The Showcase Magazine - Salutes

By Jessica Sorentino

It’s an amazing thing when you have the opportunity to turn a passion into a career. At Washington Rock Dance, they believe that regardless of why a child may be embarking on a dance education, they will leave the school with the proper technique and training to have a professional dance career, if they so choose.

Cleo Mack, Kelli McGovern and Blair Ritchie opened Washington Rock Dance years after they had met. Cleo was originally both Kelli and Blair’s dance teacher when they were younger, and after all three had twenty years of various professional opportunities, they reunited. Washington Rock Dance was built from the joy of dance and of dance education, teaching and performing.

Cleo – named Choreographer of the Year in college and one of Dance Magazine’s 25 to Watch in 2002 – understands a healthy body and mind are vital to success with dance. After a crashing injury at age 22, she had to re-train her body and learn how to be a properly aligned dancer.

Dance has many stigmas surrounding the sport: eating disorders, injuries and body image disorders are at the top the list. At Washington Rock Dance, the highly trained faculty works to educate dancers from age 3 and upward on nutrition, mental wellness and body health.

It’s important to start teaching alignment and proper technique young. In the long run, this will lead to injury prevention and overall wellness in a physical career.

“We operate with a whole-hearted belief that all levels of dance, all reasons for taking dance, sall types of dancers will be trained so in the future, they can do whatever they want with it,” Cleo explained. “Train smart, not hard.”

At Washington Rock Dance, they keep training completely individual. Teachers think about what the student’s bodies are doing and how they are developing individually and also within their age group.

And most importantly, Cleo said they work to keep that love for dance when the kids reach those trying pre-teen years.

An important way to keep the excitement of dance training alive is by involving the families and community.

Every year, Washington Rock Dance puts on a performance of the Nutcracker. An ABT ballerina typically plays the Sugar Plum Fairy, but the other leads are scaffold for the Washington Rock Dancers.

“I will re-choreo a number every single day to make it right for the dancer playing the role,” Cleo said about inclusivity of the show. “Each year, our production is different, but at the same time, the Nutcracker is a really fun tradition for the community, everyone looks forward to it and gets involved.”

When investing in a hobby for children, some parents opt for convenience and good word-of-mouth recommendations. While these are valid ways to find teams and studios, Washington Rock Dance does offer more.

“We all want the best for your kids,” Cleo said. “We’re the best and the safest. They’ll still have fun, but we’re really good. Bring your kids somewhere they’re really going to gain an education and have her learn and grow. We do a really great job with little kids – we love them! We’ll help them build a healthy foundation, while still having a good time.”

Washington Rock Dance is located at 10-G Community Place in Warren, New Jersey. They’re currently in the process of expanding their studio space to include a kitchen, costume shop and more space for students to hang out, like a home away from home.

Plus, with all of the new studio space, Washington Rock is expanding to offer yoga and Pilates classes and private sessions for the dancers, their families and the overall community.

For more information about Washington Rock Dance, or to sign your child up for the upcoming season, please call (908) 561-9699, or visit their newly redesigned website at