Main Stage Dance Academy owner Lucille Naar-Saladino will be discussing the benefits of dance with young students at local schools during National Dance Week, which runs through May 1.
“Dancing gave me confidence,” Ms. Naar-Saladino said during an interview at her Greenport studio Friday. She was a “tall, gangly kid,” and while her family had assured her that her height was part of her beauty, it’s easy for a young girl to feel self-conscious about fitting in with her friends, she said.
“It helped me to be able to express myself,” Ms. Naar-Saladino said. “It was like a second home,” she said of the dance studio where she studied as a child.
It also provided “a sense of discipline and commitment” that have served her well throughout her life. She remembers as a young girl passing the studio and telling her mother that she wanted to dance. It wasn’t too much later that she was enrolled in classes and by age 12, her teacher told her when she was older, she was a good candidate to try out for the Radio City Rockettes. Several years later, she did exactly that and won a coveted place among those high-kicking Rockettes who perform regularly in New York City.
“It’s in your wiring somehow,” Ms. Naar-Saladino said of her love of dancing. But not everyone who takes dance lessons is going to become a professional, she said. But each student will take from the classes an “enthusiasm about life” that will carry through to everything else they do, she said.
What’s more, the camaraderie among students, many of whom form lasting friendships with one another, is a side benefit of the experiences they have had learning to dance. Some of her early students, who are now in college away from the community, still keep in touch with one another and with her.
“I get such pleasure from the friendships that have developed through the school,” Ms. Naar-Saladino said.
On Friday, she and two current students — Anabelle O’Dell and Marley Medina, both 7 — will be at Greenport School for a discussion and demonstration of dance. They hope to repeat the program at Oysterponds.
Her message to the students will be simple: “Dance makes you free. You can express yourself through tap and ballet.”
Looking to other means of spreading the joy and the value of dancing, Ms. Naar-Saladino has entered into a program with Peconic Bay Medical Center. Families of babies born this week — National Dance Week — will receive certificates entitling the children when they reach their third birthday, to receive a free semester of dance lessons at Ms. Naar-Saladino’s studio.
“One of these kids could turn out to be an incredible talent,” she said.
Besides working with children, Ms. Naar-Saladino also teaches adults and this year she has started a class for special needs individuals that now includes six young adults. It started with a telephone call from a mother who asked about a class for her special needs daughter.
“She’s very high functioning and loves to dance,” Ms. Naar-Saladino said.
The call coincided with her hiring dance instructor, Vicki Densieski, who is certified to teach special needs individuals, Ms. Naar-Saladino said. The idea has caught on with other special needs individuals and Ms. Naar-Saladino hopes it will continue to grow.
“It empowers them,” she said.
When her mainstream students perform in a recital at Greenport School June 12, her special needs students will be part of the program, she said.