During Hollywood's Golden Age, The Community Theatre was the crowning achievement of Walter Reade's chain of New Jersey movie palaces. By the 1980s, after five decades of movie screenings and catastrophic popcorn wars, the theater sat in disrepair. Concerned citizens banded together in 1994 to save the historic building from a sad end, and in May 2011, after a series of renovations, the theater officially changed its name to the Mayo Performing Arts Center. The venue currently hosts more than 200 performances a year, occasional art showings, and performance-arts education classes for adults and children.
During the past 25 years, Brian and Jenny Nash have taught all sorts of people to dance. They've coached members of the New Jersey Philharmonic Orchestra for fundraising balls and helmed the Rutgers University collegiate dance program. At Nash Dancenter, they guide students through the simple sway of foxtrot and the trumpet-backed scintillation of salsa. A team of instructors aids them, drawing upon experience in national competitions and a love of the famous dance scene in Jaws. The studio in which they teach is an airy, 8,000-square-foot ballroom with french doors, sweeping window arches, and glistening chandeliers. During dance socials, guests look into the impressive chamber from a balcony, watching twirls and tango steps below.
The Maplewood Theatre's name hovers above the marquee in an art-deco script over a row of lights, conjuring up nostalgia of the classic cinemas of yesteryear. But the retro-style facade doesn't mean that the movies are also throwbacks. Instead, the modern movie screens flicker with first-run films. The theater's 3D capabilities allow patrons to slip on glasses that make them feel as if they're in the middle of the action or to protect their eyes when they accidentally dunk their faces into 3-D popcorns.
Before taking the reins at Broadway Performing Arts, Elisa Heinsohn appeared on the TV series Fame, and Cleve Asbury acted in the Oscar-winning film Chicago. The duo also racked up an impressive set of Broadway credits—Asbury most recently played Mr. Ovington in the hit How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying—and starred in more television commercials than a dog who can talk. Nowadays, the two continue their performing-arts work while co-owning and co-directing their studio, leading their team as they teach students from 3-year-olds to adults. The studio’s eclectic curricula hone students’ skills in disciplines such as musical theater, dance, and guitar.
Whether coaching students as individuals or in a group setting, the certified instructors at the Westfield School of Dance draw from years of teaching and performance experience in their chosen styles. All are specialized in one to three disciplines of dance, and pass on their knowledge through a progressive syllabus in a range of classes. They organize students by skill level, coaching them in tap, jazz, modern dance, Russian ballet, and musical-theatre performance. For more experienced dancers and aspiring professionals, they also conduct work-study programs and student-teacher training. These experiences allow students to work alongside their teachers as well as guest artists to learn new choreography, develop teaching techniques, and uncover the mystery of what really happened that fateful night at Swan Lake.
Throughout the year, students are given the chance to showcase what they've learned in two venues. In the more minimalistic setting of the Black Box, beginner-level students perform original choreographed dance concerts. The annual spring Main Stage show folds novice through advanced dancers into a full-scale production, complete with live musicians, costumes, scenery, and props.
Starry Night Dance Studio hosts a never-ending dance party atop its polished wood floors, inviting all to join and even offering free classes for beginners. Instructors wear the shoes of multiple ballroom styles to teach the centuries-old waltz alongside West Coast swing and merengue, a two-step dance outstripped in simplicity only by the one-step known as walking. Aerobic Zumba workouts and belly-dance classes loosen students’ hips while building muscle tone and cardio endurance. Additionally, Starry Night’s experienced dancers choreograph dances for special events such as weddings, quinceañeras, mortgage signings, and bar mitzvahs, and happily help students to prepare for landmark celebrations.