Dancing is a hobby for many people, but only some turn it into their lifestyle. For Rebekka Nodhturft, dance became a part of her life at 3-years-old and now she is following her dream of owning a studio.
Nodhturft opened Upstage Dance Academy in Suffern, New York at the end of the summer. Currently living in New York City, Nodhturft comes up to Suffern on Fridays to teach dance to anyone ages 2-18 interested in tap, ballet and jazz.
Upstage is currently offering the first class for free for all interested students.
With more than 10 years of teaching experience and almost 30 years of dancing, Nodhturft opened her own studio to help kids grow as people and dancers.
“And actually it’s really fun,” she said. “We use a lot of happy, up-beat songs. You see the kids start to enjoy it and have a lot of fun with it.”
Upstage offers “Parent-tot” classes for children ages 2-3 to teach them about movement, keeping a beat and learning classroom discipline.
Nodhturft and her mom, Debbie, a dance instructor with approximately 35 years of teaching experience, teach the dance style courses.
“My mom is the child whisperer,” she said. “I look up to her so much. She’s been teaching for years.”
Nodhturft began taking dance classes at 3-years-old at the Marya Kennett Dance Center. She studied ballet, tap and jazz through high school. She continued to dance while attending the University of Boston. After graduating and finding an office-based job in Washington D.C., Nodhturft found herself constantly wishing she was dancing again.
She applied The Ailey School, the official school of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and her life transformed back to focusing on performing arts.
“It was a major change,” she said. “I decided to re-commit my life to dance, and only dance.”
At The Ailey School, Nodhturft studied ballet and modern dance every single day. “Each form (of dancing) is like a different member of my family,” she said. “They’re all different but you love them all the same.”
From The Ailey School she went on to perform with Jazz Roots Dance, Keen Dance Theater and Cotton Club. She was a soloist when Keen Dance Theater visited Guyana and she learned how expressive international dancers could be.
She’s been teaching since she turned 16, except during the four years she was in college. “The biggest thing that gives me joy is seeing the child grow from week to week, month to month and year to year.” Nodhturft said.
She currently teaches at other dance studios in New York City and has been training one 12-year-old boy for the past three years. Nodhturft explained his progress and dedication could lead him to a professional career.
She loves “being able to help kids grow and if they want that kind of career (in dance), being able to help guide them.”
Nodhturft’s passion for dance is what keeps her going. While Upstage Dance Academy currently does not have its own building and rents a space from a Zumba instructor, Nodhturft’s hope for the future is strong.
While Upstage doesn’t currently offer classes for adults, Nodhturft is hoping to expand the program when the company grows.
“We are starting kinda small,” she said, explaining the start-up costs of a new studio have kept them limited to having only one day a week in the studio space. She acknowledged the dance company is playing catch up to enroll students for the season but hopes to keep growing the company.
“We are definitely going to keep growing and make it grow no matter what,” she said.