Recreation Department hosts its first dance recital

Photo by Chris Sykes
Members of the Irvington Dance Company perform on Thursday, June 29, during the first dance recital at the new Chris Gatling Center, with the direction of founder and choreographer Fiona Best. The IDC and the Fine Arts and Ballet Dance Company that Best also founded are part of the Recreation Department’s new arts and culture program, which is free for any township youth.

IRVINGTON, NJ — On Memorial Day, Mayor Tony Vauss and Recreation Department Director Donald Malloy announced the township would offer free new arts and culture programs for children, including dance classes with Irvington Dance Company Choreographer Fiona Best, at the Chris Gatling Center on Union Avenue.

One month later, Best and her dance students held their first dance recital, which was free and open to the public. Among those who attended were at large Councilwoman Charnette Frederic and her son, Ben.

“This is amazing and I’m coming out to support our children performing,” said Frederic on Thursday, June 29. “The parents are here supporting and I even brought my son here to see how great a job they are doing. As always, it’s important for our children to be active, and dancing is a way for our children to be active and to be healthy. It’s not about politics; it’s about the way of life in our community. It’s good for the children to come out and be healthy, instead of staying inside and watching TV.”

Ben, Frederic’s 10-year-old son, was impressed with the dancers’ performance.

“I like hip-hop dance,” he said on Thursday, June 29. “I like what I saw tonight. It’s very good. It shows how dance makes people happy and how they react. I like it.”

Malloy said he was glad to hear that, adding that the recital was an example of the many recreation-sponsored programs and activities available to township children for free.

“I am extremely proud of our young people and I am totally invested in them,” said Malloy on Thursday, June 29. “Whatever our dance instructor, Fiona Best, has come to me with and wanted to do, I’ve given my blessings and my support. We’re actually training young girls to become very disciplined, with grace and etiquette, and she does those things very well.”

Malloy commended Irvington for offering a free dance program. “Thank God for the dance company here at the Gatling Center and for partnering with us, so that way, we can keep dance alive and well here in the township of Irvington. The legacy continues.”

Anderson said she was glad to hear that. She organized and ran a dance group at Irvington High School for many years, before retiring a few years ago, and now Best has come to Irvington to donate her time, talents and energy to the community.

“I worked at Irvington High for 25 years as an English teacher, but also as the advisor for the Multi Pot Dance Company, and I literally cried when I saw the kids perform ‘Strange Fruit’ tonight,” said Anderson on Thursday, June 29. “We started in 1997. Today, I came out to support Fiona, who studied dance at Galman and Alvin Ailey, who was introduced to us through a friend of ours, one of the young dancers, and she choreographed some dances, and the next thing you know, she was teaching dance regularly at Irvington High School for about 10 years. Then I retired and said, ‘Fiona take it; run with the baton,’ so she has her own dance company now.”

Anderson said Best “is a dancer, so she came with the talent already.”

“She was sharp; she’s a choreographer and dancer so she came with it, the expertise and everything,” said Anderson. “This girl has a (master’s) degree in theology. This dance company and the arts and culture in Irvington are growing. This is beautiful. It’s getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and that’s what you want it to do.”

Vauss urged all township residents to “come out and take advantage of the free programs” in Irvington.

For more information about the Irvington Recreation Department’s new arts and cultural activities and programs at the Gatling Center, call 973-399-6597 or visit