Jersey City Dance Academy

Known for both training and competition, The Jersey City Dance Academy marks its 50th Anniversary this month, a milestone the organization will be formally celebrating later this fall. Led by Jeannette Pilger-Brown, a former JCDA student herself, the school offers classes in a range of genres for toddlers to college students. The academy counts as alumnae thousands of children from Jersey City and environs, many of whose parents attended the school when they themselves were young.

“I am proud to have touched the lives of so many students and invite everyone to join us in celebrating ouranniversary,” Pilger-Brown said in a statement. “We have a rich history in the community,” and, she said, “our training ensures that dancers develop passion, commitment, and a work ethic that is second to none.”

Three- to five-year-olds enter JCDA through its early childhood program in which students learn the basic elements of dance and movement (rhythm, beat, time, and bodily positioning, for instance) as well as such intellectual concepts as self-awareness, creative expression, teamwork, and classroom etiquette, Pilger-Brown said.

Older students can currently study ballet, hip hop, gymnastics, modern, jazz, and “acro” progressing through five levels of increasingly rigorous classes available in each category.

The West Side Avenue school is also popular because of its dance company, which participates in regional competitions. It is these contests and the warm sense of community and accomplishment that they provide that many of JCDA’s alumnae remember most fondly.

“I always remember the absolute chaos and hysteria backstage. Everyone’s scrambling to put on their next costume and locate their fellow dancers and remember all of the steps,” said High Tech High School senior Ayla Richardson, who is in her tenth year of classes at JCDA. But, she said, “no matter what costume mishap occurred just seconds before the music started, all that is important is you, the audience, and the stage. It’s the main reason why I love to be a dancer.”

Richardson takes classes also in High T’s well-known dance program. She credits JCDA with preparing her technically and emotionally for this challenge.

Not all of JCDA’s students study the art for so long (though some, who enter top collegiate dance programs such as those at Montclair State, Rutgers, and Point Park, and others who go on to become professional dancers certainly do). Regardless of one’s level of interest and dedication, Pilger-Brown points out that the physical and intellectual lessons learned in dance classes and the discipline the training requires nurture good character, self-confidence and academic success.

Instruction at Jersey City Dance Academy costs $980 per year (payable monthly). The student-to-teacher ratio averages seven to one.

Deputy Editor Elizabeth Morrill has worked in business, not for profit fundraising and as a freelance copy editor. She holds degrees in American studies and education from Yale and Harvard.