Although she believes that everyone is a dancer, Dena Reynolds is more concerned about making sure every child who comes through her studio is a good person.
At her dance and movement school in Hoboken, the lessons cover plié and relevé, but also self-confidence, physical health, and freedom.
“Over the years I’ve discovered that there’s a lot of teaching that can go on through movement,” said Reynolds.
She added, “When I’m in this room with these children, I can help them and open their eyes to being kind, compassionate, and loving people so that maybe the world can change.”
That focus is what motivates Reynolds as Monroe Street Movement Space, the dance studio, approaches its 20-year anniversary. The event will be marked with a ribbon cutting and a performance from the Movement Space children’s dance company on Sunday, Sept. 7 at 11:30 a.m.
The celebration kicks off a week of free classes and months of free special events for families and children.
From Hobbs to Hoboken
For as long as she can recall, Reynolds wanted to be a dancer. One of her earliest memories is of spinning in time with the washing machines in her father’s Laundromat, watching her skirts billow around her.
Growing up in Hobbs, New Mexico, where close proximity to Texas afforded her a lilting Southern accent that lasts to this day, Reynolds would gather the other neighborhood kids to perform tap dance, ballet, and tumbling for their parents.
After studying dance at Southern Methodist University and Florida State University, she moved to New York City in the early 1980s with a group of friends, hoping to secure a place in an elite company.
“The big thing was to come to New York and try and be in the dance world,” she says, “and I did it for seven years.”
Like so many Hoboken stories, Reynolds’ introduction to the mile-square city began in New York City and took a swerve.
“It’s so much more than just teaching dance.”—Dena Reynolds
“He had a loft he shared with a couple of other dancers,” said Reynolds. “That’s how I came here. I needed a place to live. I liked it because it was quieter here and it seemed more like a home town at that time. Hoboken had Blackwater Books then. It was a nice atmosphere.”
Reynolds went on to direct some shows in Hoboken, including a performance for the Hoboken Historical Museum at City Hall, but gradually burned out and took up acupressure as a second career.
She had been living in Hoboken and out of the dance world for three or four years when her neighbor Kelly Arthur asked if Reynolds would give her a private lesson in dance. They started classes in the living room of Reynolds’ one-bedroom Garden Street apartment.
“There really wasn’t enough room, but she had great potential, so I said, ‘Kelly, let’s get a place to work in,” said Reynolds. “I could work with you in a bigger room.’ So then we came here to the Monroe Center” for the Arts.
The industrial buildings that formed the Center had only recently been carved into artist lofts. Pretty soon, Reynolds needed to move into a bigger room in the Monroe Center for performances, then two rooms, then three.
Blackwater Books is long gone, and even the Barnes and Noble that pushed it out shuttered four years ago, but Reynolds remains, one of the veterans keeping Hoboken’s elusive culture of creativity alive.
Anything that moves
What started as a dance performance space has blossomed into a center for movement of all kinds. In addition to dance classes, Movement Space offers instruction in pilates, yoga, karate and aikido, a Japanese martial art related to ju-jitsu. Tai chi is taught by Luke Faust, Reynolds’ husband and business partner, who has been with Movement Space for 16 years.
Though it offers classes for teens and adults, Movement Space has a special emphasis on children. One of the center’s signature offerings is Parent Child Movement, Music and Language, which is aimed at crawling children through three-year olds and their parents.
“Parent Child Movement, Music and Language is something I’m really proud of,” said Reynolds. “It’s unique. It’s all about language development, motor skill development and social communication… I’ve been doing it 20 years so now it’s really developed.”
Movement Space also offers Summer Arts Camp for children aged 3 to 12. The wide-ranging sessions incorporate dance, yoga, singing in rounds, and cooperative games, all of which link back to movement.
There are also more traditional classes in ballet and modern dance and an after school games & arts drop-off program.
“I love working and the work I have done with the children has developed into something way beyond dance,” said Reynolds. “It’s about their lives, how they live in the world, how they communicate, the community they create and how they fit in. It’s so much more than just teaching dance.”
The 20th anniversary celebration will be held in Room C-504 of the Monroe Center for the Arts at 720 Monroe Street. For information, call 201-222-8033 or see www.movementspace.com
Carlo Davis may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.