Dance in NYC has changed a lot over the years, but a few things remain the same. The elevator at Steps on Broadway is probably as slow today as it was 40 years ago, and the packed inventory at On Stage Dancewear is as robust as ever, also 40 years in operation.
Situated on the east side far from Lincoln Center, Times Square, New York City Center and the studios on the west side, this gem has such an array of options that one can easily while away an hour with all the leotards, shoes and accessories without realizing it. It’s the last remaining independent dance store in Manhattan, and one of two in all of NYC.
New York is lucky have Bloch, Capezio, Yumiko, Freed of London and LaDuca, all with storefronts in various locations, but if you want all those brands and more in one place, you have to head to On Stage.
Started in 1980, by Israeli immigrants Greta and Edward Marshall as a hosiery store, the shop serviced the sales women who worked across the street at the famed B. Altman department store, which then required stockings for all women. Ronnie Marshall, Greta and Edward’s son and current owner of the store, explains how they transitioned to a dance shop,
“Back then, there were no dance shops,” he reveals. “And there wasn’t the selection we have today. We only had pink long sleeve and short sleeve leotards, and pink and black tights. But if you did want to buy a leotard and tights, you had to go to a hosiery store. By the mid-‘80s, that business category started to grow, and we introduced more products and shoes.”
Flash forward to today, and you can find an inventory unlike anything else at On Stage. Ronnie admits it’s not the most efficient way to run a business, but he prefers to keep things old school, knowing he’ll have that random item for someone when they need it the most.
“Maybe, once a year, someone is going to walk in and ask for an orange, off-the-shoulder leotard, and I will have that orange off-the-shoulder leotard.”
Alexandra Hutchinson, dancer with Dance Theater of Harlem, discovered a full-body, fishnet unitard on her visit. She scooped it up right away, noting that it would come in useful at some point and she had never seen anything like it. If not for dancing, the shop has many fun items like this to be used for costumes or photo shoots.
Ronnie takes pride in offering a wide array of nude leotards and tights for everyone. As soon as brands started offering more than just black and pink, he started stocking inventory that services all shades of skin tones.
Fulfilling the needs of dancers in NYC (and beyond – he ships anywhere) has been the driving force of On Stage since it transitioned to a dance store in the 1980s. From basics, to variety, to oddities, Ronnie is committed to making it work as long as possible. But as places like this shutter every day in the city, he knows it’s a gamble that might not last forever.
But for now, Ronnie knows what value he brings to the dance community and hopes it’s enough to keep the business going. For that, he relies on dancers coming in to try on myriad brands of shoes, knowing how important the right shoe is.
“The value is to try on the shoes,” he says. “Shoes are an extension of the dancer’s body.”
And he reminded this reporter on her way out, in a sign of the times, “Order your pointes shoes now. There is a pointe shoe shortage!”
That is a hard truth for many dancers, but Ronnie has thousands of pairs in stock.
On Stage Dancewear is located at 197 Madison Avenue (between 34th and 35th Streets) in NYC. For more information and to shop, visit www.onstagedancewear.com. You can follow the store on Instagram: @onstagedancewearnyc. Follow Alexandra Hutchinson on Instagram as well: @a_ballerina_.
By Emily Sarkissian of Dance Informa.