the academy is NOT moving… YET!

You may have noticed the sign in front of our building… This is not due to a confirmed plan to move but simply part of the process of exploring potential new locations as we look to expand our program offerings and continue to grow our legacy institution…

the nutcracker 2019 (full-length video)

Enjoy this full-length video of our 38th annual production of The Nutcracker…

our 38th annual production of the nutcracker – tickets now available!

Staged every December for the past 37 years, this professional production includes Academy students that are enrolled in our ballet program…

our 6th annual production of alice (2019): full performance video

Enjoy this video showing our full 2019/6th Annual Production of Alice…

2019-2020 season registration

Another Westport Academy of Dance season is rapidly approaching…

summer 2019 dance camps

Join us at the Academy for various summer dance camp programs…

please join us at our upcoming alice perfomance

please join us at our upcoming alice perfomance

Spring is here and so is Westport’s Academy of Dance 6th annual production of Alice!

the nutcracker 2018 (full-length video)

Enjoy this full-length video of our 37th annual production of The Nutcracker…

dance and the importance of emergency preparedness

Westport’s Academy of Dance is proud of our own Teacher and Choreographer David Fernandez and Student Charlotte Barrato for helping The Mayor’s Office of New York City and The New York City Emergency Management Department…

wywl’s craftwestport 2018!

Please join us at The Westport Young Woman’s League CraftWestport 2018 at Staples High School…

Westport’s Academy of Dance is proud of our own Teacher/Choreographer David Fernandez and Student Charlotte Barrato for helping The New York City Emergency Management Department raise awareness and educate on the importance of emergency preparedness.

“Moving Through It” shows the phases of an emergency through dance. David’s choreography demonstrates the actions and emotions in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from an event. This marks the first time New York City Emergency Management has used dance to raise awareness and educate on the importance of emergency preparedness.

Watch the full video in English here…

Spanish translation available here…

Produced by: Craig Hyland, David Fernandez and James McConnell in collaboration with The Mayor’s Office of New York City and The New York City Emergency Management Department.

Video Directed and Edited by: David Schiliro

Featuring: Shannon Maynor (Eglevsky Ballet), Morgan Stinnett (Cello Pointe) Dona Wiley (Cello Pointe), Julian Wanderer (School of American Ballet), Charlotte Barrato (Westport’s Academy of Dance), Christopher Grant (New York City Ballet), Traci Finch (The Suzanne Farrell Ballet), Paunika Jones (Brooklyn Ballet) and Miku Kawamura (Brooklyn Ballet)

To learn more about this project and to donate please visit The Dance Films Association…

What a pleasure it was to be a apart of the kids fun zone at CraftWestport last weekend! The Academy was thrilled to be a sponsor for such a wonderful community event. Thank you to our Jr. & Sr. Company dancers who performed two terrific dances choreographed by Academy teacher Caitlin Roberts. Everyone did such a wonderful job!

Please enjoy this special 360 video of last weekend’s performance.


360 dance video



We are excited to support “DANCEIMMERSIVE” – an ongoing immersive 360 dance video series that puts the viewer directly in the choreography – featuring the world’s most notable dancers in the most iconic locations and landscapes. Choreographed by our own David Fernandez – featuring Alexa Maxwell and Laine Habony (Members, NYC Ballet). Produced, shot,  and stitched by visual mercenary group, and noticed by Dance Informa Magazine as seen here.

nutcracker dad



Photo: Rachel and Michael Wolfe


Ever wonder what it is like to be the Dad in The Nutcracker? Well here is a hilarious story that will give you the idea.

Click Here to check out his blog.

Et Tu, Ballet? A Father’s Attempt To “Participate”

NOVEMBER 19, 2015  by Michael Wolfe

Nutcracker funny

The email came forwarded with a short note from my wife, direct in its simplicity:

“You’re doing this.”

