(Center for Modern Dance Education)
Non-Profit since 1962! Awarded New Jersey State Council on the Arts Citation of Excellence! The Center for Modern Dance Education (CMDE) is a community arts organization with the mission to promote modern dance and related art forms and make it available to everyone while serving as a resource for the professional dance community. The Center seeks, through quality dance programs, to nurture talent and instill confidence in every student, and to preserve the legacy of modern dance and nurture its future. The Center believes that dance is for everyone, including individuals with disabilities, youth at risk, older adults, and people of all income levels. CMDE is an inclusive, diverse oasis for non competitive artistic engagement.

CMDE began informally in the 1950s when founder Shirley Ubell opened “The Studio” in a Hackensack storefront. Her vision was to provide training in the art of modern dance in a non-competitive non-commercial environment that was open to everyone.

Shirley believed that dance training should be available both to talented young people with professional aspirations as well as to people of all ages and abilities who danced just for the fun of it and that people should have equal access to the arts regardless of their financial situation. Shirley wanted the organization she created to grow beyond the vision of one individual and to belong to the community it served.

Shirley Ubell

Shirley Ubell

the founder

Shirley Ubell, the Founder, began teaching dance in her home in the 1950s, incorporated CMDE in 1962 as a non-profit community organization, and was its Director for most of the organization’s existence. Ms. Ubell had a BA in Psychology and a Master of Science in Movement Therapy from Hunter College and is a Registered Dance Therapist. She took her first modern dance lesson at the late age of 19 from Maya Kyla and continued at The Martha Graham School and at The Mary Anthony Dance Studio. After stepping back from running CMDE, she continued for many years to serve in an advisory capacity to CMDE’s artistic and administrative staff and to assist with fundraising, all to have everyone experience the joy of dance. Shirley moved to sunny California in 2015 to be closer to most of her family. She died on April 11 in Lafayette, California, at the age of 93.

CMDE offerings

Dance Classes

For all ages and ability levels, toddlers through older adults, taught by professional, experienced instructors. Modern Dance is the focus, but CMDE also offers classes in other dance forms. Check the class schedule for the current year’s offerings.

Performance Opportunities

All students enrolled in a CMDE class have the opportunity to perform at school events, including an annual school-wide “Danceathon” and other smaller concerts throughout the year. Choreography and music are always age-appropriate and costumes are simple and low-cost.

Choreography Opportunities

All classes include opportunities for students to make up their own movements. Classes focused on choreography are also offered; check the schedule for current offerings.

Afro-Modern Company

Afro-Modern Dance Company is CMDE’s new youth company. This high-energy performance group is open to Teen and Young adult dancers with some dance or drumming experience and a strong desire to learn African dance and perform.

Moving Into Knowledge Program

The Moving Into Knowledge Program provides free dance programs in schools, and after-school classes and summer camps, that focus on using dance as a vehicle for developing transferable skills. The program is funded by Bergen County Department of Human Services Youth Services Commission and is free to those who qualify; call the office for more information.

Moving Experience Dance Company

The Moving Experience Dance Program provides self-contained classes for children, teens, and young adults with disabilities. Depending on individual needs, students with disabilities may be integrated into regular classes, participate in the self-contained MED program, or both. CMDE is a Qualified Provider for adults with developmental disabilities.

Outreach Programs

Outreach Programs offered throughout the year bring dance classes to senior centers, community centers, and other non-traditional locations. Custom programs for educational setting, including curriculum-integrated programming, also available.

Studio Space & Non-CMDE Classes

CMDE provides low-cost studio space to dancers and other artists whose mission is compatible with ours, and outside organizations also offer classes at the facility. Classes available to the public may include acting, Classical Indian Dance, social dance, meditation, ballet, soul line dancing, and fitness.