“Dancing Through Adversity: Ballroom Studio Thrives in Marlboro, NJ”
Marlboro, NJ – In a time when many businesses were struggling to survive, one local dance studio was able to not only weather the storm, but also thrive and become the number one Fred Astaire Dance Studio in New Jersey by 2022.
The studio is owned by Devyn-Nicole Pasalano and Cristian Pozo, who have assembled a talented and passionate team to help achieve their vision of providing top-notch dance instruction and a supportive community for dancers of all levels. Felicia Slater is the Front Desk Executive who helps to ensure that each student feels welcomed and supported from the moment they walk through the door.
The team of highly-qualified dance instructors, Jhodar Villegas, Jose Romero, and Alberto Contreras, are dedicated to helping each student reach their full potential on the dance floor. Their wealth of experience and immense love for dance that is palpable in every class they teach has allowed for them to quickly soar and become the Top Instructors of New Jersey.
Despite the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Marlboro Ballroom Dance Studio quickly established itself as a hub of activity and community for dance enthusiasts of all levels. The secret to their success, according to the studio’s owners, is a commitment to excellence in both dance instruction and customer service. “We strive to provide a welcoming and supportive environment for all of our students, whether they are just starting out or have been dancing for years,” said Studio Owners, Devyn-Nicole Pasalano and Cristian Pozo.
But it’s not just the quality of instruction that sets the Marlboro Ballroom Dance Studio apart. The studio also offers a wide range of classes and events, from beginner-level dance lessons to competitive dance events, giving students a chance to showcase their skills and progress. In addition, the Studios contribution of time to perform at local charitable events and donations of nearly hundreds of free lessons to non-profit organizations and school fundraisers have helped to solidify its position as a valuable and active member of the Marlboro community.
Ballroom dancing has numerous benefits, including improving physical and mental health, social interaction, and fostering a sense of community. At the Marlboro Ballroom Dance Studio, students have the opportunity to experience these benefits for themselves. And for those interested in trying out the studio, no partner is required – you will simply dance with a certified Dance Instructor. This makes it perfect for couples to have a date night or for individuals of all ages to try something new.
With a passionate and loving team that goes above and beyond for each student who walks through the doors, it’s no wonder that the studio has become a success story in the face of adversity. For those looking to improve their dancing skills or simply to experience the joy of movement, the Marlboro Ballroom Dance Studio is a true gem in the heart of New Jersey. As the studio continues to thrive and provide opportunities for growth and connection, it is clear that its success will be felt for years to come.
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How Marlboro dance partners became business partners too
Susan Bloom Special to the Asbury Park Press
MARLBORO – Though Marlboro residents Devyn-Nicole Pasalano and Cristian Pozo took separate roads to a career in dance, the couple and eventual co-owners of Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Marlboro couldn’t be more in sync when it comes to their passion for sharing the joy and power of dance with others.
Growing up in Island Heights, “my grandmother owned a dance studio and threw me into ballet, tap and jazz right away, so dancing and competing were always in me,” recalled Pasalano, 27.
Though she continued to explore all forms of dancing — including belly dancing and Brazilian samba — while attending the LIM College of Fashion in Manhattan, “I ultimately found ballroom dancing and was hooked,” she said.
By contrast, Pozo first experienced the magic of dance in his late teens.
A native of Ecuador who moved to Monmouth County at age 12, “my parents weren’t big dancers and I didn’t grow up dancing, but I enjoyed the music and movement,” said Pozo, 33, who got into dance as a form of fitness at 18.
“I took classes in New York City, but when I walked into a Fred Astaire Dance Studio at 21, I fell in love with their system, the way they teach, and the way they help students grow within the business and have been with their East Coast studios since then,” he said.
Pasalano and Pozo’s paths ultimately crossed in 2017 when Pasalano walked into a Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Monmouth County that Pozo co-owned. “I went there because I wanted to pursue my next genre of dancing,” Pasalano said. “When you start to learn about your body and all of the benefits dancing brings, you just want to dive in, dance and compete.”
When both revealed an interest in competing in American Rhythm Ballroom Dancing (which requires proficiency in the cha cha, rumba, East Coast swing, bolero and mambo), the two were paired together to see if their skills aligned and if they were compatible, given the extensive amount of time their practice sessions would demand. They were a huge hit on and off the dance floor and have been together ever since.
“We trained seven days a week,” Pozo said, “and one year later, based on the profound progress Devyn and I had made on the floor as dance partners, we had the opportunity to develop the central Jersey market and open a new location of our own in Marlboro.”
(Freehold, Manalapan, Old Bridge, Matawan, Monroe Township, Woodbridge, South Amboy, Morganville, Englishtown)
Excited to bring their energy and passion for dance to the launch of their own studio, the duo scouted locations, oversaw the construction and design of their facility from scratch, and officially opened Fred Astaire Dance Studios Marlboro in October 2019.
A one-stop-shop studio
A year and a half later, “we teach all forms of dance to people of all ages, from 7 to 77, because age is only a number,” Pasalano said.
“Our clients include wedding couples learning their first dance, older couples, singles, kids — everyone — and we teach everything from the cha cha, hustle, tango and waltz to ballroom dances, ballet technique, tap, dance fitness and more,” she said. “If you want to dance, you’ve come to the right place.”
Pozo agreed that their students come to the studio for a range of reasons.
“Some come in wanting to be able to dance confidently at their or another’s wedding and others have just always wanted to dance,” he said. “Some want to lose weight and don’t like the gym, while others have watched ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and want to do that.”
According to Pasalano, all students begin with a free 30-minute private lesson with an instructor and are then guided to either group classes or additional private sessions based on their goals.
