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Your Tewksbury Today

New Tewksbury Business Can Add Some Character To Your Event

Feb 26, 2015 05:31PM ● By Bill Gilman

Jessica Durante, owner of Dance Expressions and Characters on Call, poses with a famous pizza-loving Turtle.

Turtles, mermaids, mice, princesses, ice queens, super heroes, ogres and even cuddly yellow henchmen.
If you need a specific character to make an appearance at your special event, there is an excellent chance Jessica Durante will be able to make that happen.
Durante is the owner of Dance Expressions, 885 Main St. Over the past 19 years, Durante has grown her business to more than 400 students, ages 2-18, and a staff of 20 teachers. This includes an "adaptive dance" class for special needs students.
During that time, Durante has also accumulated an amazing collection of costumes, from various competitions, recitals and other performances. It was the addition of numerous Disney Characters to this collection back in 2012 that planted the seed for Characters on Call, a new business, offering costume rentals or personal character appearances and performances.
"We do all of these local performances and when we do something I want to do it right, so I will go out and get the best costumes," said Durante. "In 2012 we were doing a 'Dancing With Disney' theme for the recital because we knew we were doing a trip to perform at Disney World in the summer. So we got these Disney costumes. We've been gathering them since then."
According to Durante, the new costumes sparked an uptick in requests from businesses and organizations to either borrow the costumes or have characters make personal appearances at their events.
"The Police Department has invited us to their events like the Safe Halloween event and the Town Tree Lighting Ceremony and we do those for free," she said. "But we've had Altitude Trampoline Park in Billerica ask to use our costumes and Merrimack Valley Pavilion."
With requests piling up, Durante made the decision in late 2014 to turn the character costumes into their own business and Characters On Call was born.
"We've already been booking appearances at nursing homes and birthday parties," she said. "People can either rent the costumes for $100 for the day or they can have someone come and play the character and perform for an hour for $100."
Each additional character or each additional hour of time is $50.
Durante said she has tried to keep her prices as low as possible so that as many families and organizations as possible can afford a booking.
"I'm not in this to make a fortune," she said. "I do it because I love to do it. If I can make some money at it, I can afford to get more characters and make more people happy."
If a personal appearance is requested, one of Durante's teachers and students have been gearing up.
The only hiccup Durante has encountered so far with the new business has come in the area of copyrights and licensing. Because so many character names are owned by corporations like Disney or Warner Brothers, she has to steer clear of using formal names.
So while the menagerie of characters "living" in Durante's basement may look very familiar, the names of many are generic. There are well-known male and female mice and ducks, a wide assortment of famous princesses, a little explorer with a page-boy haircut, residents of Arendelle and Neverland, a big green ogre, multiple super-heroes, veterans of the War in the Stars and even a potato and assorted candy!
And a giant Bunny has arrived just in time for the Easter season.
For more information on Characters On Call, click here to check out their Facebook Page, e-mail or call 978-851-8640.

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