Albertson’s Hannah Kroner School of Dance has come a long way from a basement in Astoria, Queens. This upcoming year it is making some changes.
At the end-of-the-year recital in June, the school’s special education students had the chance to hit the stage for the first time along with its young 4 and 5-year-old classes.
When Carol Kaufman-Riley, the current owner and director of the school, saw this year’s students in the “dance and exercise for children and adults with special needs” class, she knew it was their time to shine.
If there’s one thing that Kaufman-Riley loves about her job, it’s seeing where her students go. She pointed out that in regular school, teachers only have students for one year, but she gets the chance to see them grow throughout their years into future dancers. The school teaches all ages from 2 to 88
“I love to see when they start,” Kaufman-Riley said. “You can feel the inspiration.”
The school was founded in 1947 by European dancer Hannah Kroner. It started in a basement apartment in Astoria and eventually relocated to Northern Boulevard in Flushing, Kaufman-Riley said.
The school’s present location in Albertson was established 43 years ago in 1976. Kaufman-Riley has been an owner/director since 1982.
“We have had many students go on to professional careers in dance, some have performed on Broadway, Radio City Music Hall, prominent ballet and contemporary companies here and abroad and many local area theater companies,” Kaufman-Riley said.
Kaufman-Riley was a disciple of Hannah Kroner from the age of 7 and continued studying and teaching in the school into college.
Before becoming owner/director, she spent seven years as a member of the world-famous Rockettes, which she said “was like a sisterhood.” She said she is lucky to have had so many jobs in the dance world.
Kaufman-Riley said of her special needs class, “I’m very proud of that.” A big part of her classes, she said, is making sure students develop confidence and help them get out of their comfort zone.
For this June’s recital, the theme was based on dances around the world and Kaufman-Riley decided that this was the year for the special needs class to get on stage. “Self-confidence is very important,” Kaufman-Riley said. She was happy to see how far that class has progressed.
Kaufman-Riley said that over the years the school has donated more than $57,000from the year-end performances to benefit cancer research to organizations like the American Cancer Society, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and Children’s Cancer Research.
Classes are offered from Sunday to Saturday at the studio located in the Willis Square Shopping Center.
On top of the end-of-year performances, students also have the opportunity to dance at community events, street fairs, local libraries, public schools, churches and synagogues, as well as audition for becoming a competition company member.