Thank You To Our Families From Our Director, Valerie Harman
A Note from Valerie Harman (owner/ director)
I often reflect on our incredible community and what we are able to accomplish together. For over 50 years, it has been our dancers and families that make this studio special.
Our community is unique. Nowhere else can you find as many bright, kind, talented people (of all ages and backgrounds) who are happy to give you a smile, celebrate together and support each other. I have observed dancers help each other with grace, compassion and overcome challenges using grit and determination. I have seen teams form, evolve and accomplish great achievements together. Working alongside my staff, I have witnessed them go above and beyond every day, to provide a positive experience for all families and I’ve been humbled by the generosity and commitment of our volunteers who donate their time and energy to help our students shine. I am so proud of the culture of our community and I wake up every day grateful to be part of it.
Here at the studio, we’ve expanded the diversity of our class offerings so that our students can broaden their dance experience through classes ranging from Hip Hop to Musical Theater and so much more. Our enrollment continues to grow, and new students are always welcome. I’m proud of our current students for the warm welcome they provide to fellow dancers and love to watch the new friendships that continue to blossom here.
I am so proud of what the Art of Dance has become. I think back to our entire journey, starting with my Mom and founder, Florence Lambros who started the studio in 1969. I grew up in this studio; first as a student, then as a staff member and now as the owner and director. Through many evolutions of the studio, we’ve continued to be a truly family- run business, with my husband teaching upstairs at the Chester Karate Academy and my daughter, Linsey, teaching dance lessons.
It is an honor and delight to have a role in the development of such extraordinary students, and to be part of their journey. I realize that everyone has a choice when it comes to dance training, and I am thrilled to have so many students choose Art of Dance.
Since 1969, the Art of Dance has shared the passion of dance through quality training with thousands of dancers. What began as the dream of founder Florence Lambros, has evolved into a state- of- the- art facility in picturesque downtown Chester, NJ with five spacious dance studios and a full- scale dance store. For over 50 years, our commitment to offering the best in dance training for all students has remained the foundation of the Art of Dance.
Always impeccably dressed and the epitome of class.
Florence Lambros grew up dancing. A student in a Newark, NJ dancing school her entire childhood, she found her calling early in life and discovered a specialty in tap dance. This talent led her to pursue a number of adventures including a memorable audition with the Rockettes in the 1950s and an early career dancing in Milwaukee, WI.
“I bought a one- way ticket, because that’s all I could afford, and I got on a plane to go dance. It was a time of being absolutely free and doing what I loved.”
Once Florence returned to the East Coast, she danced as a soloist in New York City at the 52nd Street nightclubs, which at the time had live music and a floor show. After NYC, she married and started a family, teaching at local studios while her four children were young. As the children got older, Florence wanted to be her own boss.
“I just decided to start my own studio.”
In 1969, Florence rented the space at the Randolph, NJ VFW building. It was truly a family affair, as the children helped create fliers and distribute them in local mailboxes. The studio opened with 75 students!
“That first day I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know how it would all work out, but it did.”
The Art of Dance offered classes twice a week, in a large bare room with a stage.
“I bought a few mirrors, attached them to plywood and clipped them to the stage. We got portable barres and parents sat in the back. I had to set everything up and take it down again each night.”
It was quite a feat how Florence made all of this work while simultaneously raising a family in the 1970s. Florence added to her responsibilities by agreeing to choreograph the Randolph High School plays, which she did for many years. She admitted it was tough to manage the late nights with everything else but noted,
“once you commit to do something, you’re in it until the end.”
Art of Dance, Randolph thrived for many years and in 1983 Florence added a studio in Chester, NJ at the Chester Springs Plaza. Both studios ran concurrently for a year. As the studio in Chester continued to grow, she adapted by moving three more times to where the Art of Dance is now located, which she and Valerie, her youngest daughter, personally designed.
“Valerie went from being a student at the studio, to a teacher, a partner and then the owner. She had big dreams for the future and worked her tail off.”
Florence was very proud of Valerie for building the competition team, bringing better teachers from New York City, and as a result developing better dancers. With just as much pride, Florence beams about her grandchildren and former students who have also followed their dreams and pursued careers in the performing arts.
Florence’s love of family was contagious. She was consistent in her focus on her family, noting they worked together to support her in many ways. Florence smiled while recounting a memorable day when her family members came into town to work on her home together.