The email was a plea from Westport’s Academy of Dance, my daughter’s ballet school.  Their upcoming performance of “The Nutcracker”, the annual holiday blockbuster that had entertained and tortured parents for the last century or so, had had an unfortunate setback:  the gentleman who had volunteered for years to play the role of Clara’s father had a conflict and would be unable to perform.  Would anyone be willing to take his place?

I stared at the email for a few minutes, thinking about the implications, and a classic quandary emerged:  does the chance to engage with my daughter’s passion outweigh the outright possibility (or probability) of making a fool of myself?

On the one hand, I am not shy about public performance.  The stage doesn’t bother me, and I have absolutely no pride once the lights are shining down on me.  Anyone who’s been unlucky enough to have seen me scream David Lee Roth songs on karaoke night can attest to this unfortunate side of my personality.  I have a philosophy about performing, most likely born of necessity:  enthusiasm helps cover for an utter lack of measurable talent.  Scream into the microphone and act like you’re a rock star, and you are one (provided said rock star is surrounded only by inebriated friends as witnesses before the alcohol-fueled memory loss sets in).

But this was something altogether different.  I’d seen the Nutcracker dozens of times since my daughter’s first appearance 8 years before.  And I’d seen what the part of the father entails.  He’s only on-stage for a short time, and the demands are mostly cosmetic, but about halfway through his scene, as the music shifts to a slow waltz, it happens:  the dad dances.

Let me be clear: I am not a graceful human being.  I am lucky that I stay upright for long periods of time, considering that my lanky limbs often flail about in random directions.  I bump my knees into walls, chairs and various kitchen appliances at least three times a day.  I have perma-bruises over half of my body from smashing into our open dishwasher.  Our dog knows to clear a path for me when entering a room.  In general, things are better for everyone when I’m not moving.

But what could I do?  My daughter’s entire non-school life is centered around ballet.  She dances 6 or 7 days a week, allowing herself time off only to eat, study, and threaten to kill her brother while he’s sleeping. And it’s not an activity like a team sport that allows a ton of parental participation.  In team sports, parents can coach.  They can cheer their kids on from the sidelines.  They can spend quality time driving up and down the eastern seaboard on their way to a never-ending series of travel soccer games (…on second thought, forget team sports, that sounds awful).  With ballet, a dad tends to have two opportunities for involvement:  he can drop his daughter off at rehearsals, and he can come to her actual performance, which takes place in the dark and practically demands a good nap.  That’s pretty much it.  I can’t teach my daughter how to plie (I can barely spell it).

So this was a golden opportunity of sorts.  I could intimately involve myself in my daughter’s primary activity.  And I could do it before the inevitable teen-angst years to come, when her willingness to tolerate her dad’s presence is likely to drop by at least 50%.

And, in a way, it wouldn’t be my first exposure to the inner workings of a dance performance.  My mother actually ran a modern dance school (and later the foundation that supported it) for decades.  She was not an instructor, but as a child was such an eager and entranced student that she began working there as a young adult, eventually rising to became the studio’s Director.  You can imagine the boyhood joy I felt in being dragged to hundreds of dance performances on glorious weekends when my friends were playing baseball.  I always assumed it one of my mother’s great disappointments when I failed to show any interest in breaking the gender barrier at her school, so perhaps this was a chance to make amends.

So I sent an email to the ballet school director, and I was in.  I managed to pass some kind of audition without tripping over the instructor’s torso, and was awarded the role of Clara’s father, party host and elegant man of the hour. Even better, my daughter seemed excited about my involvement, and looked forward to my chance to peek behind the curtain of her favorite activity.

And I shared her enthusiasm…until my first rehearsal.

I was, to put it mildly, a prancing wreck.

To be fair, my predecessor had been occupying the role for nearly a decade.  He had been drafted while his daughter was a ballet student, likely with similar motivations to share a meaningful experience with his young girl.  But as I fumbled through the rehearsals, it was clear that I was in a different league.  He was tall, elegant and coordinated, and understood all of his marks and moves.  I looked like a drunk muppet in the midst of a seizure.

