Finding myself in dance, again
I’ve been dancing since I could walk. It’s a huge part of who I am. When I lived in Switzerland a few years ago, I danced with a contemporary company for upwards of 10 hours a week or more. But even I lost touch with that part of me for a period of time after I had kids. First, there were the changes to my body during pregnancy that prevented me from dancing contemporary. Then there was the recovery from the birth. And then I just got consumed with the day-to-day of motherhood. When I lost that outlet, I noticed I was more tense. I was irritable. I was unfulfilled artistically. And I was probably pretty bad company for a while.
When I moved to Boston, I really wanted to find myself in dance again, but I had no idea where to start. Boston is a big city, and there are lots of studios, but finding just the right class or workshop or instructor in a new city is a challenge. It took a lot of trial and error. So I’m here to share some great places to start, if you’re in the same spot — or if you’re looking to try dance for the first time!
Jeanette Neill is the place to go if you’re a jazz lover. They have other classes, like modern and hip hop, but classical jazz technique is their bread and butter. The studio space is terrific and located just off the green line, close to North Station. They offer lots of adult classes for all skill levels, plus youth programs and repertory performances.
The studio has hosted more than a hundred guest artists, teachers, and choreographers, including Bob Fosse, Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera, Desmond Richardson, Carmen de Lavellade, and Chet Walker. They have been listed in Best of Boston by Boston Magazine three times, received a 2004 A-List Award by WBZ-TV, and there’s even an official Jeannette Neill Day here in Boston.
There’s a truly special annual master class taught by Hope Boykin, an Alvin Ailey Dance Company member, when Ailey is in town, usually in April or May. He’s a wonderful, talented, inspiring instructor. A must-take.
The Dance Complex is an enormous, five-story dance mecca located right in Central Square. It’s the perfect place to start if you’re shopping around for your go-to dance class. They offer classes in almost every style imaginable, from ballet to bachata. Available styles include tango, West African, modern, bollywood, tap, capoeira, jazz, hip hop, and more. They manage to specialize in so many styles thanks to the size of the complex and the many talented instructors they bring in from all over Boston to teach.
They offer drop-in classes, class “packages,” workshops, repertory, performances, and studio rental. Length of classes, cost, and terms for each class are set by the instructor, so it’s very personal. It’s a wonderful to explore dance and meet other dancers!
Green Street can be thought of as the “sister complex” of The Dance Complex. It’s smaller and located right behind The Dance Complex at Central Square. It’s used as more of a choreographer-driven workshop space, but they do offer classes in diverse dance styles like Irish, flamenco, Balkan, Hawaiian, and ballet.
Jose Mateo’s adult program is one of the largest offerings of its kind in New England. It provides ballet opportunities for dancers at every skill level, from beginner through professionals, offered daily on a drop-in basis. Their studio space is truly special, located in the gothic revival Old Cambridge Baptist Church (circa 1867) in the Harvard Square Historic District. Its 50-foot ceilings, stained glass, and expansive interior space make dancing or spectating there a spiritual experience.
They also offer an excellent pre-professional preparatory program for young ballet dancers. Their Dorchester studio has classes for children ages 3 to 8.
Though Boston Ballet is most well known for its talented company, you definitely don’t have to be a prima ballerina to take class there. They offer drop-in classes for every skill level, as well as workshops (taught in two- to ten-week sessions) and master classes. I love that they also offer inclusive programming for adults with differing abilities to explore movement in a safe and supportive environment.
It’s a great place to learn technique from the masters, and they also offer excellent youth and pre-professional programs.
*Shout-out to my girls at Cambridge Dance Company for letting me use their images.
Know of another studio that deserves a shout-out? Let us know!