Teaching More Than Just Dance : Nicole Zervas Dance Academy

By Sydney Ciano

Nicole Paolo, director of Nicole Zervas Dance Academy (NZDA), started dancing as a way to express emotion – a tool of communication. She opened her studio with the same goal in mind, with the help from her director, Sharon Tirrell, Paolo opened Nicole Zervas Dance Academy in 1989.

Throughout the next 30 years, she has watched her “students grow. Both emotionally and through their dance skill; and learn to have confidence in themselves and to be proud of who they are.” Paolo commented on how inspiring it is for her to be apart of that growth.

The NZDA studio is now coming on their 30th season, but regardless of what anniversary is being celebrated, Paolo is always reflecting on the previous year in order to improve her next recital. There is a key focus on growth that NZDA continues to act on, bettering all aspects of the studio.

Paolo describes this as striving to better the studio without comparing NZDA to other surrounding dance schools: “I respect all of the other dance directors and schools . . . [I] hope that we can all share the love of dance together.”

With this in mind, NZDA began hosting a Dance-A-Thon for Dana Farber Cancer Institute for the past two years. Last year, the studio brought surrounding schools together to raise money for cancer research through the art of dance. By dancing for a cause, it reminded Paolo of the reason she started dancing: communication:

“one voice, one mission,” She commented on bringing hundreds of students together for this event.

Nicole Zervas offers a variety of classes for ages as young as 18 months – Tiniest Toes, where the child is accompanied by a parent or guardian during the time. As the child gets older, they enter Tiny Toes and perform in a recital at the end of June. From there, multiple classes are available including ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, and tumbling. For older students, Latin, contemporary, pre-pointe, and pointe are also offered.

Paolo said she does not believe “dance should be judged with a trophy . . . dance is an art form.” So while there are many classes offered, NZDA does not have a competition team. Dance is a personal art, in her eyes, and that the individual should be valued with movement rather than awards.

Though each student goes through a process of weekly classes, hard work, memorization, and dedication to prepare for the annual recital, the studio offers much more than dance. At Nicole Zervas, the students learn self-discipline, time management, and life balance between activities, school, friends, and family. It helps children become well-rounded, giving them skills they will use for a lifetime.

The students are also offered other opportunities to dance other than the recital, including the Madonna Della Cava Feast in the North End and occasionally Dance The World Disney events, to showcase their talents publically.

Gianna Chianca, a current senior for this upcoming dance season, has danced for NZDA since she was three years old. She currently takes almost all classes that are available, and has grown to love contemporary dance. She is an assistant for the younger classes as well and enjoys being apart of their dance experience.

As this is her senior year, Chianca commented on the family-like friendships she has made and how hard it will be to graduate and leave the studio. However, she hopes to return as an alumnus and down the road, a teacher.

Paolo sees the Senior Send Off as a new chapter, opening the doors for another part of their lives. So while Chianca is starting her last year as a student, NZDA will always be an open home for her. The bonds at NZDA are irreplaceable and last a lifetime. Many staff members danced at the

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