NORTH BRUNSWICK — Her love for dance transformed a one-room studio into a successful tap dancing school, bustling with students who share her passion.
South Brunswick resident Diane Gressing-Rice, owner of the School of the Arts at 4-20 Towne Center Drive in North Brunswick, said she had to expand her studio twice since 1985 to accommodate a constantly growing population of students.
"I’m blessed that my students are very loyal and stay with me," Gressing-Rice said. "The word of mouth within the community has also been wonderful, proving that we are not just a business, we provide the best education and develop long-lasting friendships with our students."
Gressing-Rice, who has danced professionally with the New Jersey Dance Theater Ensemble and in many local productions, said she worked in at least 10 different dance companies before deciding to open her own business in 1985.
"I decided if I was going to work so hard, I might as well do it for myself," Gressing-Rice said.
Through dance instruction, Gressing-Rice said she aims to instill the discipline, self-worth, self-respect, good health practices and confidence she learned as a dancer.
"I have been dancing since the age of 3," Gressing-Rice said. "I was an overactive child, so my mother took me to the local dance school. They gave me direction and channeled my energy. I fell in love with dancing."
The School of the Arts offers ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, point and competition dance classes to dancers ages 2 to adult.
The school also offers a cardio-aerobics program that blends kickboxing with body sculpting and aerobics.
"We teach dance in a fun and loving way," Gressing-Rice said.
She said the 10 teachers she employs at the School of the Arts pride themselves on providing well-structured and educational classes in a loving and nurturing environment.
"We do have students who go on to Juilliard, the New Jersey Dance Theater Ensemble and the American Repertory Ballet, but we’re not the type of studio that strictly focuses on the most talented," Gressing-Rice said. "If we see a dancer giving 100 percent, we’ll move them up to the first row."
Gressing-Rice said she is proud of all of her students.
"I love new students and their enthusiasm and tremendous excitement and their energy level, and I’m just as proud of the older students who strive to get stronger every year."
This year, the school awarded 15 students a five-year trophy, 12 students a 10-year trophy and two students a 15-year trophy for their continuing dedication to dance.
"We are a family here, and we grow together as a unit," Gressing-Rice said.
Mommy and Me, a 45-minute program, incorporates ballet, balance beam, and motor skill developing techniques with song for 2-year-olds with the assistance of a parent.
Nursery Dance, for 3-year-olds, incorporates ballet and tap dancing with song.
Kinder Dance, for 4-year-olds, incorporates 20 minutes of tap dancing with 40 minutes of ballet and serves as an introduction to classical ballet.
"It is important for parents to know that our floors are built up with springs so that the children’s legs are not in danger," Gressing-Rice said. "When I first started dancing, we weren’t as body conscious and a lot of people suffered with knee trouble."
Additional programs the school offers include dance classes for the mentally challenged; music, comedy and theater, where students learn acting, singing, script reading and drama; and a teacher assistant program where dance professionals mentor students and teach them how to instruct dance classes.
Registration will begin the last week of August.
Anyone interested in taking classes should call (732) 821-0666.