Arts & Entertainment

New Caldwell Dance Studio Looks to Grow

DanceWorks Studios dancers have performed at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall Credits: Susan McKeown Photography
Costa works with a dancer Credits: Susan McKeown Photography

CALDWELL, NJ - The opening of a new DanceWorks Studios location on Bloomfield Avenue in Caldwell was the product of passion and opportunity for studio director Kathy Costa.

“I had been in Montclair for 16 years and I was looking for a new challenge,” Costa said. “I also believe so much in our philosophy and spreading it around.’

That philosophy is one that emphasizes collaboration instead of competition, growth and understanding instead of win now, bottom-line results. In short, a repudiation of “Dance Moms” style cutthroat intensity and a focus on nurturing dancers to reach their full potential.

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Costa believes that because dancers are not overly focused on winning competitions, the noncompetitive philosophy can better foster technical growth and creativity. In addition to the technical aspects of dancing, Costa also believes that her dancers are given the skills to grow their self-esteem.

“Our dancers spend a lot of time working with professionals and learning choreography, so that by the time they are seniors they are ready for their own work to be performed,” she said.

“Seeing your own work being choreographed and performed is a big “woo hoo” moment for a lot of dancers. It’s a really exciting moment.”

She described the programs produced by her dance students as “eclectic and versatile” and “never spoonfed.”

The DanceWorks philosophy has been highly effective. DanceWorks dancers were included in a touring company that performed at the London 2012 Summer Olympics. They have performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York City. Many have gone on to professional dancing careers, according to Costa.

The philosophy of collaboration and growth through dance has also encouraged Costa to reach beyond national borders. Working with The Nawaya Network, an organization dedicated to serving Lebanon’s underprivileged youth, Costa was able to host Reine Francis for two weeks this past summer. Francis lived with Costa’s family while taking dance classes at DanceWorks.

“It was a beautiful, wonderful exchange,” Costa said. “It was an incredible experience for all of us.”

Costa also traveled to South Africa to teach dance at a children’s hospital. She wants to continue to develop an exchange so dancers from abroad can come to the U.S.

“One of the things I love about dance is that it transcends language or politics or religion. It crosses all borders.”

The philosophy Costa espouses has its roots in her long dancing career, in which she has performed in both professional and academic settings.

Costa knew she wanted to study dance even as a girl. To that end, she obtained her degree in dance from Montclair State University. She remained in the Montclair area, teaching dance at a Cooperative program and as an adjunct at Montclair Kimberley Academy. For the past 16 years, DanceWorks Studios has been her primary focus.

Montclair has been good to DanceWorks, according to Costa, and it is that stability which allowed her to expand.

In choosing a new location, she required a studio that was far enough from the Montclair studio so as not to cannibalize its business, but close enough that she could teach classes.

A stroke of good fortune occurred when The Modern Music Academy moved its space entirely from Montclair to Caldwell. Noticing that some of its space was not being used, Costa worked an arrangement to set up a second location. Now DanceWorks Studios shares space with the Academy at 371 Bloomfield Avenue.

“To be honest, business has been kind of slow so far,” Costa said. “People don’t know we’re here, but we’ve only been open two weeks and we’re still in the ‘feeling-out’ stage.”

For now, Costa teaches one class in Caldwell on Thursday and a morning class on Saturday. Caldwell students are not being shortchanged however; the rest of the Montclair DanceWorks Studios staff rotates between the two locations.

“All of our instructors are professionals with degrees in dance. Most of them are still pursuing professional careers, working with top performers and choreographers in New York. They’re also well-versed in human anatomy and nutrition,” she said.

DanceWorks offers a wide variety of dance styles, including ballet, modern, pointe, tap, jazz and hip hop, among others. Costa’s specific program is modern.

“There’s a freer form of movement in modern dance. It’s not as rigid as ballet,” she said.

*A video of Reine can be seen at

TAPinto West Essex is proud to highlight one of its sponsors this week, DanceWorks.

TAPinto West Essex thanks DanceWorks for their continuing support to help us deliver important news to the residents of this community on a daily basis. Because of sponsors like DanceWorks, TAPinto West Essex is completely free to subscribers.

To learn more about becoming a sponsor of TAPinto, contact Jackie Schatell at (201) 618-7444

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