SPECIAL FEATURE

miss tollie 20 year anniversary

This recital weekend we enjoyed several amazing performances and celebrated Miss Tollie’s 20th year teaching at the Academy. To honor her, we have created a video that highlights her incredible career. Thank you Miss Tollie for all that you do for the Academy! Special thank you to Miss Caitlin for putting this wonderful tribute together. […]

2017 summer camps!

2017 summer camps!

Join us at the Academy for various summer dance camp programs. Short-term sessions and private instruction also available for all ages and levels

our 35th anniversary performance of the nutcracker (full-length video)

Watch our 35th anniversary performance of The Nutcracker here…

alice 2016 video trailer

alice 2016 video trailer

watch the video montage here

performance hair and make-up prep video

For tips and info on preparing hair and make-up for a performance, click to watch the video above Download demo video for iPhone by clicking here

we’re winners and other stories

As many of you know, last month Jr. and Sr. Company members participated in National Dance Week Foundation’s Kick It Challenge. After submitting our video, we were recognized as one of the winners of the 2nd Annual Video Contest in the category of dance studios! We are so excited to be recognized for our efforts and can’t […]

the nutcracker movie

the nutcracker movie

Watch the trailer here

winter showcase video

winter showcase video

Watch the video montage, download video for your iPhone…

one dancer’s love of the nutcracker

Staples High School Sophomore and Academy student Jill Rappaport’s experiences as a dancer in the Academy’s… read more

rave reviews for the academy’s david fernandez and his choreography for joaquin de luz

David Fernandez’s “Five Variations on a Theme” performed by Joaquin De Luz, New York City Ballet…read more

The Academy’s cherished holiday tradition… performed at Staples High School in December, 2016.

(Full-screen view is recommended – please click the arrows in the lower right corner of the video player next to “HD”)

nutcracker_2016registration_blog-v2

Westport’s cherished holiday tradition

Performed at Staples High School
Saturday, 12.3.16 at 3:00pm & 7:00pm
Sunday, 12.4.16 at 2:00pm

You can order your tickets here…

Please contact us for more information: 203.226.9987

Watch the trailer from a previous performance
A very behind the scenes look at our 26th year

nutcracker dad

12.04.15

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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.

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

nutcracker_2015registration_open_blog_v2

Westport’s cherished holiday tradition

Performed at Staples High School

Saturday, 12.5.15 at 3:00pm & 7:00pm
Sunday, 12.6.15 at 2:00pm

You can order your tickets here…

Please contact us for more information: 203.226.9987

Watch the trailer from a previous performance
A very behind the scenes look at our 26th year

the_dancer_within_640x360_blogbanner

Reflecting on 40 years, we didn’t know what to expect when students were asked their thoughts about dance and their experiences at The Academy. What we found brought smiles, tears and such a deep sense of gratitude. This video is dedicated to all the students, parents, teachers, and members of our dance community – those that create these moments, making each and every day memorable.

(Full-screen view is recommended – please click the arrows in the lower right corner of the video player, next to “HD”)

academy_of_dance_more_moments_640x360_blog

A very special thanks to all that participated in the video shoot. Please stay tuned for more video releases!

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Join us for a journey into The Land Of Sweets and on a grand adventure.

Westport’s Academy of Dance will perform the Nutcracker this weekend at

Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut. 

Tickets can be purchased at the door. 

Please come join Clara, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and several other dancers from our production at the Westport women’s club Nutcracker Tea on Saturday, Nov 29th from 2-4pm.   Mary Ellen Marpe, wife of first selectman of Westport, Jim Marpe, will be doing a live reading of the Nutcracker, followed by appearances by many of the cast members!   Dancers will take pictures, sign autographs, and delight your little one in their dazzling costumes.   Sweet treats, cakes, tea sandwiches, hot chocolate, and tea will be served, and attendance of the event will include automatic entry to win several holiday raffle gifts.  Tickets to this event are $40. All proceeds will go to support the performing arts program at the Waltersville school in Bridgeport, CT.  Please visit http://www.westportwomansclub.org/ for information and to buy tickets.

Nut770

Also this year, Westport’s Academy of Dance will be partnering with the longstanding children’s charity Al’s Angels, by holding a holiday Toy Drive at each performance of the show.    Please join us in supporting this wonderful by cause by bringing a new, unwrapped gift with you when attending the performance.   All toys will be wrapped by volunteers at Al’s Angels and distributed to children in need, battling cancer, rare blood diseases, and those in severe financial hardship.   During this magical time of year, please help us to provide children who are less fortunate with a token of love and the holiday spirit!  And please visit http://www.alsangels.org/ to find out more about Al’s Angels and what you can do to help their wonderful efforts.
Nut336
 

 

For tips and info on preparing hair and make-up for a performance, click to watch the video above

Download demo video for iPhone by clicking here

Kickline2013

As many of you know, last month Jr. and Sr. Company members participated in National Dance Week Foundation’s Kick It Challenge. After submitting our video, we were recognized as one of the winners of the 2nd Annual Video Contest in the category of dance studios! We are so excited to be recognized for our efforts and can’t wait to participate next year.

Click here to see the results!

Jess

Also…our very own Jess Riniti was acknowledged in the Westport News for her performance in the Nutcracker!

Click here to read the article!

 

Scenes from our 2013 Nutcracker performance – Photography by Kerry Long.


