Jane O'Donnell and Debbie Lamontagne own studios within the same town in northeastern Massachusetts, but they bonded over an unexpected flood that destroyed O'Donnell's studio (and Lamontagne battling breast cancer). Just when their friendship couldn't get any sweeter, their kids fell in love.
Friends became family when Lamontagne and O'Donnell's kids married. Photo by Daniel Doke, courtesy of the photographer.
Lamontagne's son Leo moved home from Chicago, where he had been dancing with Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, to help his mom. He started teaching and helping out at NASD, and, predictably, there were a few bumps in the road; mother and son occasionally butted heads. “I said to my mom one day, 'We're going to kill each other if we work together like this every day,'" says Leo, with a laugh. “I asked, 'Doesn't Jane have a daughter who works with her? I'm going to take her to lunch to find out how they're not killing each other.'" Leo and O'Donnell's daughter Meghan immediately realized how much they had in common and started dating—though they didn't reveal their relationship to their mothers for quite a while.
“We knew!" protests O'Donnell. “Mothers' intuition. I would call Debbie and say, 'Your son was at my house last night, watching a movie.' And she'd say, 'Meghan came over here today.' I told Debbie, 'This is going to end one of two ways: They'll end up together, or they'll break up and one of our kids' hearts will be broken. So we have to pinkie swear that our friendship is going to remain intact.'"
In 2014, Leo and Meghan were married in Captiva, Florida, in what O'Donnell calls “a beautiful destination wedding." Ever the studio owner, she adds, wryly, “The timing was crappy, because it was a month before the recitals, and we were a little stressed. But it was beautifully choreographed, and we had awesome lighting and music—all the things we're really good at."
Both children are considering eventually taking over the management of their mothers' studios, and the two women are getting used to being family as well as friends. “We're still figuring out how to be family in businesses that technically compete with each other," says O'Donnell. “But I like to think that we are Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks in the same town. We can offer the same thing and cohabitate."
As their story continues to unfold, both families look with anticipation to the next chapter and marvel at the twists and turns that have shaped their story. “Whoever thought a little bit of rain could turn into so much good?" says Leo.