Yolanda Paredes grew up taking dance classes, and she wanted to pass that love on to her children. But there was a problem. She felt many of the dance studios her girls attended were not very professional or nurturing, and sometimes they were even toxic.
“In a matter of seven years, we went to three different studios,” she says. “I had teachers, parents, and students coming to me, venting. I would just try to motivate them to keep going.”
Then, in 2018, she went to three funerals for young men who had taken their own lives. She thought, “How can I help prevent this in the future? Maybe if I create a center where kids love to do something and they have hope, it will make a difference.”
In 2019, her husband, Alex, mentioned that he was looking for a business venture to invest in. When she shared her vision with him, he immediately supported the idea. In 2020, she opened Eastside Dance Project in Plainfield, but shortly after, moved to a new location.
“I happened to be driving in North Plainfield and saw a ‘For Sale by Owner’ sign. It was Miss Kim’s School of Dance Studio and Miss Kim was selling her property. She really wanted someone who would keep the property as a dance studio. The fact that I was also a former student of hers and a dance mom made her incredibly happy.”
Yolanda hired talented dance instructors, a highly experienced artistic director, and an artistic advisor from a renown NY dance studio in order to provide her students with high caliber training. Her passion for getting these young dancers to fulfill their dreams continues to increase with each season.
“For me, this business is not about money,” she says. “I will do everything I have to in order to provide these children with excellent training and a place for them to always feel welcome.”
So, she has decided to turn Eastside Dance Project into a nonprofit. “I don't ever want to have to say no to a child who wants to take a class or not be able to hire great teachers because it's not in the budget.”
The school welcomes boys and girls from ages 3 to 18. It offers Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Lyrical, Acro, Contemporary, Tap, Hip Hop, and Modern dance. Students can come in once a week or five days a week – it really depends on their goals.
In addition to increasing self-confidence and pride by learning and performing the dance steps, the children also gain the physical benefits of working their bodies.
Yolanda and her staff strive every day to adhere to Eastside Dance Project’s mission. “We want to create a positive atmosphere of love, passion, and commitment where each student will receive excellent training,” she says. “Our students take the art of dance seriously, work hard, and find a deeper love and knowledge of the art. As a result, they thrive and reach their full potential as dancers.”