DARIEN — Some people feel fate plays a role in their lives.
At least that’s what Doreen Godfrey believes brought her to meet Linda Cicero, her friend and now co-owner of Dance on the DL, their dance studio based in Darien.
Godfrey met Cicero about two years ago when Godfrey, a Darien resident, went to a Zumba class Cicero was teaching at Equinox. Cicero, who teaches fitness classes in Darien and Norwalk, had been thinking about creating a new dance fitness class. She asked Godfrey, a former professional dancer, to help choreograph.
“We just started doing little videos on YouTube from our workshop,”said Cicero, a Norwalk resident. “All of a sudden, people were like ‘What are you doing?’”
The response inspired the pair to open their dance studio, Dance on the DL (The idea, a nod to their initials, came to be during a brainstorming session at a coffee shop in Darien where they also sketched out their logo on a napkin). What started with three classes has grown into the duo teaching 15 classes a week, plus doing events throughout the community such as stress-relief workshops at the Darien Depot. The two teach mostly hip hop-focused classes for over 225 students ages 4 through 15.
Dance on the DL is more than just a dance studio though. Godfrey and Cicero strive to make their classes a place where students can relax and become more confident in themselves.
“We obviously love what we do,” Godfrey said. “We love dancing. We find it therapeutic. It’s a great release for kids. It’s been a joy for us teaching kids. They rediscover their love of dance.”
In a town known for its competitive sports spirit, Dance on the DL classes emphasize trying your best, perseverance, the importance of respecting your fellow dancers as family and building confidence.
“All we ask is you try and leave feeling good about yourself,” Godfrey said.
There’s a board they bring to the studio space they rent from Equinox Darien that’s filled with inspirational quotes and each week they teach their dancers about famous figures whose loss the world would feel if they gave up on their work. Their year ends in a dance showcase, focused on having fun with a DJ. Last year, they said not one dancer cried during the showcase, an impressive feat to anyone familiar with childhood dance classes.
Most importantly, the biggest classroom rule is “Never, ever give up.”
“Our main goal is to motivate and inspire students of all ages to be their best selves,” Cicero said. “There’s a component of dance I don’t think you find in sports. There’s a lot you find out about yourself through dance.”
Both women have found the same joy from dance, though their stories are different. Cicero grew up in Trumbull where watching ballroom dancing competitions was a huge part of her life. However, she didn’t start dancing until she was 23 and walked into the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Norwalk.
“I left a new person,” she said. “A piece of my soul was found on the dance floor.”
Cicero began competing in ballroom dancing contests and started taking hip hop classes. She built her skills through private lessons and eventually left her job in marketing to teach classes at Equinox.
Godfrey, on the other hand, has been dancing since she was 3 years old growing up in Maspeth, N.Y. She danced with Moves in Motion Company in New York City starting at age 5 and began dancing professionally at 15, performing in commercials and at event launches. She went on to pursue a career in fashion after attending Fordham University, eventually moving to Darien with her husband. After having her third daughter, she decided to try dance again and ended up in Cicero’s class.
“To get back into a dance class after three kids...I left saying that’s why I love it,” she said.
With a little under two years under their belts, the women said they’re pleased by the success the studio has already seen. Their plan going forward is to find their own studio space to rent in town.
“This community, the support they’ve shown us is tremendous,” Godfrey said. “The feedback has allowed us to grow so quickly.”