When the dance studio they worked for in West Caldwell went out of business, dance instructors Shani Alston and Hillary-Marie Michael decided they would not abandon their students.
Instead, they decided they would open their own dance studio and began putting plans in motion to do just that.
The pair opened up Grooves Unlimited Dance Studio in July. As their summer program drew to a close, they already had a following of young dancers eager for fall classes. Official registration for the fall starts on Sept. 9.
Recently, the dancing duo sat down with Patch to talk about their new studio.
How long have you been involved in educational dance industry?
“A long time. I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years,” said Shani.
“Educationally I have been involved in the industry for 15 years, professionally for 7,” said Hillary-Marie.
The pair has been setting up the studio since June and have been planning even longer. They are especially looking forward to their grand opening on Sept. 10.
What made you decide to open your own studio and why did you choose Cedar Grove?
“We worked at a studio already and when it went out of business we wanted our students to continue studying with us because we really cared for them and their education. A lot of them were beginner students and didn't really have another place to go. So we decided to find our own space to continue teaching and giving lessons to these students and it pretty much just snowballed from there. And we ended up adding more classes than we anticipated and it became much bigger,” said Shani.
“We chose Cedar Grove because it wasn't far from where the old studio was that we worked for. We were looking for rental space in the area and we found a space that fulfilled our needs in Cedar Grove,” she added. “We wanted everything to be close enough so that we could see our students again. We didn't want to make them drive 45 minutes to come take class. We wanted to stay in their area.”
What programs does your studio offer?
“We offer children and teen classes as well as adult classes, which run a little differently. The adult classes are more open so the adult student can drop in and pay as they go or they can get class cards. For the children and teen program we offer something more on a steady pace where they have to commit so that they are getting their full training. There is more of a commitment with the children and teens because when you are studying this kind of stuff you are not going to get as much coming out of it when you are coming in and out,” said Shani.
“We offer ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, hip-hop and belly dance. For the adults its a little less extensive so the adults have hip-hop, tap, belly dance and we are bringing in ballroom dance in the fall,” she said.
How will your instructors be an asset to your business?
“We have a serious passion in educating these students and educating them properly. All of our faculty are specialists — we have a hip-hop teacher, a tap dance teacher, a jazz teacher. Your jazz teacher isn't teaching your tap class and your modern class back to back. You have somebody that, this is what they do, this is what they studied and this is what they perform professionally so you are receiving a higher quality of education,” said Hillary-Marie. “We have six instructors and all their backgrounds are important. I am a member of the New Jersey Tap Ensemble and I am the founder and director of Jersey Tap Fest. I am your tap teacher, so every person's background and credit attribute to how they specialize in their form of dance.”
What is something you want Patch readers to know that they might not know about you or your business?
“They are going to get a high-quality education for a fair price. We give adult classes as well as children and teens. It is very affordable, all those things in a nutshell they need to know,” said Shani.
“We have high-quality instruction from amazing instructors. They are some of the top instructors on the East Coast and they also travel the U.S. teaching workshops. We care about our students. Nobody in our studio is going to walk in and be another number or another registration form. We care about them and we want to see them grow and will invest our time into their artistic education,” said Hillary-Marie.
Grooves Unlimited is located at 1376 Pompton Ave. (Rt. 23) inside Body and Soul Core Fitness – 2nd floor in Cedar Grove. They may be reached at (973) 878-2836. For more information, click here.