And to make matters worse, no one seemed to care.  The teachers were rightly focused on the girls and their performances, and had clearly grown accustomed to not worrying about what the hapless and possibly spastic adult in the scene needed to do.  But I was lost, an old guy in sweatpants trying to remember whether to turn right or left, bend down or arch up, or hold hands with the tall girl in heels or the short girl with the hair braids.   Actually, no one wanted to hold my hand.  I was sweating like a marathon runner in August, and my hands were dripping buckets.  Most everyone kept their distance, a smart play for sanitary reasons.

The weekend of the performance fast approached, and all of a sudden it was the Friday night dress rehearsal before the series of official shows, three in all over the two-day weekend.  I arrived at the theater nervous, and immediately made two discoveries that only served to boost my confidence further:  one, the video I had been studying for direction and pointers was from the wrong year and of absolutely no benefit, and two, my costume was at least one size too big and could not be properly altered in time for curtain call.  So I had the dual pleasure of not only failing to know my part but also of having a strong likelihood of a Janet Jackson-style wardrobe malfunction that would expose my private parts to a large group of parents and children.

I stumbled through the dress rehearsal, vaguely aware of where I was supposed to be at any given time and managing to find that perfect midpoint point between being an actual asset and screwing up the entire production.  Keep in mind that the part of the father is hardly a main role.  Stand here at this point, open this box at that point, fake some dialogue at this moment, etc.  I’m basically being asked to play a glorified extra, not reenact Baryshnikov’s Greatest Hits.  But there was that one dance scene, where I was required to perform specific body movements to keep in time with the other dancers.  And let’s just say that I wasn’t quite in sync with the ensemble yet.  I looked like Joe Cocker dancing with a team of Beyonces.  Thank god for the patience and attention of the young woman playing my wife in the scene.  She noticed the terror in my eyes, pulled me aside for extra help (like a math teacher in high school, only our ages reversed), and practiced our moves until I had a reasonable amount of confidence that I wouldn’t throw up. But was I properly prepared?  Absolutely not.

The next day came, and I arrived early to the theater to get my head together.  I was immediately escorted to the men’s dressing room, where I met an assortment of professional ballet dancers who were playing the larger male roles to accompany the serious student dancers.  Changing into my oversized costume in front of these impossibly muscular physical specimens of human perfection did absolutely nothing to improve my confidence.  These guys looked like they lived at an Equinox, and hadn’t consumed a trans fat in years.  I looked like I lived at Wendy’s.  This boost was furthered by their choice of legwear.  Professional male dancers wear male leotards, which serve no actual purpose other than making one’s genitals appear to be the size of basketballs, and on the verge of bursting through their thin fabric at any minute.  Having reduced my masculine self-esteem by at least half, I quickly escaped the dressing room and sat down backstage to await further instructions while wondering how I found myself in this mess.  I sulked a bit more when the mother in charge of cast makeup turned to me and exclaimed “can I do something about that forehead?” and started pounding makeup on my face like she was beating a dusty pillow.

And then, salvation arrived.

My daughter emerged from the kid’s dressing area, she and her fellow cast mates moving somewhere backstage to continue their preparations.  I had never seen her before a performance, and she looked ethereal in her wispy snowflake dress, her face in angelic makeup and hair tied tightly in an elegant bun.  She saw me dressed in my overflowing costume, and beamed a smile as wide as I’ve ever seen from her.  “Daddy, you look awesome!” she said, her friends giggling at the site of me transformed into a 19th century aristocrat.  “Let me help!”  She quickly sat down next to me, grabbed the box of makeup that had been cast aside and started dabbing bits of blush and who knows what else on my face.  I smiled and let her have her way, her compliant subject in this backstage rite-of-passage (again, our roles completely reversed and yet utterly satisfying).  As she laughed and performed her makeup magic, my nerves subsided.  “Are you ready?” she asked me, an exaggerated look of worry on her face that couldn’t mask her excitement at having me here with her.  “All set”, I replied, with a wink.  She laughed, and as she walked away to join her castmates, she turned back towards me and shouted “Good luck!”.  I just about melted, and realized how lucky I was to be present in this perfect moment (albeit in a puffy shirt and ballet shoes).

