A staple of the Mercer County dance scene for 40 years, the Glen Roc Dance Shoppe in Ewing provides children, teenagers and adults with the opportunity to learn and perform a variety of dancing styles.
Owner Alma Ciccarelli has taught thousands of young people to dance and thinks of every one of them as her own children. She is now teaching children of students she had years ago.
The dance studio is bright and inviting, with a ballet barre along one wall, a wall of mirrors on the opposite wall and a large performance area in between. The special floor has a slight springiness to it, aided by blocks and springs under the surface, which eases tension on the knees and legs of the dancers.
“Typically, we have 250 to 300 students a year,” Ciccarelli said. “I have students from three-years-old up to adults.” The studio is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, with the later hours reserved for the older students and adults. Classes last for an hour, and many students take more than one class.
Ciccarelli said she started dancing at the age of three and then had a chance for a temporary, four-week job running someone else’s studio after college. Now, four decades later, she is still in the studio every day.
“I loved it,” Ciccarelli said of that temporary job. She knew dance was “the direction I wanted to go in. I want my students to learn the art of the dance as much as possible and I want them to have a love for it, and not be pushed into it.”
Glen Roc’s classes average 10 to 15 students. Some of the more experienced students are occasionally given the opportunity to work with younger students. She started a program several years ago where the younger students work with her teenage dancers. This not only helps the younger students, it allows the older students to get experience as teachers.
Glen Roc does a recital in May of each year at the Kendall Theater at The College of New Jersey. All students participate in both a matinee and evening performance, showcasing what they have learned for family and friends.
There are also two competition teams—junior and senior—with students ranging from 12 to 18. The teams compete around New Jersey several times a year and occasionally travel out of state to perform.
This year, Ciccarelli, with help from a number of parents, will take both teams to Walt Disney World in Orlando in November, where they will perform on a floating stage in the water and take classes with a Disney choreographer.
“I never lose touch with my kids,” Ciccarelli said. Although the students usually stop coming when they go to college, many return on summer break or for adult classes at night.
Michael Yousko has taught at Glen Roc for more than 15 years, while Laney Engelhard has taught there for 12 years. Lauren Brady and Rachel Tovar are long-time instructors, and Amanda Page, a recent graduate of the dance program at Rider University, will begin teaching in September.
“I enjoy working at The Glen Roc Dance Shoppe because the students and parents I’ve gotten to know over the years have become like family to me,” Yousko said.
He said that watching the students grow from preschoolers to young adults and the progression of their dance ability is rewarding.
“I’ve become a father-like figure to most of the students and have shared many life lessons and experiences with them over time,” he said. “The Glen Roc staff’s hope is to provide each student with an experience that will be looked back upon as an important and special part of their life.”
With a background that includes being a student at Glen Roc, instructor Lauren Brady puts a personal spin on her experiences.
“Dance has always been a huge part of my life and being able to teach at the studio I danced at as a child has been an awesome experience. Glen Roc has always been my home away from home,” Brady said. “Ms. Alma has been a mentor to me both in the dance studio and in life for many years, and I admire how she makes every child feel like they are her own.”
Engelhard stresses the family nature of Glen Roc when she said, “It feels like working with a family here at Glen Roc Dance Shoppe. Establishing a positive rapport with the dancers and their families has made for a great teaching experience.”
Continuing the family theme, Ciccarelli said, “I love my instructors. We’re a family. All my girls call me their second mom.”
Glen Roc Dance Shoppe, 189 Scotch Rd. Phone: (609) 883-8083.