SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Jo-Ann Faulkner began teaching dance in South Plainfield close to 40 years ago. Today Jo-Ann’s Dance Studio – The Performing Arts Centre on South Clinton Avenue offers ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop classes for children and adults as well as musical theatre classes, Pilates, Pilates reformer and Zumba classes and private piano and vocal lessons. The school also offers co-ed classes and classes for children with special needs.
“My mother and father were marathon dancers and, of course, every where they danced I had to go. By time I was 3 years old my parents enrolled me in my first dance class,” said Faulkner, adding that her family moved from Newark to South Plainfield when she was six and, as she got older, found herself taking classes five days a week. To offset the cost, Faulkner began assisting her teachers and after high school studied with some of the master dance instructors in New York.
When it was time for her daughter to take lessons, Faulkner said she wasn’t happy with the dance schools available and decided to start teaching herself. Renting space at the Italian American Club twice a week, she taught 30 to 40 kids basic ballet, tap and jazz. As enrollment grew, she sought larger venues throughout the community, offering a variety of other styles of dance at five different locations before opening her current studio at 4475 South Clinton Avenue 20 years ago.
“Each time we moved to a larger location until we got where we are now. It is a very large facility with three dance studios and on music/vocal studio,” she said.
While she stopped personally teaching classes a few years ago, Faulkner remains a constant presence at the studio, on site six days a week and personally overseeing all business and artistic aspects. Her daughter, Tara Faulkner-Catalina, is a dance teacher, and her son, Kenneth Faulkner-Alexander, conducts the vocal and music lessons. Additionally, the studio features eight talented teachers, including several who personally attended classes at Jo-Ann’s themselves.
In Faulkner’s opinion, dance has become quite competitive over the years and is proud of her studio’s continued emphasis is proper dance technique and not competition. Each June, students have the opportunity to shine before friends and family when they take the stage at the State Theatre in New Brunswick and while little girls will always love dancing, wearing tutus and standing in front of a mirror, Faulkner feels dance also helps instill some pretty valuable life qualities.
“It is a wonderful self-esteem booster and the things learned in a dance class – discipline, the ability to perform on stage and learning how to feel and move to music in a certain ways – that all stays with you forever,” said Faulkner.
And she must be doing something right. The family-run dance studio welcomes close to 400 students each year, many of them the children and grandchildren of former students. “I have generations coming back to me and that’s a great feeling,” Faulkner said. “I know personally that no mom is going to bring their children to a place that they didn’t have the best of memories at. It makes me feel like I am doing something right all these years!”
Jo-Ann’s Dance Studio is currently accepting registration for September. Classes begin Sept. 8 and are held Monday through Friday evenings and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, visit www.jo-annsdancestudio.com or call (908) 561-5094.