And, as fate would have it, the shows went off without a hitch.  My mind rebooted to its proper settings, I clicked into gear and somehow retained the directions I was given.  I hit my marks.  I bowed at the right times.  And, come the moment of truth, I danced as properly as could be expected from a man of my age and suspect abilities.  I even heard cheers from the crowd during our curtain calls. These may have been leftovers meant for the line of dancers before me, but I took them for my own and am not giving them back.  Thinking back to the decades of dance performances I had sat through as a boy, I remembered the beaming smiles of the girls onstage, knowing that their loved ones were watching and feeling proud of what they had accomplished.  I couldn’t help but smile myself.  Mom may have known what she was doing after all.

Alas, my mother was not there to see the moment.  10 months earlier, she had been diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer.  Six difficult and trying months after that, she was gone.  She died far, far too young, robbed of the chance of seeing her grandchildren grow and see herself reflected in their bodies and faces (or, in the case of my daughter, her jetes and arabesques).  I’m not a believer in afterlives and spirits, but for a brief moment I imagined my mother’s satisfaction, looking down at the sight of her son and granddaughter on stage together, knowing that her life’s passion was being passed on.  My smile widened a bit more at the thought of it.

The next year, and in the three years that followed, additional emails arrived from the school, only these times directed solely to me with the subject line: “Reprising Your Role”.  Needless to say, I’ll be appearing again in this year’s performance, my fourth in a row. No rush to come see me this December, as I expect I’ll be playing this part for a few more years until my daughter graduates.  The school tends to lean towards the comfort of the known entity in their volunteers, however hapless they may be.  I’m already stumbling through rehearsals and fearing for the maintenance of my public dignity.  But I can hack it, for my daughter, my mom, and truthfully, maybe a little for me too.  And my daughter’s got this amazing new blush she can’t wait to try out on me.  Who am I to say no?

Michael Wolfe

We’re excited to announce that The Dance on Camera Festival, co-produced by Dance Films Association (DFA) and The Film Society of Lincoln Center, has accepted our work as part of the 40th annual internationally touring Dance on Camera Festival and will be screened at The Walter Reade Theater in January of the coming year!

The piece was choreographed by our own David Fernandez and features the Academy dancers Read the rest of this entry »

Hi!  My name is Samantha Sheppard and I’ve been dancing with the Academy of Dance for 6 years.  Dance is one of my passions, as I’m sure it is one of yours!  I’m currently working on a community project that will allow me to share my passion with other dancers who are much less fortunate than me, by donating recital costumes and leotards to Read the rest of this entry »

Every year the show is so unique and we get to experience the energy and enthusiasm of the live performance for those two magical days.  With the video, we continually strive to capture each moment in a format that will  last forever – So the memories stay fresh and the experience can be remembered.

If you’ve received your 2010 nutcracker movie, you’ve probably noticed Read the rest of this entry »

Our Winter Showcase workshop was added to the line up of ongoing academy performances to give our talented teachers, choreographers and students the chance to further illustrate their creativity. Read the rest of this entry »

Every year the show is so unique and we get to experience the energy and enthusiasm of the live performance for those 2 magical days.  With the video, we continually strive to capture each moment in a format that lasts forever – So the memories stay fresh and the experience can be remembered.

