Tonawanda News

October 28, 2012

Series of dance classes held at North Tonawanda art gallery

By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News

NORTH TONAWANDA — Things have been hopping — literally — at Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda for a little over a month now all thanks to dance instructor Vanessa Oswald.

Oswald is a full-time journalist, but spends most of her free time teaching a series of dance classes — everything from breakdancing to jazz — as part of the Danceamour program at the art gallery. It’s an interdisciplinary approach to using the space that gallery owner Natalie Brown said was her plan all along.

“I want it to be a space for multimedia arts, anything from painting to dancing to any kind of art form you can think of,” Brown said of the gallery, which opened in August on Oliver Street.

Oswald said she was looking to rent out a full dance studio to teach classes when Brown approached her about using the gallery. The dance instructor was looking to offer low-pressure, inexpensive classes for people who didn’t want to make the commitment required by most dance studios.

“A lot of people are in work or in college, and I wanted to offer classes that are less of a committment and more personal,” Oswald said. “I was teaching at two studios last year and I noticed how much unnecessary money the students have to spend on costumes and recital fees and I thought it was so dumb.”

Unique about the classes is the way they’re broken down into a three-week cycle.

“I teach one main routine for three weeks and then we start a new one, so if someone can’t come for a few weeks they can always start up with a new routine,” next time, Oswald said. 

Janelle Sciarrino, a student in the beginning modern and jazz classes, said in her experience, even if you miss the first class in a three-week cycle, there’s still time to catch up ... even if you’re a dancing newbie.

“A friend of mine comes with me and she’s never taken a dance class in her life. It’s very simple,” Sciarrino said. “They explain it, they go over it and they can point out why something’s not working.”

Oswald said she’s channeling her years of dance classes as a child growing up in North Tonawanda and her later years at Brockport University. She has a particular fondness for hip hop and breakdancing, something she said not a lot of dance studios teach.

“I just like the freedom that those styles give you, they’re not as structured as jazz and ballet,” Oswald said. “If you see the people in those classes, they’re laughing, having fun, being goofy ... it’s not serious.”

Classes are held Tuesdays for beginners and Wednesdays for more advanced dancers. Tuesday classes include hip hop, modern, jazz and acro classes. Wednesday classes are jazz, modern, hip hop, breakdancing (also for beginners) and burlesque/salsa. 

And even if you’re not sure about spending the $7-per-class fee, potential students came come by the gallery at 308 Oliver St. to watch a couple class.

“If it’s something that interests you, come in. Currently (the gallery doesn’t) have curtains on the windows, so you can watch from the streets or you can come in and watch a class,” Sciarrino said with a laugh. “There’s no judgement. If you give a little to the class, you’ll get a lot of it.”

Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.


• WHAT: Danceamour dance classes

• WHEN: Tuesdays and Wednesdays in three-week cycles

• WHERE: Project 308 Gallery, 308 Oliver St., North Tonawanda

• COST: $7 per class

• MORE INFORMATION: Call 418-4598



4 p.m. -- beginner/intermediate hip hop

5 p.m. -- beginner/intermediate modern

6 p.m. -- beginner/intermediate jazz

7 p.m. -- acro (kid friendly)


4 p.m. -- advanced jazz

5 p.m. -- advanced modern

6 p.m. -- advanced hip hop

7 p.m. -- breakdancing

8 p.m. -- burlesque/salsa