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One of the most thrilling things about being in New York is how off-the-charts talented everyone is. Your waitress could be the next Lady Gaga. Your Broadway-theater bartender? Possibly destined for a Billy Eichner–level career. Your barista? Hey, Andrew Garfield got his start at Starbucks. And since world-class dancers move to the Big Apple in droves, you’ll find many of them teaching dance classes for kids at the city’s elite studios. If you’ve got an aspiring ballerina or Broadway star in your family, read on for the best places for them to shake it ’til they make it. (Or, you know, until dinnertime.)

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dance classes for kids nyc ballet hispanico
Photo of Ballet Hispánico by Sofia Negron

1. Ballet Hispánico (Upper West Side)

Claim to fame: With an emphasis on teaching dance from Latino cultures—flamenco and salsa—as well as ballet, tap and jazz, the early childhood program specifically prioritizes individual self-expression. It’s also where Jennifer Lopez trained. *Drops mic*
Best for ages: 2 and up 
Standout class: The Encuentros Open Class Program for ages 6 to 8. A warm, empowering, judgment-free class series that culminates in a stunning recital.

167 W. 89th St.; ballethispanico.org

2. Steps (Upper West Side)

Claim to fame: At this training ground for future dance superstars, the boldface names of Broadway, hip-hop, tap and ballet—including ballerina Misty Copeland and chorus dancers from The Lion King and Hamilton—teach classes. While anyone can attend, there is a pre-professional track for kids ages 7 to 18 who want to try their luck at auditioning. According to the studio’s website, “casting directors, talent agents and photographers contact Steps Youth Programs when they are in need of young dancers for film, theater, commercials and print.”
Best for ages: 18 months and up
Standout class: The slate of First Steps classes are exceptional introductions to the classic forms of dance taught by elite faculty. If you’ve got a tiny dancer between 18 months and 5 years old, this could be for you.

2121 Broadway; stepsnyc.com

dance classes for kids broadway dance center
Courtesy of Broadway Dance Center

3. BROADWAY DANCE CENTER (UPPER WEST SIDE)

Claim to fame: Madonna, Britney Spears, Bette Midler and countless others have taken classes or rehearsed at this legendary NYC institution. There are daily drop-in classes for ages 6 months to 7 years (though advance registration is encouraged) along with workshops and guest classes for older kids and teens.
Best for ages: 3 to 18
Standout class: The Annual Program runs concurrent to the school year and offers registration for all ages and levels in hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, musical theater, African dance and more. It culminates in a friends-and-family showcase performed on a professional stage.   

37 W. 65th St.; broadwaydancecenter.com

4. DOWNTOWN DANCE FACTORY (TRIBECA)

Claim to fame: In less than a decade, DDF has rocketed to success. Stars of So You Think You Can Dance and Juilliard alums teach classes like street hip-hop and breakdancing as well as classical ballet to a discerning downtown clientele. 
Best for ages: 18 months and up
Standout class: StoryDance—a dance-infused take on Mommy and Me for 1-to-4 year olds.

291 Broadway; downtowndancefactory.com

dance classes for kids nyc ailey school
Photo of the Ailey School by Rosalie O'Connor

5. The Ailey School and the Ailey Extension (Hell’s Kitchen) 

Claim to fame: This organization's programs honor famed dancer-choreographer Alvin Ailey’s inclusive vision. The Ailey Extension offers open-level classes (including some drop-ins) for ages 2 to 17, like Hip-Hop 4 Kids and Teen Broadway Jazz. The Ailey School, meanwhile, takes a curriculum-based approach where budding dancers learn the foundations of movement and potentially hop on a pre-professional track.
Best for ages: 3 to 17
Standout class: Bounding Boys, where little guys ages 4 to 6 learn to love dance through movement, music and tumbling.

405 W. 55th St.; theaileyschool.edu

 

dance classes for kids nyc shuffles
Courtesy of Shuffles

6. Shuffles (Upper West Side) 

Claim to fame: Founded by former Rockette and Broadway veteran Gail Pennington Crutchfield (she worked with Bob Fosse!), Shuffles is a uniquely joyful studio. Specializing in singing, dancing, acting, tap and musical theater with a distinct Broadway feel, this place pumps out triple threats. There is live music in every classroom, lessons in the theme of shows like The Wizard of Oz, and a palpable Chorus Line vibe. Anyone who’s dreamed a dream in times gone by will wish she could be a kid again and sign up her offspring.
Best for ages: 18 months and up
Standout class: Baby Broadway tap classes for kids 18 months to 3 years old. The Shuffles tagline: “If they can toddle, they can tap!”

48 W. 68th St.; shufflesnyc.com

dance classes for kids nyc ballet academy east
PHOTO OF BALLET ACADEMY EAST BY CHRISTOPHER DUGGAN

7. Ballet Academy East (Upper East Side) 

Claim to fame: Calling all bunheads: The young dancer division feeds into a pre-professional track. This school is for anyone who is dreaming-of-pointe-shoes serious about ballet. The dress code is traditional (pink leotards, please) and pulled-back hair is mandatory. Alums have gone on to dance with the American Ballet Theatre, the New York City Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet.
Best for ages: 2 and up
Standout class: Enrichment classes for ages 7 to 12 offer a chance to study ballet with the best, even if kids don’t plan to become professional dancers. No audition required.

1651 Third Ave.; balletacademyeast.com

8. Shooting Stars NYC (Upper East Side and Upper West Side)

Claim to fame: If your kid can’t get enough of Dance MomsSo You Think You Can Dance and America’s Got Talent, this could be the place for her (or him). All classes and teams are audition only, but private one-on-one coaching is available. Founder Kristin Pierce’s dance teams have been featured in W Magazine and performed at the Barclays Center. They hold more than over 500 first-place trophies. In their world, competition is fierce. So are the costumes.
Best for ages: 8 and up
Standout class: The Rising Stars class for 6-to-8 year-olds is a great point of entry for girls interested in competitive dance. Kids on this particular team do not compete, but it is audition only. Break a leg, ladies.

Multiple locations; shootingstarsnyc.com 

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