We hope you enjoy the final release.

view a brief montage by clicking here…

download a version for iPhone and related devices by clicking here…


bravo to our wonderful teachers and choreographers catalina bohiltea, elizabeth coker giron, natalie lambelet-palacious, courtney poulos, caitlin roberts, and our student choreographer amy lalime.  ftc’s stage one theater was filled with amazing music and performances this past saturday afternoon.  our dancer’s hard work paid off and our audiences were on their feet!

a very special thanks to fred busk for his invaluable help setting up and taking down our dance floor … your generosity and spirit are greatly appreciated by all, especially our dancers who wouldn’t be able to perform without your help!  let’s not forget our film crew, visual mercernary group, whose talent and editing skills will be seen once again with a dvd recording of our amazing day.  thank you to gayle kirsch for running back stage again for us, it wouldn’t be such an efficient show without you.  we can’t wait for next year…our 3rd annual winter showcase!

pictures from dress rehearsal were posted to our facebook page last week … below are pictures of brightly colored pointe shoes from courtney’s piece “speak for yourself.” these pictures were taken after the first show as the colored shoes weren’t available for photographing at the rehearsal.  enjoy.

Our first annual Winter Showcase at FTC StageOne was an exciting and unique performance. Click above to watch a quick video montage.


Great job keeping this a secret before the performance! Bravo to David’s choreography and to all the company girls and “special guest” dancers for making this piece fill the room with energy!

Click above to view the video clip

Congratulations to Julia Edelman, student choreographer for our first annual Winter Showcase. Click above to view an excerpt from an interview with Julia.

julia edelman, our student choreographer for winter showcase ’10 was interviewed by nancy and filmed by craig hyland, visualmerc.  some great moments from a fun saturday afternoon.

checking the lightingLight looks goodlast adjustment for nowdecisions, decisionsfor placementhow do we looklast minute instructionsjulia, ready to begin

The DVDs are here and they are fantastic!  Pick yours up in the office.  We may have extra copies for families who didn’t order them, please email us to let us know you are interested.

Click here to view the trailer. Visit our online video gallery to watch numerous clips from all 3 performances.



find us on facebook…westport dance

As always we thank you for allowing us the extra time to produce your multi-camera performance videos. The full-length Recital 2009 videos are complete.

Click above to view a montage from the performance. Visit our online video gallery to watch numerous clips from all 3 performances.


Thanks to all the Nutcracker students, parents and performers for waiting so patiently for the delivery of the final video.  The DVDs have arrived, please contact us if you haven’t received your 2-disk set, or if you would like to order additional copies.

Click on the image above to watch the video trailer!

About The Children’s Ballet Theater 2008 Nutcracker Movie…
Read the rest of this entry »


Kudos to Kerry Long for once again capturing such amazing images of our academy dancers at this year’s Spring Performance. View/purchase spring recital ’09 photos from Kerry’s website by clicking here.

Layout 1

A very special thank you to all the performers, parents, teachers, volunteers and all those involved for making this year’s show another extremely enjoyable experience.

Please stay tuned as we will be posting commentary, video and photos to help recap this year’s magic.


This is an introduction to the features and functions on this online dance-related forum.
(The left side of  the screenshot above represents a “Public” page, and the right an “Admin/Dashboard” page as mentioned herein.)

What is the Westport Academy of Dance Blog and how does it differ from the Main Website?
The Main Westport Academy of Dance Website contains official Academy news and information maintained only by the academy staff.  This still remains the source for the latest registration, class, rehearsal, performance locations, dates, times, and policies.

The Westport Academy of Dance Blog is for you.  A forum for students, parents, teachers, dancers, and all those that are passionate about performance art to share their voice as key members of our dance community. We encourage you to visit this Blog on an ongoing basis – join, post/comment on: stories, photos, videos… help us maintain this momentum we embrace for ongoing inspiration!

Tip: Your Blog e-mail, username and password will not be the same as your Main Website account information upon joining the Blog. Once your Blog user account is set-up, you can update/change your email and password as you wish (See the “Tip” in the “How do I join…” section below for more information on changing your email, default password and other relevant User Profile information).

