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A special bond: Mother and daughter share love of dance

APRIL GARON / Melissa Bueto Brady and daughter Mary Murphy Brady share the experience of being a dance student at Nena Smith's Dance Studio in Wesson. The studio is celebrating its 40th year of teaching.

APRIL GARON / Melissa Bueto Brady and daughter Mary Murphy Brady share the experience of being a dance student at Nena Smith’s Dance Studio in Wesson. The studio is celebrating its 40th year of teaching.

Melissa Bueto Brady said when she sees her daughter, Mary Murphy Brady, dancing at Nena Smith’s School of Dance, she also sees herself as a little girl, dancing in the same studio.

“It gives me such joy to see her on the stage dancing, enjoying what I enjoyed so many years ago,” Brady said. “I love relating to some of the same stories and hearing her repeating some of the same things I was taught growing up. It gives us something in common, something to do together.”

Mary Murphy Brady in 2013 recital.

Mary Murphy Brady in 2013 recital.

Brady began taking dance from Nena Smith in 1983 at the age of 3. Her daughter began taking dance at the same age, and is now a 5-year-old

student at Smith’s studio.

“Mrs. Nina has all the pictures of former dancers on the walls and we like to go through and say ‘There’s Mama!’ ‘There’s Mama!’,” Brady said.

Jessica Bueto Breazeale and Melissa Bueto Brady.

Jessica Bueto Breazeale and Melissa Bueto Brady.

Nena Smith’s School of Dance is celebrating its 40th year of teaching students with the philosophy “Character first, Dance second.” Smith has touched multiple generations in the surrounding area, and many students are now watching their own children being shaped into considerate adults in the program.

Brady created a Facebook page about a year ago for alumni of the school to connect, and she said there was an immediate positive reaction when she created it.

Mary Murphy Brady having fun in dance class.

Mary Murphy Brady having fun in dance class.

“It was an overwhelming immediate response as soon as it was put out,” Brady said. “There was a desire for everyone to converge and have a place on social media to discuss history.”

Brady says many alumni remain in contact with each other long after graduation and when they meet up again, they have an instant connection no matter how long it’s been since they’ve seen each other.

Jessica Bueto Breazeale and Melissa Bueto Brady in their dance costumes.

Jessica Bueto Breazeale and Melissa Bueto Brady in their dance costumes.

“A couple of my daughter’s classmates’ mothers were in my class,” Brady said. “We get to sit and watch our babies doing what we used to do.”

Smith’s School of Dance offers classes in musical theatre, tap, jazz, modern, modeling, basic ballet, hip hop, lyrical and pageant routines. Summer camps are available. Owner Nena Smith is a member of the Wesson Chamber of Commerce and Wesson Baptist Church. She graduated from Delta State University in speech with an emphasis in acting and directing and did graduate work at Southern Miss in Theatre Arts. She is a graduate of the Joyce Newman Training School for Dance Teachers and is certified by the Southern Association of Dance Master Training School and SADM Exam to teach dance. She has served as guest faculty for numerous dance organizations, judges and directed many pageant dance events, is a member of Dance Teachers United, South Association of Dance Masters and the Unites States Twirling Association. She is the former director of the Co-Lin Colettes and National Champion Brookhaven Academy Cougarettes.

“At the end of the day, we want our students to have amazing dance technique,” Jessica Bueto Breazeale said.

Mary Murphy Brady playing dress up with her mother's costumes.

Mary Murphy Brady playing dress up with her mother’s costumes.

Breazeale is a teacher at the school and Brady’s sister.

“We have people who have gone on to Disney, New York, the Rebelettes, Colinettes, Dixie Darlins — and we also want to have students who have good character,” she said.

Mary Murphy Brady's dance portrait.

Mary Murphy Brady’s dance portrait.

Breazeale said the annual Who’s Who award gives awards not only based on talent but to students deserving of awards for their work ethic, speed in learning new techniques and other qualities.

Smith has been named Wesson’s Good Citizen of the Year ‘96, Business of the Year ‘04 and Mississippi’s Dance Teacher of the Year ’91. Most recently she has been awarded the Spirit of Women award by the Wesson Chamber of Commerce.

Melissa Bueto Brady during her first recital in 1983.

Melissa Bueto Brady during her first recital in 1983.

“I can only hope to accomplish in my life what [Smith] has accomplished in hers,” Brady said. “From a community standpoint, she gives back  and is  very loving  and giving to her students.”

The school gives scholarships to students going through hardships as well as in the name of deceased students in their honor.

Mary Murphy Brady having fun in dance class.

Mary Murphy Brady having fun in dance class.

Brady said the greatest benefit the school gave to both her and her daughter were camaraderie and learning about the arts in a Christian atmosphere.

“What would mean a lot to me growing up, no matter what went on at school or what was going on in my life, as soon as I walked through that door, it all went away,” Brady said. “All you got to do is dance. It was like another home.

Mary Murphy Brady playing dress up in her mother's first costume.

Mary Murphy Brady playing dress up in her mother’s first costume.

“Growing up I would have to have surgeries on my legs. I took dance every other year. I was able to dance a year then have another surgery. That drove me — I would think ‘Let’s do the physical therapy, so I can go back to dance.’ It was my motivator.”