Diversity of classes, dancers keeps Foster Dance Studios fresh after 7 months in business

Cat Zakrzewski

As the toddlers in creative movement and pre-ballerina class leave Foster Dance Studios on most Saturday mornings, the teenagers, college students and middle-aged women walk in for Zumba and Gyrokinesis.

Offering an open environment and a variety of dance classes for all ages, Foster Dance Studios, 915 Foster St., opened in September and is currently preparing for its premiere recital May 12.

The studio differs from others with its “two-track system” which is particularly appealing to college students, Sally Turner, executive director of Foster Dance Studios, said. The school’s instructors and courses attract high caliber dancers who make dancing their main extracurricular activity and participate in the Foster Dance Company program. However, many dancers at the studio do not have as much time to dedicate to dancing. For these dancers, the studio offers an option to pay on a class-by-class basis.

After discontinuing her own dance classes because she could no longer afford them as a Northwestern Law student, Turner said the studio has implemented reduced rates for college students. In addition to the special rates, Foster Dance Studios has established a work-study program for college students. Students who work for up to four hours a week at the studio are able to take unlimited classes without a fee, said Communication freshman Chamblee Smith, who has taken advantage of the program. Smith danced for seven years before coming to Northwestern, and now she takes Jazz III, Contemporary III and MoPeD classes at the studio.

“If you’re a dancer, this is an amazing place to explore your abilities,” Smith said.

In addition to NU students, the dance studio has a diverse clientele base.

“The youngest dancer at the studio is currently two, and the oldest is 71,” Turner said.

The wide range may be attributed to the variety of classes the studio offers. They provide instruction in ballet, jazz, modern, tap, hip-hop, contemporary and musical theater. In addition, the studio offers gyrokinesis, a form of exercise derived from dance that allows one to apply the entire body through seven kinds of spinal movement.

Another offering of the studio is MoPeD, a dance form that associate artistic director Sarah Goldstone said was developed by the studio’s artistic director Ronn Stewart. MoPeD stands for “more people dancing,” Goldstone added.

“It’s kind of our signature philosophy at this school because it’s really just about getting in touch with your body, exploring movement, enjoying moving your body, getting a workout, but also getting a little bit of dance experience without being a technically trained dancer,” Goldstone said.

Turner said she and the other founding principals, Stewart, Goldstone and Kathryn Ebert, have been pleased with the studio’s success. The vision to open Foster Dance began just last winter when Turner was taking a class with Stewart at Gus Giordono Dance School. When she learned last March that the school was moving to Chicago, she approached Stewart about opening a studio in Evanston.

She said despite a few minor challenges, the opening was smooth due to her own legal experience and that of her co-founders in business and dance. She said she thinks next year will be even better because they will draw on what they have learned in their opening year.

“It’s just the first year you’re kind of inventing the wheel,” Turner said.

Goldstone and Turner both said since the openning, they have felt watching the students improve has been rewarding.

“Sometimes, I stand in the hallway and watch the classes going on, and I see the joy of the students and the fact that they are getting so much better,” Turner said. “I’ll just stand in the hallway and get teary because it’s exactly what we wanted to do, and we’re having more and more of those moments all the time.”

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