Liberated Movement started as a solution to a frustrating problem: social worker Laura Pellettieri was upset with the lack of affordable dance classes in New York City. Dissatisfied by the dearth of feasible options, she and a friend started Liberated Movement, where they offer dance classes open to everyone and suggest a $10 donation for the studio.
‘What happened was when we started, more and more people got interested and it snowballed,’ Pallettieri stated. ‘The biggest thing that made it snowball was the number of people willing to teach.’ What was initially a fun side project expanded as word spread through friends, teachers and relatives. ‘I think it’s great and it shows that New York City is not just a hub for students who want to dance but [also for] teachers, choreographers and artists who want to be able to dive more into their work.’ Currently, Liberated Movement offers all sorts of dances: ballet, contemporary, hip hop, Indian dance and Liberated Movement, a yoga-inspired meditative dance class that helps one to unwind from the stress and the high energy of the city.
Liberated Movement has become more than just a donation-based dance studio, it is a community that represents the diversity of New York City. Each class is a new surprise. Students, office workers, writers and artists with different levels of experience come to class with an eagerness to learn. Pallettieri explains, ‘When you open your classes up to anybody that comes off the street, you are prone to be surprised. [The students] don’t have to have a membership. They’re not preregistering or joining a gym.’
The openness and experimental spirit of the organization allows for a tolerant atmosphere: ‘What’s been great and surprising over the years is to have a class and see a young 14-year-old next to someone in their 60s, and that was always beautiful to me because I don’t know [if] these two groups [would otherwise] necessarily be in the same environment, let alone moving and dancing, and both getting something out of it.’
On Saturday, March 28th the organization celebrated its 5-year anniversary during a ballet class. It was a mixed level class with a comfortable atmosphere, with the beginners practicing their pliés alongside the more experienced dancers.
After class, ballet instructor Sarah Doudna and her class ate bagels and small cupcakes to celebrate. The students joked and chatted with the teacher, and the vibe was comfortable and familiar. A student expressed her gratitude for being able to learn to dance without breaking her budget, and another student laughed and agreed.
Experience, age and fitness level do not matter in these classes. What matters to the owners is that new students have an enthusiasm to learn and an open mind. This ambition has remained unchanged throughout the years. ‘New York City is a cultural hub. There needs to be a safe haven for artists, students and people who want to come learn, move, be creative and experiment, Pallettieri explains.
Currently Pallettieri has no plans for expansion or moving: ‘Right now I don’t see us moving spaces. We are in [a] stage we are comfortable with. We are very solid with our teachers. This is going to stay our home for the forseeable future.’ For those with a budget who are interested in taking dance classes, Liberated Movement’s door is always open.
By Rebecca Brown