What is the difference between the “Public” pages and the “Admin/Dashboard pages?”
1. The “Public” pages can be viewed by anyone who visits westportdance.com/blog.
2. The “Admin/Dashboard” pages require registration and login.  The “Admin/Dashboard” pages are where those that join manage their accounts and create new posts.

How do I search for specific content about a certain subject/category?
When surfing through the Blog (whether logged in or not), you can search content by clicking on a specific “category” under “post categories” at the top right corner of the screen. That will display all the posts within that category.

Tip: some posts will be within multiple categories.

You can also type key words and/or phrases in the “search” box, click “go”, and see a list of all posts that contain those key words and/or phrases.

Tip: the Blog homepage will always display the most current posts in all categories.
Tip: If a post is long, you will just see a preview within initial view. To view a complete post, simply click the post title.

How do I “join” and what does that mean?
All you need to do is:
1. Click on the “join” link in the main navigation at the top of the Blog page.
2. Enter your desired username and email address.
3. Click the “Join” button.

Once the Blog administrator verifies your registration, an email with your password will be sent to the email you entered when joining.  This means you can then “log in”, write new posts, comment on an existing posts, upload photos and/or videos that will (upon approval), appear on the Blog for all visitors to see!

Tip: Remember, your Blog e-mail, username and password will not be the same as your Main Website account information upon joining the Blog.

Once your Blog user account is set-up, you can change your email and default password as well as update your account information by:
1. Logging in with your username and temporary password.
2. Clicking “Profile” on the left side of the “Admin/Dashboard” page.
3. Changing/updating desired information.
4. Clicking “Update Profile” at the bottom of the page.

Tip: Don’t forget to keep this account information on hand; you’ll need it the next time you log in!

What happens after I “join”?
You can then come back to westportdance.com/blog and “log in” whenever you wish.  When you do, just:
1. Click on the “log in” link in the main navigation at the top of the page.
2. Enter your “Username” and the “Password” on your Blog account.
3. Click the “Log In” button.

Viola!  Now it’s time to write new posts, comment on an existing posts and upload photos and/or videos!

How do I comment on an existing post?
After you join and log in per above, then click on a particular post title, you will notice the “Leave a Comment” prompt below all live posts.  To comment on an existing post, simply type your comment within that box, then click “Submit Comment.”

Note: All comments to existing posts and new posts need to be reviewed and approved prior to appearing on the “live” Blog.  After submitting a post or comment, your request is automatically sent for review, and if approved it will be “live” as quickly as possible.  Profanity obscenities, and malicious content will not be tolerated or posted.

How do I write a new post?
After you join and login per above, you can write a new post by:
1. Clicking the “admin” link on the top of the page (if you on a public page) to get to the “Admin/Dashboard” section.
2. Once you are in the “Admin/Dashboard” section simply click “Add New” under “Posts.”
3. Write and format your post using the tools in the content editor.
4. Assign a category or categories to your post.
5. Click the “Submit for Review” button in the upper right corner of the page.

Note: All comments to existing posts and new posts need to be reviewed and approved prior to appearing on the “live” Blog.  After submitting a post or comment, your request is automatically sent for review, and if approved it will be “live” as quickly as possible.  Profanity obscenities, and malicious content will not be tolerated or posted.

What is the ShareThis feature?
When you click on the “ShareThis” button within the right column, you will notice the option to link or bookmark the Westport Academy of Dance Blog with a variety of other leading online social media outlets.  This lets you connect to and share the content from the Westport Academy of Dance Blog.

What is WordPress and how can I learn more about the available features and functions on related WordPress blogs?
The Westport Academy of Dance Blog is a customized online tool built on WordPress.  WordPress is a state-of-the-art publishing platform that allows users to create and share information online.

Tip: If you research WordPress you will find tips and instructional videos that will help you master all of the available features and functions available on this platform.

Thanks for partcipating, and happy posting!