The first time Nicole Aravena gave a dance lesson she held the class in her parents’ basement and charged five dollars an hour. At the time, she was only 12-years-old.
In that moment though, it was clear what Aravena wanted to do later in life.
“I think I’ve always had a love for kids and for teaching dance,” Aravena said.
Put those two loves together, and what you get is the Seven Star School of Performing Arts in Brewster, owned and operated by Aravena since its inception in 2002. The school started modestly, but soon exploded into one of the top dance and performing academies in Putnam County.
The school offers a variety of dance lessons, ranging from jazz and hip hop to ballet and tap, as well as other forms. It also provides voice and drama classes, with many instructors having backgrounds in the entertainment industry, from Broadway to television work.
Aravena performing experience is extensive. She graduated from the New York City High School of Performing Arts and also William Esper Studio for Drama. She was a performer in the premier of “Footloose” and was also on the United States of America National Tap Team.
While living in the Big Apple, she also privately instructed students, as a way to make ends meet. But when Aravena first told her mother, Donna, who now also works at the school, that she wanted to open a dance school, Donna said she though her daughter was “nuts.”
At first, Donna and her husband tried to dissuade her from opening the business.
“Only because she was so young and we tried to instill in her once you open a studio you’re married to that studio,” Donna said.
But that didn’t work. It was a marriage Nicole wanted to be a part of.
“When Nicole gets something in her mind, that’s the way it’s going to be,” Donna added.
A determined Aravena was just 20 years old when she first opened the studio. In her original location which was in a small church on Main Street in Brewster. Aravena remembers carrying all the necessary equipment in one small box. She had just twenty students to start out with. But word spread and in a six-month span, Aravena attracted a stunning 225 students. A few years later she also opened up another studio in Danbury, Conn.
“I think the quality of the dance education,” Aravena said, explaining what made the academy an instant success. “As well as our school offered voice lessons and acting lessons I think was a big draw and there wasn’t a school like that in this area.”
Currently, the Seven Star School is home to approximately 600 students with some of them that attend just once a week, and others that are in more intensive programs set for students who want to make a career out of performing.
One way in which the Seven Star School is different from other dance academies is Aravena’s school doesn’t get stuck in its methods. The studio is always open to creating new programs and is always evolving.
The passion for the students who attend also stick out to Aravena and her mother.
“We love kids,” Aravena said. “We have 600 students and I know every single one of their names. We just love the people that come here.”
And with all the tedious work that comes with owning a business, the first time a child masters a step he or she has been struggling with, makes it all worth it, Aravena said.
The schools also has pride in those students who move on to greater feats, like a little boy Donna remembers who got a part a in the hit Broadway show, “The Lion King.” But regardless of the range of success, there is one guarantee Aravena has for anyone who walks into the studio.
Aravena said, “Not everyone is going to go to Broadway, but I can teach anyone to love to dance.”
The Seven Star School of Performing Arts is located at 850 Route 22 in Brewster. For more information, you can call (845)-278-0728.
By David Propper