Carol Paumgarten, founder of Steps on Broadway, the renowned studio and hub of the international dance community on New York City's Upper West Side, died on September 24 following an extended illness. She is survived by her husband, Nicholas, her sons, Nicholas Jr. and Alexander, and four grandchildren.
Paumgarten, alongside Patrice Soriero, opened Steps' first studio in 1979 at 56th and Broadway. Steps expanded in 1981 to include a ballet division, moving to a space that had previously housed the Melissa Hayden School. In 1984, Paumgarten guided Steps' relocation to 2121 Broadway, where the multi-studio facility continues to operate today.
Paumgarten led Steps for 40 years, growing the organization into the celebrated destination and distinguished training facility that it is today. Under her direction, Steps has come to encompass open classes for professionals, novices and everyone in between; training and scholarship programs for youth and pre-professional dancers; and special events such as performances, lectures and artist talks. The studio provides daily classes ranging from ballet to tap to hip hop to theater dance, taught by a collection of sought-after instructors. Dropping into a class, it is not unusual to find yourself standing next to a professional dancer from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Complexions Contemporary Ballet or Martha Graham Dance Company. Paumgarten received the Vanguard Award at the 2019 Chita Rivera Awards, in recognition of her contributions to the international dance community.
Artistic director Diane Grumet, who first joined Steps in 1994 as managing director and co-artistic director and who worked with Paumgarten for over 25 years, said in a release, "An artistic soul, she infused the organization with her personal sense of style and aesthetic, creating a warm, welcoming environment dedicated to serving all who entered. Her generosity of spirit and guidance encouraged those who worked with her to be the best they could be." Grumet and executive director Joe Lanteri lead the team now charged with carrying on Paumgarten's legacy at Steps.
"The magical, undeniable energy that permeates 2121 Broadway is a manifestation of Carol herself," Lanteri said. "She poured her passion, her spirit, and her life into Steps. We will continue to celebrate her legacy, which is truly a reflection of herself—artistic, nurturing, inspiring, multi-faceted, and remarkable in every way!"
Tributes from members of the dance community were also shared on social media. Phil LaDuca, creator of LaDuca Shoes, took to Instagram to salute Paumgarten for "inspiring generation after generation of dancers, teachers and choreographers. Thank you, lovely Carol. Dance among the angels." Ballet Academy East wrote, "We join you in sadness for this great loss and send the entire Steps family our deepest condolences. Carol will always be remembered for her spirit and huge contribution to the dance community." And Steps faculty member Martha Chapman wrote, "Carol made an amazing difference in the lives of SO many dancers and artists. #DanceOn, Carol."
Steps is planning a virtual memorial to honor Paumgarten and her legacy, details to be announced in the coming weeks.