Ashtabula native returns home and takes over the dance studio

June 11 – TOWNSHIP OF ASHTABULA – Scott DeCola saw his life change dramatically when he started dancing at the Ashtabula Arts Center at the age of 14.

DeCola soared to the top of the professional dance world and sought to use his experience to help young dancers reach their potential when he returned to northeast Ohio in 2013.

DeCola had a 10-year dance career, during which he traveled the world and performed in 26 countries and lived for many years in New York.

“I remember a rooftop party across the street where the (New Year’s) ball dropped,” DeCola said.

DeCola got his start in AAC under the tutelage of Shelagh Dubsky and was able to win a variety of scholarships during his high school years that found him in various major cities honing his craft each summer.

This hard work eventually led to him landing a contract to dance professionally with the Ohio Ballet in Akron. He has also performed for the Joffrey Ballet II and Les Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

While living and dancing in New York, DeCola also experienced the terror of 9/11 firsthand. He said the dancers were already working on routines early that morning of September 11, 2001 and the music from each dance studio stopped playing, piece by piece, as it became clear that the first tower had been hit by a plane.

As the studio was evacuated, DeCola said he went out with other dancers and four blocks away the terrorist attack continued. “I saw the second plane hit (the second tower),” he said of the tragedy that changed New York and the world forever.

He said he was living in Brooklyn at the time but couldn’t get home, so he walked 100 blocks in sandals to a one-bedroom apartment where six people stayed until metro systems working again several days later.

DeCola said he lived in New York for a decade. “I loved the city life, until I didn’t have it anymore,” he said. He said he decided to move back to northeast Ohio and teach in the Cleveland area.

In 2013 DeCola met Mary Murtha who started the drill team and dance lessons at Monroe Elementary School in 1980 and continually expanded the operation until it became the Wildfire Dance Studio.

The couple met through mutual friend Kathy Zappitello, who has worked with Wildfire for many years.

The mutually beneficial professional relationship has grown over the past nine years. DeCola started giving a few lessons and was able to use her expertise in dance technique to change studios.

The combined efforts of Murtha and DeCola have also enriched the lives of hundreds of girls who now compete across the country each year.

The relationship grew to the point where DeCola reached an agreement with Murtha and bought the studio last fall. Murtha has continued to work throughout the year and plans to stay connected to the operation one way or another.

DeCola is a board member of the US All Star Federation Club Cheer and Dance. The Wildfire Dance Studio recently sent 12 competitive teams to the World Competition in Florida.

Competitive teams competed in three regional qualifiers in Pittsburgh, Columbus and Erie before earning their spot at the World Championships with four different routines.

The duo’s strengths led to a more complete dance experience for local dancers and led to the growth of a competitive dance program that is now at the heart of Wildfire Dance Studio.

Murtha said her expertise has always been choreography without any formal dance training, while DeCola had immense training in the details of dance technique.

Murtha said there were teams from 23 different countries. “It’s a dance experience like no other,” she said.

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