AUBURN — Kathy Ryan Rainone called it "the funeral."
For a funeral, though, there was a lot of dancing.
Thursday, after 30 years, Rainone held her last class at Kathy Ryan's Dance Studio on Seymour Street.
Rainone closed the studio regretfully: She simply didn't have enough students this year, she said Thursday. After enrolling just enough to teach a class last year, Rainone continued, she suspected the end was close. So she held a party for dancers, parents, friends and family after that class's recital, "Ladies Night Out 2017" in June.
Rainone did the same at Thursday's class, a group of older dancers she's been seeing for a few decades. And as she spoke before the class about her decision to close her studio, Rainone was graciously focused on those dancers, parents, friends and family who made Kathy Ryan's Dance Studio possible for 30 years.
Rainone, 56, took her first dance lessons in Auburn with Sonja Ward when she was 3. But she and her sister stopped because "we wanted to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings," Rainone said.
When she was in eighth grade, Rainone asked her mother, Arlene Ryan, to go back. Ryan was quick to say yes. Decades later, Ryan would dance in Rainone's classes and sing in her recitals. So would Rainone's own daughter, Audrey, and granddaughter, Madison Jean. Rainone's bassist husband, Ricky, and drummer son, Ricky Jr., round out what she called "a very musical family."
Her next dance teacher was Betty Weeks, whom Rainone also credited as her mentor. And, as she finished high school in 1979, Rainone was asked by Weeks to teach for her. When Weeks closed her studio in 1987, Rainone took the next step, applying for a small business loan and opening her own space to teach dancers young and old in tap, jazz, ballet, solo, duo and other forms.
The studio was first located on the State Street Mall, where Osteria Salina now stands. In 1992, a rent hike led Rainone to look for a new space. The Camardo family offered her the spot on Seymour.
"Nobody except my parents has been better to me than the Camardos," she said.
Classes at Kathy Ryan's Dance Studio ran during the school year. Most met once a week, while experienced dancers met twice. At the studio's peak, Rainone taught up to seven classes in a season.
Though she never studied dance at the college level, Rainone rooted her classes in technique and terminology. She taught children ballet terms like relevé and soutenu the same way a kindergarten teacher would, asking the class "Sue who?" to prompt their pronunciation of the latter. She also joked with them about "the big hook" that would pluck idle dancers from the stage, she said.
Rainone took her classes bowling at Polish Falcons to encourage them. But sometimes, she didn't need to: Some students signed up just to perform in Auburn's holiday parades, she said.
Katie Sincebaugh, 17, of Auburn, got something else out of dance classes with Rainone.
"I learned that dance really isn't about the recital or getting dressed up, it's really about telling a story," she said.
That lesson, along with Rainone's use of record players, stuck out to Sincebaugh, she said. She'll carry it with her when she continues dancing at college next year.
Other Rainone students have gone on to dance professionally in Disney cruises, musical theater production and more, she said. And some have taken their children, or even grandchildren, to her.
Thursday, Rainone said, it's the children she'll miss the most.
"I love the kids, I love them. I love every single one of them," she said.
Rainone's classes also culminated in recitals that were long renowned for their presentation.
With help from Frank Cuzzola, the dances were accentuated by smoke machines, dry ice and flash pods. But the studio had to stop using pyrotechnics after the Rhode Island nightclub fire that killed 100 people in 2003, Rainone said. Still, her love of Rush, Alice Cooper and other musical showmen led to many distinct rock 'n' roll soundtracks at her recitals.
As she planned and presented those recitals, Rainone also found help in her fellow Auburn dance instructors: Kathy Zamniak, Mary Jo Pelc, Donna Krueger, Sean McLeod and more. Whether it was advice on steps, spare tights or emotional support, "I can call them for any reason at all," Rainone said.
"They're wonderful girls, and I love them. All of them," she said tearfully.
Zamniak, who was at Kathy Ryan's Dance Studio's final class on Thursday, said Auburn will feel its loss.
"She has a great love for dance. She's got a strong personality and that comes across when she teaches," Zamniak said.
However, Rainone's friend doesn't feel she's done teaching dance. Rainone admitted as much, saying she hopes to teach at Cayuga Community College. She also continues to work as a substitute teacher aide at Casey Park Elementary, and when school's not in session, she makes small motors at Gleason-Avery.
Whatever happens, Zamniak said, Kathy Ryan will land on her feet.
"She's a great girl. She'll keep dancing," she said. "There'll be something out there for Kathy."