Maxene Jeffares has been dancing since she was 3, started teaching dance at 14 and opened her first dance school at 16.
Next month, Jeffares is hosting a 30-year reunion for the students and parents of that first school of dance, which was run from the Baptist Church Hall in Levin for 13 years.
In the early 1990s, Jeffares left high school at the end of fifth form (Year 11) after being accepted for a fulltime dance programme at the Brisbane Dance Centre in Australia.
When Jeffares returned to Palmerston North a year later, her dance teacher, world-renowned Gwenda Britten, suggested she consider opening her own dance school in Levin.
"I'd already been teaching for Gwenda so this seemed like the logical next step," said Jeffares, "but as I didn't have my licence at the time, I needed my parents to drive me to and from [my dance school]."
Jeffares' parents and brothers were supportive of her new venture, with dad Brian sorting out the sound and lighting for performances and mum Sherryn getting to know all the students and their families.
Both parents remain active in their support, with Dad still making props for Jeffares' dance studio in Palmerston North, Maximum Dance Zone, and Mum helping to organise the Levin reunion.
Starting out with 28 students in her first term at the Levin dance school, Jeffares also began to study at Teacher's Training College while running her business.
Then in 1997, at 21, Jeffares auditioned for and was accepted into Sydney Dance Encore and was given the opportunity to perform in Japan for six months.
"A friend, who I danced with in Palmerston North when we were younger, ran my classes for me while I was away," said Jeffares, "squeezing them all into a Saturday as she had to come up from Kāpiti."
By the early 2000s, Maxene Jeffares School of Dance had about 250 students and offered classes in Levin, Ōtaki and Palmerston North.
Starting her own family in her late 20s, Jeffares had to make the decision to just focus on the dance school in Palmerston North and, sadly, closed the doors of her Levin school.
She treasures the memories she has of her first dance school and students, especially the annual recitals and successful exams, and loves how past students are now teaching for her or bringing their own children to her Palmerston North-based dance school.
Danielle Vazey was one of Jeffares' original students, dancing for 10 years from the age of 6, and is now a "dance mum".
"When I started looking for a dance school for [my daughters] ... I was really looking for somewhere similar to what I experienced with Maxene - professional and fun where they could create lifelong memories," said Vazey.
Another student, Briar Franks, who now works in the performing arts industry in Wellington, said one of her strongest memories of the Levin dance school was it was always such a family unit.
"Maxene's parents were always at rehearsals and shows and parents of the dancers would always lend a hand with costumes, backstage and front of house," said Franks. "Some of us went to the school for over 10 years so grew up there and ultimately, it shaped the people we are today."
Tara Robertson started dancing with the Maxene Jeffares School of Dance in 1993, completing a total of 18 dance exams over the six years she was with the school.
Although one of her biggest regrets is she didn't continue to dance into her teens and beyond, Robertson's seven-year-old daughter, Ruby, has been dancing with Jeffares' Palmerston North school since she was 3.
"One of my proudest moments as a mother [is] to see her participating in dance with as much passion as I had all those years ago," said Robertson, "and the fact that she is learning under Maxene is so incredibly special to me."
Jeffares feels proud to have helped instil a love of dance in so many students over the years and is excited about the upcoming reunion, being held at the Cosmopolitan Club in Levin on Saturday, July 2.
If you were a part of the dance school and would like further details about the reunion, please contact Maxene Jeffares on firstname.lastname@example.org