Dance keeps them in step with their dreams

Rhythm Dance Company students (from left) Molly Glynn, Sara Graham, and Katie Radovanic practice as Molly’s mother, Colleen, watches in the lobby. Rhythm Dance Company students (from left) Molly Glynn, Sara Graham, and Katie Radovanic practice as Molly’s mother, Colleen, watches in the lobby. (Photos By Mark Wilson for The Boston Globe)
By Lenny Megliola
Globe Correspondent / August 7, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

“We’re just a huge family here,’’ says Sheanah McStay. “It’s like my second home.’’

The Rhythm Dance Company is run by Nicole Newman Kelley, 30, who began dancing when she was 3, which makes her a late bloomer considering that many of her students started kicking up their heels when they were 2.

Tucked in a corner of a mall off Route 30 on East Main Street in Westborough, it’s a one-stop dance service: jazz, hip-hop, ballet, modern, pointe. There are two studios, each set up with video feeds to the lobby, where parents can follow the progress of their young dancers.

Watching the screens, it’s clear there’s more than one way to cut a rug.

McStay, for instance, tried out for the Boston Celtics dance team this summer. Competing against 250 dancers, almost all of them older than the 18-year-old, McStay made it through to the last 25, but wasn’t picked for the squad. She wasn’t discouraged. She’ll try out next year.

The Northborough teen started dancing at 2. “I just fell in love with it. I wanted to dance every day.’’ She took up ballet and tap, and is a veteran of dance competitions, which she says are “fun and nerve-racking.’’

Competing is part of the fun for Newman Kelley’s students, who recently performed well in a national competition at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. She entered 46 dancers competing in solos, duets, and group numbers, and in the battle of the stars round. Five of her group dancers finished second.

“Nicole teaches you everything, she doesn’t limit you,’’ says Colleen Glynn of Shrewsbury, whose daughter Molly, 14, has been studying with Newman Kelley for years.

The Rhythm Dance Company is a labor of love for its founder. Recently married and living in South Boston, Newman Kelley, a Northborough native, has been teaching in the area since she was 18. She took out a small business loan and opened the 3,200-square-foot space in Westborough a year ago. She worried whether anyone would come.

“I started with a summer program, hoping to get 60 kids. My accountant said ‘Why don’t you go for 120?’ I said ‘Are you kidding me? That’s crazy.’ ’’ Now she has 175 students, from ages 2 to 18.

You don’t stick with dance unless you love it. Sara Graham of Shrewsbury is 12. “I’ve been dancing for nine years. I’d always be dancing around the house. So I signed up here.’’

Kasey Shapiro of Shrewsbury is 8 years old. Once reluctant to take dance seriously, Kasey “can’t get enough of this place now,’’ says her mother, Erin. “She comes here four times a week. Nicole makes it so much fun. She has a hip approach with the kids and the parents.’’

Haley Coghlin is also an 8-year-old from Shrewsbury. “She started dancing when she was in diapers,’’ says her mother, Kim. “Haley’s very shy. Dancing has really helped her confidence.’’ Especially in competitions. “When she gets on stage, she’s in another world,’’ says Kim, who admits to “tearing up’’ watching Haley’s shyness melt away.

Molly Glynn, 14, began competing at 9. There was some stage fright involved. “I was nervous the first time on stage with the judges watching me.’’

“Nicole’s very good with little kids,’’ says Samantha McShane, who teaches the older girls at the studio. McShane, 25, grew up in Northborough and started taking dance lessons alongside the studio’s owner when they were both very young. “Dancing is the only thing I’m good at,’’ says McShane, smiling. “I’ve always loved it, and I think I love teaching it more.’’

Newman Kelley won a number of regional and national dance awards while a student at Algonquin Regional High School. She took dance lessons at the Boston Ballet School’s Newton studio and majored in dance in college. She trained at Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway while attending Marymount Manhattan College.

When Newman Kelley opened Rhythm Dance Company, she had a day job in Boston with a private equity firm. “Then I’d teach here at night.’’ Now the studio is her full-time job.

“Some parents look for a fun place to drop off their kids,’’ she says. “Sometimes the child falls in love with dance. Almost all of the kids on the competition team started with recreational dancing. They didn’t know they had a genuine interest.’’ Now dance has become part of who they are.

During lessons, the dancers hang on Newman Kelley’s every word. The music plays. Arms are flailing, legs are kicking out. Sudden moves are made. Bodies twist in midair. This is hard work. Newman Kelley gets it. She’s patient. She was in their dancing shoes once.

“I want to own my own studio some day,’’ says Sara Graham, planning her future at 12.

This is the tight world you enter here, of high spirits and hope, intense dance and plenty of laughter. It is where Nicole Newman Kelley is living her dream. “I really am!’’ she says, her smile brightening the studio.

Lenny Megliola can be reached at