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Dance instructor Janine Parker, left, with her students from the North Adams after-school program at the '62 Center on Friday.
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After-School Dance Program Culminates in '62 Center Performance

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Alexis Clairmont, Meriah Delisle, Graci Garrison, Tessa Gonzalez, Yazmin Griffith and Madison Morgan perform 'Paintin' at Brayton.'
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The six little girls leaped, spun and fluttered across the floor in a dance they'd practiced for weeks. 
 
The demonstration on Friday in the black box theater at the '62 Center for Theatre and Dance was a culmination of an after-school program at Brayton Elementary School in North Adams. 
 
Alexis Clairmont, Meriah Delisle, Graci Garrison, Tessa Gonzalez, Yazmin Griffith and Madison Morgan finished to rousing ovation from their peers and relatives and celebrated with a pizza party hosted by Williams College. 
 
Janine Parker, artist in residence at the '62 Center, has been working with the students twice a week teaching them not only the moves but the respect and diligence that comes with teamwork and practice. 
 
"It was important that the program was not just about performance," she said at a practice session the week before. "I think there's a misconception with people that dance is just performance and dance is actually just like anything else that you learn, which is a study. It's a beautiful study of a beautiful art form. And it takes practice."
 
This course was part of the North Adams Public Schools' 21st Century after-school program, which brings children from Greylock, Colegrove Park and Brayton together for a variety of activities. Site Coordinator Noella Carlow said the program's partnerships with Williams College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts have provided the children with sessions in dance, theater, writing, music and physical education, among other offerings. 
 
This session's dance program was a collaboration with Williams College's Dance Department, Center for Learning in Action and the '62 Center. In a previous program, college athletes had come in to work with the children and the college gave them backpacks and basketballs. 
 
"They have just been excellent to us, and we really need partners to sustain the program," Carlow said. 
 
Parker said the '62 Center's Randal Fippinger and Molly Polk, CLIA's outreach coordinator to the North Adams schools, had approached her about a workshop or performance at Brayton. 
 
"So I said, well, that's great. But let's do even more than that. Let's actually go in for a long time and on a regular weekly basis and teach dance," she said. "I've been teaching dance for a really long time. I love teaching dance. And a very important thing to me is to try to bring dance to all kinds of people who may or may not have easy access to it, or who just don't know a lot about dance and never thought that they might be welcome to do so."
 
She was joined Williams students Joelle Troiano and Nicholas Wallach and the '62 Center provided pianist Johan Sauer and percussionist Gary Rzab. 
 
During the practice session, the girls went through their steps, recalling the correct terms, and finished with an original dance choreographed by Parker and Troiano called "Paintin' at Brayton." Parker said it was important that deeply explore learning and "what it feels like to progress in something."
 
They repeated that performance on Friday to show the audience the classroom exercises and dance that they had learned. The program also featured performances by Williams students, including an improvisation by Wallach. 
 
Alexis said she liked everything about the dance program, and thought leaping was her favorite. "I would want to do it again," she said. 
 
Carlow thinks that more children may be interested the next time it's offered. 
 
"I think that when they're exposed to dance and theater and all of these things, it may inspire them," she said. "I think we all become inspired by things that we do in elementary school."
 
Parker's been teaching dance for 30 years and said she enjoyed working with the after-school program. 
 
"They're just as all children are — beautiful, different personalities," she said, adding that she wanted to make sure they also came away with respect for the profession and for themselves. At the end of each session, they thank their teachers and their accompanists, and are thanked in return. 
 
"I really believe in us understanding that we respect the space that we're dancing in. They respect themselves as dancers and as learners," Parker said. "Really thanking each other at the end of the class is one of my favorite parts of this because it's so important that they know that I'm thanking them, too."
 
 
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Mezze Restaurant Group Names Two New Co-Owners

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Mezze Restaurant Group added two new individuals to its ownership structure on July 6. 

In recognition of their many years of service and their importance to the future of the business, co-owners Nancy Thomas and Bo Peabody have announced Linda Stripp and Nicholas Moulton will become new co-owners of Mezze Restaurant Group.

"I am incredibly excited to welcome Nick and Linda as co-owners of Mezze Restaurant Group. Their contributions to date and their roles in our continued expansion are critical," Peabody said. "Linda's leadership of our events business – our fastest-growing category – has been extraordinary, while Nick's recent rise as a celebrity chef – the Veggie King on Food Network – has been nothing short of meteoric. But, more than any of that was watching them operate in the last few months during one of the hardest times in our company and industry's history. Their maturity and dedication during this pandemic proved to me that they already think like owners."

Stripp has been working for the organization for 20 years. She started with the team in 2000 and, as director of Mezze Catering + Events, she is charged with shaping the overall direction of catering operations. Stripp is primarily focused on planning and managing special events including weddings, rehearsal dinners, cocktail parties, corporate functions and galas. Her lead role is in client relations, working hand in hand with catering clients at every stage of planning to deliver exceptional service.

Moulton has been executive chef of Mezze Restaurant Group since 2014, leading the kitchen and designing and executing the seasonal menu with his team. An alumnus of Mezze Bistro, where he worked for four years as sous chef, Moulton is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and an accomplished chef dedicated to highlighting local foods from the Berkshire region. Two-time champion on Guy’s Grocery Games, Food Network’s supermarket-themed cooking competition, he has earned the celebrated title “Veggie King” and competed on Food Network once again on July 8.

"Restaurants are built by teams, and Linda and Nick have made a long-term investment in our company. They are both builders of the brand and play an important role for the future," Thomas said. "We are so excited to have Linda and Nick become official co-owners in the business."

When Mezze opened its original 50-seat bistro in a cozy Water Street building in Williamstown in 1996, guests were loyal fans, many from the local dot-com crowd, and the collective youthful energy sparked recurring dance parties on the deck overlooking the Green River. During the initial years, Thomas partnered with Peabody and grew the business to include other restaurants and Mezze Catering + Events to produce high-end weddings and galas in the Berkshires and New York City. A fire in 2001 forced the restaurant to relocate and a newly renovated Mezze Bistro opened at the top of Water Street in May 2002, doubling the dining space. The popular bistro and bar with exposed brick walls provided a fresh platform for a modern-day dining experience with a farm-to-table focus. 

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