Studio D is a popular place.
Now in its ninth year, the New Milford dance school continues to flourish, offering students of all ages and skill levels a creative outlet to further their passions and dreams.
Heading up the school is owner and artistic director Rebecca Anderson Darling, a former Pilobolus dancer.
"I feel like I was meant to teach children and to share my knowledge and expertise with them in dance," Mrs. Darling said in a recent interview at the 27 Main St. studio.
"But more than the dance steps I teach them, I teach the students to respect themselves and each other," she said, "to be kind to one another and to be good people."
Studio D student Rebecca Johanson, 15, describes the school as "home" and a place where the "teachers are really supportive" and "kind."
A variety of classes are available for people aged 3 and older at the school, which has four studio spaces, a teacher room, art room and lobby.
The programs coincide with the school year, from September through June, and feature two productions, an in-house winter show that showcases upper level modern and choreography students' work, and a finale open to the public featuring all students.
Although the school's core program is ballet and modern dance, Studio D offers classes in tap, theater dance, contemporary jazz, lyrical jazz, gymnastics/acrobatics, hip hop, street dance, choreography and pilates/yoga and, for the youngest students, creative movement and pre-ballet/tap.
Mrs. Darling describes the school as a "creative" place where the focus is on "dance as a full and complete art form" and is not competitive.
Studio D is all about teaching, according to Mrs. Darling.
"We teach the technical to the dancer, teach to the choreographer, teach to teach -- we have teaching apprenticeships -- and teach to those who want to be performers," she remarked.
In addition to Mrs. Darling, 11 other teachers, some of whom are former students, round out the staff at the school with an enrollment of almost 300.
"I love Studio D and I am so grateful for Rebecca believing in me, and for the opportunities she has exposed me to," said Maxine Parsons, who has been taking classes at the school since its second year.
She now teaches classes and is Ms. Darling's choreographic assistant.
Now a sophomore in college, Maxine taught her first class three years ago.
She said teaching "almost comes naturally and I feel because I am also a student, who was once in their position, I am able to connect well and relate to them."
"I want them to succeed and I enjoy watching them grow technically and creatively as dancers and people," Maxine added. "Even if I'm teaching 6-year olds or 16-year olds, I have so much fun and it feels great."
Mrs. Darling agrees.
One of her favorite aspects of the job is seeing students grow and develop self-esteem as they explore dance as an art form.
"I do this because I've had such a rewarding experience seeing kids grow and bringing things out of them that have surprised them," Mrs. Darling said. "I want to give (students) an outlet so they can lose themselves as well as find themselves within the (dance) experience."
Mrs. Darling describes Studio D as an inclusive "safe and supportive environment for dancers to explore and take chances and to find their unique voice," because everyone has something valuable to offer.
That philosophy is part of why students must audition for character roles for the end-of-year performance. Students must be at least in fourth grade and must put together a solo piece for an audition.
"I want them to know what they have to offer is valuable," Mrs. Darling said.
Mrs. Darling has a strong belief in the creative process and collaboration.
"I am a dreamer and love the challenge of a new artistic venture," she said. "I love the surprise of not knowing where a creative thread will lead you."
Beth Johanson, of New Milford, a mother of three girls who attend Studio D -- Rebecca, who has been at Studio D since it opened, Lindsey, 12, who started at Studio D the second year it was open, and Ashley, 8 -- praises the school and Mrs. Darling for its offerings.
She describes Studio D as a "unique" place where the teachers are "positive" and give "positive feedback" and the older dancers are "good role models for the younger girls."
"I don't want [my kids] to learn dance at the expense of their self-esteem," Mrs. Johanson said.
"Lots of studios can teach you to dance," Mrs. Johanson said, "But more than that, Studio D teaches confidence, self-esteem, interaction and social skills."
In addition to dance, art classes -- taught by Mrs. Darling's husband, Heaven -- are available.
Mr. Darling's art is showcased around the studio and is used in school productions, in particular set designs and program covers.
On top of that, Mrs. Darling offers a repertoire for special events and projects.
"I am 100 percent committed to the development and growth of the dancers at Studio D," Mrs. Darling said, "and to building the creative collaborative team that I have at Studio D."
"I love being able to make dance accessible," she related, "and enjoyable to audiences of dance lovers and to those who are experiencing dance for the first time."
For more information about Studio D, contact the 27 Main St. studio in New Milford by phone at 860-350-2900, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.rebeccadarling.com.