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- Offstage with the Dancers

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By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
Originally Published on

For a dance enthusiast, what could be more exciting than the aroma of a newly polyurethaned dance space, with mirrors lined against the walls, a sound system, pulsating with new Salsa tunes, against the din of Chelsea traffic, and twenty students, enthusiastically swaying to Reba Perez's directions, following her Cuban motion, and hugging themselves, in a slow and nurturing, final embrace? This was the scene, yesterday, at Empire Dance, Inc., Reba Perez' new Dance Studio, which promises to gain City-Wide attention, due to the dramatic and artistic vision of a leading, New York Dance Performer/Teacher/Organizer (also Co-Organizer of SPICE), and which is the subject of this inside perspective.

July 11, 2002, Empire Dance Studio, 127 West 25th Street, 11th Floor, and Starbuck's, with Reba Perez.

REZ - Tell me about your vision for Empire Dance.

RP - This is my dream-come-true, and I want it to be the dream-come-true for my Staff and students. My Staff is embracing my ideas and finding a place that's friendly and supportive, with lots of exciting things happening, like student showcases.

REZ - How do you help students overcome fear of performance?

RP - We have created an atmosphere that assists them, the moment they walk in through the door. I have worked with students, who performed at the Brooklyn Children's museum, in front of a total, daily audience of 6,000, and we just looked at this as a fun experience and enjoyed every minute.

REZ - So, how does one go about organizing a new dance studio?

RP - I found a fabulous space that dictates how people can move. It's part school and part social setting, with a real central feeling. There's a great Vibe in the Lounge Area.

REZ - When will you be presenting dance parties for the studio?

RP - We will begin in September, with six parties/week. We'll reserve Saturdays for private party rentals and gatherings.

REZ - Where are you in the process?

RP - I'm halfway there. You know, this was a wooden box factory, and I saved a very interesting relic from the factory, to be displayed in the studio, for historical authenticity.
We have a total space of about 2500 square feet, so this is quite a venture.

REZ - What is your vision for the second half?

RP - We'll have curtains, colors, pinks, oranges - Think Mexico! Think Sunshine! This will be a friendly, comfortable, inviting space.

REZ - Where did you originally study dance?

RP - At the age of five, I studied creative movement in a church space in Washington Heights. Then, as a teen, I joined the Martha Graham School. I've also completed two college degrees in Dance Studies and History. I also worked as an Assistant to the Director of Merce Cunningham Dance Company. I have traveled with dance organizations to many countries, including India and Japan.

REZ - How is Empire essentially unique as a Dance Studio?

RP - There are really four strands of possibilities for Staff and students:

  • Performance opportunities inside and outside the studio for students and Staff.

  • Competition, on local, State, national, and International levels.

  • Social Dance excellence.

  • 'Autentico' - Real Brazilian dances (with Alessandra Nardi) and Milonguero style Tango (with Robin Thomas). We are teaching real partner dancing in the purest form.

REZ - Tell me about the Staff.

RP - We have Alessandra Nardi, for Brazilian Samba, Sarah La Rocca for Tango, Andrea Anwar, famed Belly Dancer, Ney Melo, for Salsa and Merengue, originally from Razz M'Tazz, Eva Carrozza, a sensational Swing teacher, Hadar and Martin Vincent, for Casino Rueda-style Mambo, Jennifer Bratt, for Tango, and we'll be presenting, for two entire weeks, Susana Miller, famed Argentine Tango Performer/Teacher, with a series of Workshops that are structured to all levels of Tango choreography and styling.

REZ - This was so wonderful. I loved visiting Empire. Look forward to Susana Miller's Workshops.

RP - Thanks. I'm going to sleep.

Reba Perez leads a Salsa class

Salsa class

Salsa class

Susie Carvalho in Empire's new reception space


Ney leads Merengue


Merengue class

Ney and Reba




Final stretches

Robin and Jen demonstrate Tango

Tango class

Tango class

Tango class

Tango class

Tango class

Reba and Chuck, Wedding dance lesson

Reba and Anne, Wedding dance lesson

Ready for wedding bells


For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at