SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Jo-Ann's Dance Studio - The Performing Arts Centre will hold its 2018 recital next month, and this year's annual showcase will feature a special performance in honor of the studio's milestone anniversary.

"When I first opened the studio, I was hoping to be able to keep it going for a few years, and it's so hard to believe it's now been in existence for 40 years," said Faulkner, who opened her first dance studio in South Plainfield back in 1978.

This year’s show - ‘A 40th Anniversary - Celebration of Dance’ - will take place Saturday, June 16 at the State Theatre in New Brunswick. Hundreds of current dance students are set to hit the stage in honor of Jo-Ann's anniversary. The show will include several montage videos, produced by studio staff member Tamara Dombrowski, as well as an alumni performance in celebration of the 40th anniversary. 

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This past fall, a 'call for alumni" was posted on social media, and dozens of former students expressed interest in participating. 

"Through Facebook and Instagram, we posted about the reunion and, within the hour we received dozens of responses," said Tara Catalina, who serves as the studio's assistant director and artistic director.

Since April, 55 former students, ages 19 through 49 - many who are now moms to current studio students - have been spending their Saturday afternoons rehearsing. On recital day, they will take the stage and close out this year's show with a high energy performance to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive.”

"I feel this song applies to me and the past 40 years," said Faulkner, noting the song came out at a time when she could relate to it the most. "Back when it first came out, I was going through a difficult time, and hearing that song I had an epiphany, and it became my anthem."  

And survived she has. Last month, Faulkner and her studio were recognized at the South Plainfield Business Association's 7th Annual Taste of South Plainfield. 

"It was lovely and so nice to be honored," said Faulkner, adding, "So many people who were there are people I've done business with over all these years. I've had many of their children and grandchildren as students. You can't be in a town like South Plainfield this long and not know just about everyone."

The daughter of marathon dancers, Faulkner began teaching basic ballet, tap and jazz to local children in South Plainfield in 1978. Back then, she rented space at the Italian-American Progressive Club but, as enrollment grew, Faulkner sought larger venues throughout the community. She also began expanding her class offerings and operated her dance studio out of five different locations within the borough before settling at 4475 South Clinton Avenue approximately 25 years ago.

"I was raised in South Plainfield. I attended South Plainfield schools. I knew many South Plainfield families. It's a great little town,” said Faulkner. “Where better to open my business? When you join our studio, you become part of our big, extended studio family.”

In addition to maintaining strong ties in the community, Jo-Ann's also remains a family-owned and operated business. 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 ovesrseeing all business and artistic aspects. 

Faulkner's daughter, Tara Catalina is the artistic director and the assistant direactor of the studio, and Faulkner's son, Kenneth Faulkner-Alexander, teaches all vocal and music/piano lessons. Together the Faulkner family works alongside a team of six talented teachers - several who personally attended the studio themselves - including Faulkner's grandson, Alexander Catalina.

"I never thought 40 years ago my children and now my grandson would be involved, and here they are. Their love of dance and the performing arts is just as strong as it has always been", Faulkner told TAPinto South Plainfield during an interview in 2016, adding, "I have generations coming back to me and that's a great feeling...It makes me feel like I am doing something right all these years!”

Today, Jo-Ann's offers ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop and musical theatre classes to children and adults. The studio also has expanded recently to include a program called Vertical Freedom. This aspect of the studio encompasses a new variety of fitness classes for adults and children. These classes include pole, POUND, conditioning, Pilates reformer, Pole-ates, vertical barre and hoop. 

For more information on Vertical Freedom classes, visit www.veritcalfreedom.com. For dance studio information, visitJoannsdancestudionj.com, call 908-561-5094, or follow them on Facebook  (https://www.facebook.com/pg/Jo-Anns-Dance-Studio-The-Performing-Arts-Centre-146403545377259) and Instagram (@joannsdance#Joannsdancestudio). 

Jo-Ann's '40th Anniversary - Celebration of Dance' will be held Saturday, June 16. The curtain goes up at 2 p.m. and the show will be approximately three hours with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets can be purchased directly through the State Theatre box office or online at http://www.stnj.org/event/joanns_dance. Additionally, this year journal program ads are also being sold. Contact the studio for information.

"State Theatre is a big theater to sell out and we are hoping that if everyone participating brings just one extra person with them this year's event will be a huge success,” said Faulkner. 

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