STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Need to know where you can get your groove on?
Well, we have some suggestions.
For our first Best of Staten Island category of 2022, we asked readers to tell us their favorite dance schools, and they nominated 37 standout spots through hundreds of comments on social media.
The top-three vote-getters were Center Stage Dance Studio, Star Struck Dance and Mrs. Rosemary’s Dance Studio.
Ask Amanda Dalli what her mantra is, and she’ll tell you: Anybody can dance. The owner of Bulls Head-based Center Stage Dance Studio has built a loyal following in her nine years of business, welcoming in boys and girls of all ages to learn — and love — the art she has practiced since she was a toddler.
Her passion for dance has translated to her students, which in turn has created an award-winning competitive program. Students are both eager to practice their moves at Dalli’s instruction, but also just be around the palpable positive and fun energy that radiates within the studio’s four walls.
Dancers enthusiastically call Center Stage Dance Studio a “second home,” and the inclusive team that practices day in and day out is a “tight-knit family.”
Dalli does not take full credit for the environment fostered at Center Stage Dance Studio, often noting how grateful she is to parents and families who have been “so supportive and amazing, and so loyal” over the years.
Dalli hopes to continue to grow the studio, and invites any child interested in learning dance to give it a shot — even if they’re feeling nervous.
“Come, put your best foot forward, no one is going to make fun of you here,” she said. “Everybody starts somewhere. You just have to get your foot in the door and give it a go. It would mean so much to me to just bring all of the kids in and give them everything that I’ve got.”
FYI: Center Stage Dance Studio recently expanded into a freshly renovated studio next door to the old one. The former space is currently undergoing a bit of construction, but Dalli expects to reopen that portion in the coming months. Dalli also added updates on summer programs, and the studio’s fall schedule will be available soon on the studio website.
To watch our Facebook Live at Center Stage Dance Studio, click here.
What do you get when you combine a little charisma, deep passion and some hard work? An award-winning dance studio that shows no signs of slowing down. Deep in the South Shore of Staten Island, Gail Willadsen-Criscione and her team at Star Struck Dance are churning out incredible dance routine after incredible dance routine — but, even more importantly, they’re cultivating enthusiastic 4- to 18-year-olds to take on life outside the studio, empowering them with poise and a sense of self-respect.
Because for Willadsen-Criscione, winning isn’t everything; it’s about setting a great example for her dancers to follow. ”Ninety percent of dance isn’t about the performance at the end [or] where your career takes you,” said Willadsen-Criscione. “It’s about building better human beings, better children, [building] confidence … building a passion, building a self-worth, that’s what we’re teaching them here. We want them to be confident when they go out into the world.”
That being said, Star Struck Dance has been on a hot streak since its inception over 30 years ago. Don’t believe us? Just check out the massive number of competition trophies by the front door. The Richmond Valley-based studio has competed all over the United States, and runs the gamut when it comes to the styles of dance students perform.
Tight-knit dancers weave acrobatic moves with fun, inspiring choreography that would get anyone hyped up. Give one of them a compliment on their impressive work, however, and they’re quick to turn it around and heap praises on their dancemates.
That’s just the team mindset Willadsen-Criscione has reared in the boys and girls she’s so loyal to setting up for success. Willadsen-Criscione has an overwhelming sense of pride in what she does, what the studio stands for and how dancers carry themselves. It’s no wonder why her students adore her.
FYI: All instructors at Star Struck Dance are born and bred from the studio, another nod to just how much people believe in the work Willadsen-Criscione is doing.
To watch our Facebook Live at Star Struck Dance Studio, click here.
Mrs. Rosemary’s Dance Studio is a Staten Island institution, and sisters Luanne Sorrentino, Roe Hillers and Doreen Cugno have carried the studio’s legacy with pride. Their mother, original studio owner and namesake of the New Dorp gem, started the business in 1959 — and it has flourished since.
“It’s 63 years strong,” said Sorrentino, adding the non-competitive school teaches strong technique and terminology while giving students plenty of performance opportunities without the pressure of competition. “We build strong, polished, technical dancers, whether they go on to big things in the dance world or the entertainment industry … they get self-confidence and self-esteem with us.”
Sorrentino, Hillers and Cugno — who also run the historic St. George Theatre together — aim to foster long-lasting relationships, create a trusting community with their dancers and gift life lessons to each of their students. Given there are some second- and third-generation dancers who attend the school, we’d say they’re doing a good job reaching what they set out to achieve.
The dancers, too, are as bright and cheery as the beautiful costumes that adorn the walls of the studio, and all jump at the opportunity to sing praises of a place that inspires them to be the best versions of themselves.
“It’s a happy place,” said Sorrentino. “Everything under this roof is positive vibes, a lot of love, and just good, positive energy.”
Students agree, and revel in having instructors who “always have faith” in them to succeed on every level. “We are one big dancing family,” said Sorrentino. “Everybody leaves here feeling so good about themselves … there’s no nonsense, no drama under this roof. Pure dance, pure love.”
FYI: Pre-registration is in June; give them a call so that you guarantee your spot. The studio separates classes by age and level, so dancers will always have the perfect proper fit. Mrs. Rosemary’s also livestreams every class so that no one has to miss out.
To watch our Facebook Live at Mrs. Rosemary’s Dance Studio, click here.
While only the top three dance schools were highlighted, we still want to shine a light on the 34 other studios that were nominated. They may not have cracked the top three this year, but they are still beloved across our borough. Here they are, broken down by community:
• Dance Factory, 505 Sharrotts Road, 718-689-0019, dfgnyc.com
• Fierce Dance Company, 654 Sharrotts Road, 718-317-5777, fiercedancecompanyny.com
• Brandy’s Dance Unique, 1693 Hylan Blvd., 718-987-5553, @officialbdu on Instagram
• Exposure Dance Studio, 1434 Richmond Road, exposuredancestudio.com, 718-979-2153
• South Shore Dance, 3829 Richmond Ave., 718-317-5829, @southshoredancesi on Instagram
• Move Me Dance & Fitness Studio, 4 Giffords Lane, 718-605-6683, movemedancenfitness.com
• Lydia’s School of Dance, 1000 Richmond Terr., Building G, lydiasdance.com
• The Studio Dancers, 454 Nome Ave., 917-525-9724, @thestudiodancer on Instagram
• Moving in Time Dance Studio, 95 Guyon Ave., 917-476-6759
• Evolution Dance Company, 16A Barrett Ave., 718-816-9707
• New York Dance Company, 490 Port Richmond Ave., 718-720-1106
• Staten Island Dance and Art Center, 26 Richmond Valley Road, 718-356-3760, sidanceandartscenter.com,
• Dance Electra, 8 Mallory Ave., 718-273-9598
• Dancer’s Den NYC, 140 Main St., 718-489-0235, dancersdennyc.com
• Dream Studio for the Performing Arts, 7315 Amboy Road, 718-966-0096, @dream_studio_si on Instagram
• Melissa’s Dance Workshop, 3785 Victory Blvd., 718-477-1329
• Miss Theresa’s Danceland, 264 Watchogue Road, 718-494-4492, @miss_theresas_danceland on Instagram