Thursday, November 19, 2009

Room to dance: Brooklynite clears the way for Generation Next

By Meredith Deliso

Brooklyn may have a plethora of recording studios, art studios and rehearsal studios, but one Brooklyn resident sees one area where the borough is lacking – dance studios.

Since she was a young girl, dance has been Coney Island resident Arelah Thompson’s passion, honing her skills taking classes at Sheepshead Bay High School and then at the Broadway Dance Center in Manhattan. Today, her dream is to open a studio in her native Brooklyn to teach children the same.

“This has always been a dream of mine,” says Thompson, who for nearly 10 years has taught in after-school programs and community centers in the city, including currently the Red Hook Community Center Beacon at PS 15 (71 Sullivan St.), where she teaches middle schoolers and teenagers hip-hop, reggae, jazz and African dance.

Thompson sees her own studio teaching those forms of dance, as well as salsa, ballroom dancing, tap, ballet and point, reaching out to kids in low-income, urban neighborhoods.

“So many of them are so talented but don’t have the right recreational facilities and resources that they can go to that’s affordable and available to them,” says Thompson. “I want to make sure I provide a facility where these teenagers can have a safe place to go to express their talent.”

On November 29, Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO hosts a benefit for Thompson’s dance center, with all proceeds going towards building a new studio in Brooklyn. Dance companies will perform a variety of different forms of dance, including hip-hop, ballet, stepping and capoeira. The night will also include motivational speakers, with hosts Jay Laraque and Hot 97 DJ Magic Pitbull presiding over the evening.

“The benefit is going to be the breakthrough for everything,” says Thompson.

Indeed, the next few months will see Thompson not so much working on dance, but paperwork, applying for grants, writing her mission statement, copyrighting the studio’s name, and also shopping around for possible locations for her studio. Right now, she is considering Brownsville or Bedford-Stuyvesant. She hopes to have her doors open before 2012.

“The hassle and hustling and footwork that’s been done to just go into this event – it’s so worth it,” says Thompson. “The end product is my passion and what makes me happy.”

Arelah’s Dance Benefit is November 29 at 8 p.m. at Galapagos Art Space (16 Main St.). Tickets are $25 in advance through or $30 at the door. To reserve tickets, e-mail For more information call 718-222-8500.

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