We report today on the coming, two-step retirement plan of Stephanie Clemens, the founder of the matched set of Oak Park dance institutions the Academy of Movement and Music and Momenta.

Clemens, graceful, energized and realistic, at 78, will step back from Momenta, the performing arts company at the Academy, this January. She’ll continue at the Academy, now 500 students strong, until 2021, its milestone 50th anniversary. Clemens, the mother of two young children, launched the Academy in her Oak Park home with two students. It was a way to gain financial independence while using her remarkable childhood of dance education stretching from her California childhood to Julliard.

The Academy moved three times to larger quarters, first on South Boulevard, then Marion Street, and, in 1982 to the neglected remnant of a portion of the old Bishop Quarter Military School on Lake Street and resurrected it. Artist and entrepreneur, Clemens has forever been a force for diversity in the arts whether it was actively recruiting young African-American students into dance or, over recent decades, widening the definition of dance to include those of all physical abilities.

It is a legacy to be celebrated — and sustained. 

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