Main Street News

Mary Rotella Offers Inclusive Dance, Voice, and Acting Classes in Red Hook

By Published On: December 1st, 2023

Mary Rotella is the owner of Dance and Theater Arts, an adult performing arts studio located in Red Hook, NY. She started in the fall of 2020 with a group of tap dancers and a few private classes. As more people shared their interest, the classes began growing steadily until Mary had to split the tap classes into three levels. From there, she continued adding classes and growing her clientele. Dance and Theater Arts officially opened its doors in October of 2023. 

“So many people get here and say ‘I have been looking for something like this for so long!’” Mary said.

Now, she has over 70 regular students enrolled in her classes that range in age from 22 to 93 years old. 

Classes and workshops 

Dance and Theater Arts’ current classes include Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced tap; Beginning, Advanced-Beginning, and Intermediate Ballet; Move, Groove, and Improve – a basic introduction to dance; Intermediate Musical Theater Dance; Zena Rommett Floor-Barre; Acting; Cabaret Class; Mexican Folkloric and other World Dance forms; and private classes, choreography for weddings/events, and audition coaching. 

Many of the classes are drop-in and students can join at any time. Some of the workshops are sold as a series, and single and ten class cards are available. 

“I love offering world dance forms,” Mary explained. “By learning other cultural dances, we can find commonality. It’s important to recognize the things we have in common at a time when our differences are so magnified.” 

In the near future, the studio will be offering movement classes for people with Parkinson’s and acting and dance classes for the deaf. 

“I have created this unique and inclusive space to bring people together through the arts,” Mary said. “There’s not one person who has come through this door who hasn’t had a large heart, a spirit of compassion, and a supportive nature,” she said. “I feel so lucky to have all of these beautiful people in my life.” 

Mary’s background

Mary grew up in Omaha, NE, and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from Stephens College. “I was lucky enough to study at a school that allowed the dance majors to also study within the theater program,” she said. “I ended up leaving with a BFA that felt more like a musical theater degree.” 

Following her graduation, she moved to Manhattan and worked in musical theater. Some of her Broadway credits include 42nd Street, Cabaret, and Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. She also performed in an international tour of My Fair Lady and regional productions including Damn Yankees. 

After working as a freelance artist for 20 years, Mary transitioned into teaching in both theater and dance programs. She went back to her alma mater in 2002 to serve as the Chair of Dance for five years, then served as the Director of Dance at The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry from 2008 to 2016, and finally, served as the Chair of Performing Arts at the John Cooper School in the Woodlands, TX, from 2016 to 2019.

After working and living in Texas for three years, Mary found that she was missing her family and decided to move back to New York. She was about to start working on stage just as the pandemic hit in 2020. 

Just like everyone else, she had to pivot. 

“I started teaching adults, which I planned to do anyway. I worked on building a program for adults only because as a 64 year old, I was finding it difficult to find a place to dance and stay in shape without hurting myself,” she said.

Mary noted that there are many programs in the Hudson Valley for children and teenagers, but she found it difficult to find programs that were for adults only. “Dancing, singing, performing … all of these things are stimulating our brains and keeping us healthy,” she said. “I think the thing that has blown my mind the most is that it goes so much deeper than physical and mental health. This has had a profound impact on all of us.” 

Reflecting on teaching 

More importantly to Mary, however, is the sense of community that she’s cultivated in her classes. 

“It’s so important, especially after the pandemic that we stay connected. As years go by, we will start to face the fact that we’re going to lose friends or our spouses, and having somewhere to go and spend time around a fun, supportive group of people is so important.” 

She shared that two women in her tap class recently lost their husbands a day apart. “I watched the other people in the class lift them up when they came back. These women could come in with their grief weighing on them and they were able to tap, laugh, and smile for that hour.” 

It’s stories like this that remind Mary of why she does the work that she does. “I’m glad I didn’t end up back on a Broadway stage because this is some of the most important and profound work I have ever done.” 

For Mary, the most rewarding part about teaching is sharing her passion for performing with her students. “I still love to perform and hope to combine my passions for teaching and performing in the future, but right now, sharing my love of the performing arts with my students is enough!” 

“The people who are in it for the pure joy of it really progress physically, mentally, and often spiritually,” she said. “They also gain a newfound confidence, and become fuller, happier versions of themselves. Knowing this makes my heart soar.” 

Mary has worked hard to create a nurturing environment for all of her students. She emphasized that if someone is unsure about signing up for a class, they are welcome to observe or meet with her to discuss the many options. “I am more than happy to meet with people before they sign up to help decide what classes are the best fit for their goals. I want this to be something that they enjoy and that is beneficial to them personally and I’ll do whatever it takes to make it work in a way that makes them comfortable.” 

To learn more about Mary Rotella, visit her website here. To learn more about Dance and Theater Arts and their classes offered, visit their website here

Dance and Theater Arts
7270 South Broadway
Red Hook, NY 12571