“That was the nicest day”.
On transitioning ownership of the studio to her daughter, Valerie Harman, Florence simply said,
“I was ready. She was ready.”
Florence was pleased that her daughter wanted to take over and noted that she was happy to have many memories to look back and smile. She will always be impressed with Valerie’s dedication, compassion and commitment to excellence.
As for the future, Florence’s dream was to see continued family involvement in the studio.
“This place is wonderful because it means the family works together, helps each other and supports each other.”
She also knows that the studio family grows each year with new students.
“Once you’re a part of this community, you’re family for life”
Florence was proud of the students who trained at Art of Dance and grew into wonderful young adults- fantastic students both in dance and academics.
“We’re building the future”
Florence encouraged everyone to consider how lucky they are to be part of such a special community.
“You can’t please everyone all the time, but we have a really good thing here and we care. So we’re always working hard to make it even better.”
She urged us to reflect on how extraordinary this place is, and to appreciate the good in the studio and in life.
Florence was a strong, adaptable, fearless woman. Her talent and passion, tenacity and vision, dedication and perseverance were admirable. She built a thriving family business, which has become a wonderful benefit to the community and all who become a part of this studio.
Florence, Founder of the Art of Dance, has left a legacy of magnanimous proportions. The number of lives she touched is immeasurable and the joy she brought to her community through her love of dance will echo through generations to come. Although Florence is gone, the Art of dance continues to thrive and share the love of dance to all who enter her doors.
Valerie Harman is honored to continue the Art of Dance tradition, started by her Mother over 50 years ago.
Aware of her passion early in life, Valerie began dancing at the age of four. As a teenager she trained with renowned teachers in New York City and attended Radford College as a dance major. Valerie pursued her love of performing and teaching and believing that education is a lifelong process, she continues to train and study to keep up with the latest styles and trends in dance.
Valerie’s award-winning choreography has been showcased at professional venues in New York City, Los Angeles and London. She is recognized by her peers as an outstanding dance educator. She is highly regarded in the dance community and has been featured in publications such as Dance Teacher and Dance Spirit Magazine. Valerie is a member and has served on the board of directors for Associated Dance teachers of New Jersey for over 25 years.
Valerie is committed to bringing the highest quality teachers for recreational and pre- professional dancers. In addition to teaching classes herself, she creates opportunities for performances throughout the year at local and professional venues.
Her love of dance, commitment to the studio and dedication to her students makes Valerie a beloved leader and has formed the Art of Dance into the unique community it is.
Her favorite quote is:
“Practice like you’ve never won. Perform like you’ve never lost”.
The Art Of Dance performing company is an experience unmatched by anything else.
The Art of Dance Performing Company was conceived by Valerie Harman over 20 years ago to provide committed dancers additional opportunities to perform, learn and compete. Starting with only four advanced students, the company has grown to over fifty dancers, ranging from ages 6 to 18. Now a nationally recognized company, this group has achieved many of the highest honors in the dance community through high score awards and acknowledgements for outstanding performance, technique, showmanship, choreography and costumes.
The dancers are trained by the esteemed Art of Dance faculty making them among the most accomplished groups of young dancers in the nation. In addition to the stellar studio faculty, dancers attend regional dance workshops and conventions to expand their knowledge through exposure to additional dance styles and teaching methods. They have repeated opportunities to take master classes with the most notable choreographers in the world and share their passion for dance while developing the essential life skills of discipline and focus. Our dancers gain unmatched confidence and motivation. Hundreds of dancers have participated in the AOD performing company, many go on to have professional careers and all graduate with great stories/ memories and are proud of their accomplishments.
Some of the Art of dance performance Company’s performing opportunities include Sadler’s Wells in London, the Marriott Marquis on Broadway, Bryant Park, the Joyce Theater, Times Square, Disney World Florida, as well as many other notable venues. They have been invited to perform at the esteemed Chita Rivera Awards and Astaire Awards and were chosen multiple times to represent New Jersey at “Dance Excellence”, an international dance festival.
We are always looking for dancers who love to perform, have a passion to dance and want to be a part of something special. If you would like to be a part of an amazing experience, we welcome you to join our family and share the excitement! Auditions are ongoing throughout the summer. Contact the front desk (908) 879-4919 to schedule your audition today.