Suzana Stankovic, who grew up in western Queens, has been dancing since she was a child.
The professional dancer, choreographer and teacher recently opened a studio in her hometown and is hoping to help her fellow dancers, many of whom have recently moved to Astoria, refine their skills.
Stankovic began teaching dance to 3- and 4-year-olds when she was 17 years old and said it “felt very natural” to do so.
“I love communicating. I love supporting people in their growth,” she said. “I love encouraging them to question their limiting beliefs and keep reaching higher and further, and I love sharing what I have learned in my own life as a dancer and choreographer and everything I continue to learn.”
Wild Hearts Performing Arts Studio officially opened on Jan. 26 at 32-32 Steinway St. It is the first dance studio in western Queens that focuses on adult classes, though Stankovic will soon introduce classes for children.
Stankovic said she’s always wanted to open a studio and decided that Astoria was a great location, especially since many dancers, musicians and actors have recently moved into the neighborhood. She teaches ballet, pointe, lyrical and Ballet Nymph Workout classes.
Other classes include contemporary and classic jazz, which Stankovic said will be taught by professional dancers who are currently working. She added that she is selective with who she hires because bringing in dancers who are still in the business and not retired is “a huge and important detail.”
“Teachers who are still active artistically and professionally bring fresh energy and insight,” she said. “They’re not stale in their teachings.”
She also wants to change the way dance classes are conducted. Usually, studios cram as many dancers into one room as they can for financial purposes, she said. Stankovic aims to personally know each dancer and what his or her specific goals are.
“When you’re training to become a professional dancer, you’re tested emotionally and physically,” she said. “You’re getting your ass kicked every day. I am training dancers in way that empowers them and in a way that leads to awareness and authenticity and fearlessness.”
In addition to classes for adults and children ages 3 and up, Stankovic’s husband, Andy Altmann, will teach guitar classes, music production classes, sight-reading and more. Altmann is a professional musician who has his own studio in Manhattan.
Actors will be able to take scene study classes, monologue prep, Shakespeare 101 and movements for actors. Stankovic will also invite playwrights to workshop their material at the space in front of an audience, choreographers to showcase their new work and any other artists who want to show their material in front of an eager audience.
Stankovic sees her studio as “an artistic and creative salon” and hopes to show people that “great art can happen anywhere.”
“I think we’re spending too much time on our phones,” she said. “I’m a performing artist, so this to me is very alarming. I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, you’re watching a dance performance on your tiny little phone. That’s good, but you should really be seeing it live. Great art can happen anywhere, any time. You don’t need a huge stage. That is the power of live art: it speaks to our humanity.”
Stankovic predicts the studio will be fully operational with adult, children, music and theater classes up and running by September 2017. She also hopes to attract people who just like to dance for fun or danced when they were younger but gave it up.
“The motto of Wild Heart Performing Arts Studio is no label, no limits,” she said. “All great achievements begin on the inside, in the mind. If you’re labeling yourself as this or that, that might be your biggest impediment. We were born to shatter stereotypes [and] myths. If you think you’re too old to dance, question it and be a trailblazer in your life.”
For more information on classes and rates, visit Wild Hearts Performing Studio’s website.