“Our beginner package consists of five 45-minute private lessons, unlimited group classes and access to any of our studio’s fun social events — potentially over 30 classes in all — for $550, while group classes for kids ages 7 to 12 feature 13 45-minute sessions for $300 and are a great way to meet people,” she said.
Pasalano and Pozo believe that their studio has experienced outstanding student retention because dance is so much more than just movement to music.
“Dancing requires you to listen to and communicate with people, be sensitive to each other, and work together,” Pozo said. “I had ADHD as a kid and dancing both challenged me and helped me to focus and concentrate.”
Pasalano agreed. In addition to the lively music, beautiful costumes, and daring steps, “dance teaches patience and confidence and really allows you to express yourself in a safe space,” she said. “It requires mindfulness and humility and is the greatest and most organic way to foster happiness within yourself.”
Not just about the steps
While launching any new venture is difficult, the pair faced an unexpected challenge last March, when COVID-19 forced the studio’s shutdown just five months after opening.
“We were closed until late June,” Pasalano said, “but we taught virtually during those months and used the downtime to clean, train our staff, and update the studio for when students returned.
“The pandemic was hard because we hadn’t been open long enough for customers to find us and make dancing a lifestyle,” she said, “but we’re now fully open with safety protocols in place, we continue to advertise that we’re here, and our student enrollment keeps growing and growing.”
And their dance card continues to fill. In addition to teaching over 90 classes a week along with two fellow instructors, Pasalano and Pozo welcomed professional dancers Daniella and Pasha Pashkov of “Dancing with the Stars” and “World of Dance” fame to their studio on March 8 to instruct a series of private lessons with students.
Pasalano and Pozo also continue to pursue their own competitive aspirations.
“Cristian and I recently placed fifth in a national American Rhythm Ballroom Dance competition and are excited to keep perfecting our routine and advancing,” Pasalano said.
“Looking ahead, we love our entire ‘dance family’ of students; they bring so much positive energy and we brag about our students all day,” Pasalano said.
“We want to continue to create a welcoming, motivating, fun and inclusive environment and ensure that our studio feels safe so that everyone can access the wonderful and important outlet of dance,” Pasalano said. “Especially during these times, dance is mental, physical and very necessary.”
Special to the Asbury Park Press
Seniors enjoy social connection and the power of movement at Fred Astaire Dance Studios
Pandemic or no, dancing is a beneficial activity – especially for seniors, who can help keep their bodies healthy, their minds sharp and
their social connections strong just by strapping on their dancing shoes.
Perhaps no one knows this better than couple Devyn-Nicole Pasalano and Cristian Pozo, professional dancers and co-owners of Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Marlboro since October 2019.
“We really love our senior community – they’ve always been supportive of our curriculum and we learn so much from them,” says Pozo of their studio’s large senior-age clientele.
“Seniors also have an inherently positive connection with dancing because it was often a pastime for their gen- eration and many times part of their school curriculum for gym, and they’re also familiar with renowned dancer, actor and singer Fred Astaire,” he says.
“We offer all different styles of classes, from instruc- tion in the waltz and rumba to faster dances like the jitterbug, Lindy Hop, foxtrot and other popular dances from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s,” Pasalano says. “We give students the full experience of the dance by playing period music by such performers as Frank Sinatra, Elvis and other popular musicians of that era.”
Offering one-on-one instruction or group lessons, Pozo says, the studio’s instructors are highly attuned to each dancer’s needs.
“We work around any issues or injuries and make sure that everything they do is safe and comfortable by adjusting and modifying moves for the unique person in front of us,” Pozo says. “Many doctors send patients to us because dancing can be low-impact on bones and mus- cles, and they want them to have dance as part of their physical therapy. Our ‘sprung’ dance floors incorporate a powerful cushion underneath so that there’s no impact on the knees or joints, and our students can dance all day.”
Safety is paramount at the studio, which has taken all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mea- sures to enhance their clients’ safety and comfort during the pandemic, and which goes above and beyond to make any other accommodations requested.
“For example, those looking to avoid crowds can opt for private lessons instead of group classes, and we’re open from 12 to 9 pm, so they can pick their hours,” Pasalano says. “We also clean and sanitize before and after every session, wear masks, wash our hands, and keep all
of our doors open, and we have a big ballroom, so people can rest assured that they’ll be adequately distanced in our spacious facilities.”
“All of our staff members are vaccinated,” Pozo adds, “and we also screen our students and know who’s walking in the door to control any situation.”
A Win-Win Activity
“Dance is great physically, mentally and socially, and it’s fun for couples, but we also have a number of senior clients who are here on their own,” Pasalano says. “We have many singles coming in who recently lost their spouse or partner, and we develop a great schedule for them. No partner is necessary or required.”
For those convinced that they have two left feet, are afraid they won’t be able to keep up, or are otherwise hes- itant to give it a go on the dance floor, “we offer a 30-min- ute complimentary private dance lesson so that they can try it out, and once they do, they’ll love it,” Pozo promises. “Clients tell us that it’s much easier than they expected. We make them feel so comfortable and work as a team to ensure that students get everything they need and have a wonderful time.”
“Dancing is a great experience, especially for seniors right now,” Pozo continues. “Seniors have suffered so much during the pandemic, being home alone in some cases and/or being limited in their ability to socialize, which can lead to stress and isolation, so we make it a fun experience for them every time. It’s important to remain active in order to live a long, healthy life, and dancing is a great way to keep moving and connect with others.”
“We hope area residents will come try us with no expectation so that we can show them the experience and benefits of dancing,” Pasalano says. “We’re a big dance family and welcome everyone who comes in. There’s nothing to lose — join us and be social!”