of loving grandchildren.

Years later, Frank and Maurice Hines took over what had been Jo Jo’s Dance Factory (directed by Jo Jo Smith) at 1733 Broadway in New York City. The school, which launched as Hines-Hatchett, eventually became Broadway Dance Center, one of the most famous and respected dance studios in the world.

At the time, the classes were filled with hundreds of dancers clad in Lycra (and, of course, legwarmers), and sweat was flying all over the place. Frank’s classes were always jammed, as they would continue to be until he retired a few years ago. He had a way of making everyone feel comfortable, regardless of their ability. His high-energy personality and style would take over the room, and everyone’s spirits soared. No matter what kind of class you had, you always felt great afterward. Frank made his students feel like part of his family, and they left his classes feeling good about themselves.

As I grew older, I had the opportunity to work the convention circuit with Frank, where that Hatchett energy was always present. There was never a time when Frank didn’t give his heart and soul to a class. The teachers, the kids, and the kids’ parents loved him, and he always lived up to his reputation of being one of the best in the business.

As we say goodbye to our friend, a legend in the dance world, I can’t help but think how cool dance was and is because of masters like Frank. He and the jazz dance he taught set us free to be the dance people we are today. He was a pioneer who taught us that dance is an expression of the soul, and many of us will continue to pass that legacy on to future generations.

Thank you, Mr. Hatchett. You will be missed.