Elmwood Park dance studio offers classes for all ages
Updated: February 18, 2013 6:03AM
ELMWOOD PARK — Thirty-three years after opening her Turning Point Dance Studio in Elmwood Park, Patricia Toniolo is still putting students through their paces, leading an adult’s tap dance class each and every Wednesday.
Not bad at all for a 76-year-old grandmother.
“I guess I’ve held up pretty well,” Toniolo said with a laugh. “Some of my old students come back with their daughters, sometimes their granddaughters, and go ‘Miss Patty, you still look the same!’
“I don’t know if that’s good though. Maybe I looked old when I was young.”
Toniolo was very young indeed when she started dancing, around the age of seven, following in the slipper steps of her mother and aunt. (“It must be a gene in the family.”) Though she spent years studying ballet and tap, she never danced professionally. Instead, she started a family, taught dance in her basement and occasionally supplied choreography for her church and her children’s high school. So, it was a natural move, after a few years spent operating a less-than-successful boutique, to open the Turning Point at the same location in her early 40s.
Dedicated from the beginning to teaching children and teens, the studio was an instant hit, eventually accruing such a large customer base that Toniolo opened a second location for a time. During that peak period, the Turning Point employed eight teachers who taught about 700 classes each week. Toniolo herself taught 14 or 15 hours per week with old-school tap as her specialty. That means tap the Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly way.
“It’s a dying art now, except for dancers like Savion Glover and Gregory Hines,” she said. “But they dance a different style than the tap I learned—low to the ground and fast-moving. I do it Rockettes-style. Kick lines. Like show girls.”
These days, the Turning Point is down to a staff of four and about 200 classes per week, with Toniolo substitute teaching her mostly young, mostly female students in ballet, pre-ballet, jazz and tap. The studio also has a creative movement classes for pre-schoolers.
“I do everything but hip-hop,” she said, again with a laugh. “I could fake it a little bit, but the kids are too smart. They can tell.”
She still thinks dance is important for teaching kids discipline and helping their minds and bodies develop -- and for having fun, of course.
“It’s just like sports for boys,” she said, adding that she thinks boys should dance too, but she’s learned not to hold her breath waiting for that to happen. “When you’re using your coordination, your brain and your muscles, you really do develop better.
“Sometimes teachers and parents will tell me that a girl isn’t very talented and she’s very awkward, and I always say, ‘She’s the one who absolutely should be in a dance class.”
And she’s happy to be giving kids that opportunity.
“People ask me every day how long I’m going to keep going,” she said. “I always tell them, ‘I still like what I do, I’m still in good health, I still have a good mind, so I can’t see any reason to stop.’
“This is home and I still love it.”
To learn more about the Turning Point Dance Studio, visit the school at 13 W. Conti Parkway, Elmwood Park, or call (708) 452-4626.