How Lynn Needle Keeps Kids Dancing

It doesn’t take long in Lynn Needle’s presence to feel at home. The owner, creative force and active innovator behind Art of Motion, Inc. moves through the cozy waiting area of her second-floor dance studio, stooping to speak to a tiny dancer in sparkly pink ballet shoes, greeting waiting parents and caregivers by name, and paying close attention to the vivacious tween dancer who is excitedly detailing preparations for her upcoming bat mitzvah. It’s easy to understand why Lynn’s studio has, since its opening 15 years ago, become a beloved local institution in Ridgewood.

Lynn wasn’t always planning to be a dancer. The daughter of a respected cardiologist, she first set her sights on a career in medicine. But an intense internship during her sophomore year in college changed her mind. After graduating with a degree in dance, she found success as both a soloist and a choreographer at the Nikolais Dance Theatre in New York City, touring 40 countries, often as an unofficial “ambassador of the arts” for the U.S. State Department. After the birth of her son, Lynn decided to stay a little closer to home and quit touring to become a studio director, choreographer and instructor. She opened the Art of Motion Studio in Ridgewood in 2003.

Throughout her career, Lynn has been inspired by her father and the example he set for “healing hearts.” When she opened her studio, she committed herself to following in his footsteps through her work in the community. Over the years, Art of Motion, Inc. has grown to include not only a vibrant dance studio but also a Junior Performing Ensemble, a vocal studio, an incubator theater space, AOM+ Outreach and AIE (Arts in Education). Art of Motion has bestowed grants and scholarships, mentored students of mixed abilities, brought art and light to pediatric patients and the elderly in local hospitals and nursing homes, and performs annually at the Ridgewood Tree Lighting.

Laura LoPresti, a Valley Hospital nurse and adult ballet student at Art of Motion, recalls an AOM Nutcracker pop-up in the pediatric unit.

 “The kids were mesmerized. The usual bustle came to a standstill as nurses, doctors, patients and families watched the performance. It was a wonderful holiday spectacle.”

But Lynn isn’t the only one at Art of Motion who is committed to healing hearts. Studio instructors also hold her values. Current instructor Miss Nikki has directed the Art of Motion Kostumes 4 Kids drive, collecting gently used Halloween costumes and providing them to local children living in foster care. Lynn and a former student also mentor three children with autism, providing them with workplace readiness skills.

But Lynn feels like she’s just getting started. Back in the Art of Motion office surrounded by ongoing projects and referring frequently to a recently completed inspiration board posted on the wall, Lynn details some of her plans and dreams for 2019: Choreographing a new opera based on the life of modern Armenian artist Arshile Gorky; performing Six Solos, her solo show based, as much of her work is, on the themes of nature, myth and legend; and ensuring the future of Art of Motion.  

When asked about her legacy, Lynn gets emotional.

 “I want the world to remember that the arts matter. The individual matters. Authenticity matters,” she says.

As she speaks, she opens her arms wide. She has recovered full range of motion in her shoulder following surgery last year. She is, as she always has been, ready to embrace whatever challenge, adventure or opportunity life offers her next.