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Queens Chronicle

All the right moves in South Queens

Neighborhood dance schools offer classes for all genres, to all ages

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Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:12 am, Thu Aug 29, 2013.

Feelin’ groovy? Want to loose some weight? Or just looking for some activity for your children to do? South Queens has no shortage of places to learn how to dance, and have some fun doing it.

TKO Dance Studio has grown so big in its mere five years in existence that it was forced to open a second, larger, studio several blocks away from its original location at 95-12 101 Ave. in Ozone Park.

“The amount of students that have started to register has doubled, so we need to grow,” said co-owner Marie Tibball, whose son Tommy and Tommy’s friend Kareem Hills are instructors at the school and award-winning dancers themselves.

“Their reputation is spreading,” Tibball said. “That’s what they’re soaring on.”

TKO has a long list of awards they’ve brought home from competitions all over the country, including most recently winning a Showmanship Award for an 8-minute Whitney Houston medley at the Starpower competition in Maryland, where more than 1,700 routines were performed. Forty-five students performed in the number, which received the highest score vaulting them into first place.

“It’s better than hitting the lotto,” Tibball said. “The judges were crying. Every single person in the auditorium gave them a standing ovation. It was an amazing experience.”

Fazio Dance Center has existed in Howard Beach almost as long as the neighborhood has. At its 164-48 Cross Bay Blvd. location, Fazio offers students from pre-K to adult a wide variety of genres including tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, modern and even musical theater. And for many of the dancers who first put on their dancing shoes at Fazio, those classes are the start of a career in the arts.

“Over the years, we’ve had dancers from our studio go on to get college degrees in dance,” said instructor Julie Fazio. “Obviously they enjoyed it enough that it was something they wanted to do and pursued it.”

Many of Fazio’s dancers go on to get involved in dance teams and theater groups in their own schools. Dancers who took classes at Fazio also have gone on to perform at venues from Resorts World Casino New York City to the Broadway stage.

The studio’s location near the southern end of Howard Beach meant it was badly affected by Hurricane Sandy. Fazio said the center lost everything, but it reopened for business on Dec. 1 with little more than music and a floor.

“That was a big challenge,” Fazio explained. “We got back on our feet. Everyone had to step it up.”

Danielle Jenkins, an instructor at Steps Ahead Dance Studio in Ozone Park, said their studio at 90-55 Desarc Rd. is a perfect place for young children to learn to dance.

“We have a very nurturing environment,” Jenkins said.

Steps Ahead, which has been in business for 21 years, offers tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, lyrical, modern, competition and technique classes as well as Zumba and Zumbini, which Jenkins describes as a “Mommy and Me” type of dance routine. Jenkins added that the studio has special guests come in to teach.

“Every week we have renowned choreographers teaching master classes,” she said.

Steps Ahead has its own mantle of awards to brag about. Recently, members returned from the Starpower competition in Maryland with a first-place trophy won by the junior competition team.

Rising Stars Dance Studio at 110-05 Liberty Ave. in Richmond Hill has also racked up the awards in the 22 years they have been teaching dance in southern Queens.

Instructor Suzanne Pafundi-Rodriguez won the National Teacher of the Year award in 2005 and 2006 and the center won the 2006 Dance Studio All Star award. Rising Stars has also won an Entertainment Award and a Director’s Choice Award for its performances at past competitions and has also competed at Dance USA and Starpower competitions.

Rising Stars has also donated to a number of charities, including St. Jude’s, the Arthritis Foundation and Epilepsy Foundation.

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