PROFESSIONAL ARTS ACADEMY NURTURING CLIFFSIDE PARK AREA DANCERS FROM TOTS TO TEENS
Living just minutes from New York City affords residents unparalleled access to some of the most experienced and meaningful cultural instruction in the world. For aspiring young performers who will soon call One Park in Cliffside Park home, the Professional Arts Academy in neighboring Edgewater offers a welcoming setting to reach one’s full potential and explore their passion for the arts.
Maureen Straub, the artistic director of the academy, has basked in the glow of the footlights as a professional dancer. She has performed with the legendary choreographer Ben Vereen. Her choreography has been featured at Lincoln Center and Kennedy Center, and some of her dance students have gone on to prestigious institutes like the School of American Ballet in New York City.
But Straub, who co-owns the family business with her mother, Diane, says some of her proudest moments are the smallest ones from her tiniest dancers.
“I love watching children explore who they are. I love watching them come out of their shells,” says Straub. “You have a child who might be very shy and at the beginning of the class they refuse to participate, but soon enough they are up on stage singing and dancing and stealing the show. To see them grow into themselves is just awesome. You can’t help but beam with pride.”
Straub’s studio offers Mommy and Me classes for infants, as well as classes for children in ballet, tap, jazz, musical theater, acrobatics, hip-hop and contemporary dance. The “Angelina Ballerina” classes feature the beloved early childhood mouse dancer that’s been celebrated in more than 20 books. In the studio’s musical theater department, she also offers lessons in voice and piano.
Straub opened the doors of her studio in 2010, and loves her New Jersey Gold Coast location. “That’s one of the great benefits of being in Edgewater,” says Straub of the tiny borough nestled along the Hudson River. “Here we are so close to New York City, which is great because I can attract the top instructors because they are working in New York City as professional dancers themselves.”
In her performing career, Straub did a Bob Fosse review show for several months with Vereen, the legend who won Tony Awards for his roles in Pippin and Jesus Christ Superstar in the 1970s. She also toured with the Disney live stage version of Bear in the Big Blue House, portrayed Judy Garland in a documentary series, and was the host of an award-winning children’s fitness videos, Monkey Doos.
“It was awesome to travel the world, doing what I love,” she says. “Performing with legends like Ben Vereen or Ann Reinking – these are legends I had once only dreamed of meeting, and to be on the same stage with them was amazing.”
Straub said she feels she brings some “old school,” flavor to her dance academy and classes, helping students focus on the foundations and techniques of dance. She feels a particular affinity for young dancers, in part because of her work on children’s shows, saying “I feel like I really have a knack of working with little ones.”
The mother of a 3-year-old girl with her husband Justin, a TV producer in New York City, Straub is expecting their second child, a boy, in November 2017. Their daughter, Charlotte, has already appeared in her first show, performing in “Baby Take A Bow,” the Shirley Temple classic.
“She had her first show in June and she was amazing,” Straub said. “She was so funny up on stage and everyone was cracking up. I was so proud.”
The Professional Arts Academy is just one of the many nearby cultural, recreational, entertainment and dining options that complement One Park’ New Jersey Gold Coast location. Situated at 320 Adolphus Avenue in Cliffside Park, the luxury condominium building is just minutes from the vibrant Hudson River waterfront and neighboring Edgewater, Weehawken, North Bergen and Hoboken.