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West Hartford Dance Studio Owner Uses Dress-Making Skills to Craft Face Masks

Clemens Lengenfelder (left), owner of the Fred Astaire Studio in West Hartford, making masks with his daughter. Submitted photo

The owner of West Hartford’s Fred Astaire Dance Studio has already created 40 masks for donation to a local nursing home.


It all started when a friend working in the healthcare industry made a desperate plea for protective face masks. The owner of the local Fred Astaire Dance Studios in West Hartford, Clemens Lengenfelder, rose to the challenge.

“My friend sent me a link for the masks they are looking for but cannot find because of the coronavirus shortage,” said Lengenfelder. “Being stuck at home and having the skill, time and resources it felt really good doing something together with my daughter that can also help others.”

Per the governor’s mandate, dance studios have been closed since March 16. Like many small business owners, Lengenfelder found himself trapped at home, unable to ply his trade and homeschooling his daughter, Julia. Having studied to be a tailor at a fashion institute in Austria before moving to the United States, he realized he had everything he needed on hand. “I make a lot of the dresses our students compete in during our regional dance tournaments so converting that knowledge and materials to mask making was easy.”

After researching the specifications online, the pair began their journey. Lengenfelder and his daughter completed their first batch of 40 masks in one day and are donating them to a local nursing home. With plenty of materials and time on hand, they have already begun working on more.

“Giving back feels great. But doing it while teaching my daughter a valuable lesson about helping people in times of need makes it extra special.”

The pair will continue making more masks for as long as they can but Lengenfelder is looking forward to the day his studio reopens. In the meantime, he and his staff are teaching virtual lessons via Skype and Zoom as well as on Fred Astaire Dance Studios’ new online dance lessons website: www.fredastaireonlinelessons.com

Broader Effort

Like Lengenfelder, the Fred Astaire Dance Studios also realized the contributions they could make. Teaming up with Advis Inc., a healthcare consulting firm, and dress makers Dore Designs, and DanceAmerica, they launched the Million Mask MOVEment, a fundraiser to produce personal protective respiratory masks for our nation’s healthcare workers and hospitals as they continue their life saving work during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Across the country, hospitals are in desperate need of equipment, including protective masks. The masks produced under this program will help extend the life of N95 medical-grade masks (which would typically be disposed of after seeing a single patient). Where there’s an even greater shortage, these masks may be a primary form of protection.

Fred Astaire Dance Studios has created a GoFundMe account for anyone interested in contributing to the effort.

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