Each year we have another graduating senior perform their last Nutcracker with the Academy family. This year we asked that senior to tell us about everything their Nutcracker experience has meant to them over the years.

 

Jess (Clara)

 

Name:  Jess Riniti         Age:  17

How many years have your performed in the Nutcracker?  12 years

What was you favorite part to perform and why?  The year I was Clara when I was a freshman was my favorite because I got to act, I could watch everyone else, and it was relatively stress free. 

What was your favorite year to perform and why?  My favorite year was the year I was a flower, snow, pirouette, and lead chinese. It was a challenge to perform all of them in one year, but I enjoyed bring a new character to life every time I was on stage.

What will you miss most about performing in the Academy Nutcracker?  I love the traditions, the backstage ambiance. I also love that it’s one big story and we’re all working together to tell it. It feels like a team effort even though we all have our individual parts. I will miss that and the family we form because of it. 

Do you have any advice for young dancers interested in performing in the Nutcracker?  Do it! It’s a tradition and it’s the thing I look forward to most in the holiday season. Looking up to the older dancers and then becoming one is so rewarding. And don’t get discouraged! The audience loves every part and every part is a good one. They’re ALL an important part of the story. Every audience member has his or her favorite, you never know who’s out their just waiting for you! And every part is what you make of it!

 

 

 

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It’s not too late! Order your tickets, tell your friends, share our Facebook event group and spread the love for The Nutcracker.

Performed at Staples High School
Saturday, 12.7.13 at 3:00pm & 7:00pm
Sunday, 12.8.13 at 2:00pm

Call the studio for more information: 203.226.9987

Download the ticket order form

Watch the trailer from the 2010 Nutcracker Movie

A very behind the scenes look at our 26th year

 

click here to be directed to our website where the cast list has been posted.

davon doane has performed in many of the academy’s nutcrackers as our cavalier.  he is one of 18 dancers at the dance theater of harlem and can be seen in this new york times video.  congratulations to davon and we wish him much success as he gets ready to perform on the lincoln center stage!

Scenes from our 2012 Nutcracker performance – Photography by Kerry Long.


the excitement is mounting for today’s first performance at 3pm.  tickets are available at the door for all performances.  enjoy these photos!

Performances will be held at Staples High School
Saturday, December 1st at 3:00 & 7:00pm
Sunday, December 2nd at 2:00pm

Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for student/seniors. For tickets please call 203.226.9987 or download and return our ticket order form.

Thanks to all that give us the opportunity to share memories as we continually strive to form new moments to reflect upon in the future.

View The Nutcracker 2012 student cast list by clicking here
Watch the trailer from The Nutcracker 2010 movie
A very behind the scenes look at our 26th year

Scenes from our 2011 Nutcracker performance – Photography by Kerry Long.

 

Check out channel 12 today beginning at 5:30pm as they will be showing footage from today’s nutcracker rehearsal!

westportdance_nutcracker_30thanniversary

We’re extremely excited for the upcoming 30th anniversary Nutcracker performance as we have added several unique and exciting elements to this year’s production!

Theodore Pollen III will return to play the honorary role of Herr Drosselmeyer. A former Alvin Ailey dancer, Mr. Pollen was an instructor at the Academy for over 20 years, and performed in various studio productions in multiple roles.  He spent years as a positive role model for countless Westport dancers, including two of the current teachers on staff, who both had the benefit of growing up under his instruction.

A defining aspect of the Academy’s Nutcracker, has always been that their own dancers star in lead roles such as Read the rest of this entry »

It’s hard to believe the Academy will be performing it’s 30th Anniversary production of the Nutcracker this year.  What hits me even more, is Read the rest of this entry »

The Academy is thrilled to announce that beloved former Academy teacher Theodore Pollen III will be performing the role of Herr Drosselmeyer in our 30th Anniversary Production of The Nutcracker.  Ted was one of the Read the rest of this entry »

many students are interested in 30th anniversary nutcracker logowear so due to popular demand we are offering several Read the rest of this entry »

Need a refresher?  Click here to view our video demo with step-by-step instructions!  Originally posted on our blog in 2008.

Congratulations to this year’s cast of the nutcracker.  We were so excited about our 30th anniversary production that we are posting the cast list early.  Click here to be directed to our website where you can download the pdf cast list or click here to view the list on our site.  the costume fitting schedule will be posted by Monday, 9/12.  Again, congratulations everyone and we’ll see you in class next week and rehearsals beginning Saturday, 9/17.

NUTCRACKER AUDITIONS
Saturday, September 10th

Join us for our 30th Anniversary Production of the Nutcracker!
Open to students enrolled in Ballet I and above.
Every dancer who auditions will be part of the show.
Auditions are at the studio.

AUDITION DATES AND TIMES

Junior Company/Jr. II          2:30-4:30pm
Ballet I                                      10:00-10:45am
Ballet II & III                             11:15-12noon
Ballet IV & V                             12:30-2:00pm

Participation fee is $300 (includes a full length DVD of the production), payable at the audition.

Your dancer should wear a black leotard, pink ballet slippers (pointe shoes for Jr. IIB and above) with hair in a bun (or pulled off face for short hair).

Mandatory parent meetings at beginning of audition time.  Please bring your calendar with you-we need you to hand in your family conflict form on 9/10.

Parking (for Saturday auditions) – please park at Heyman Properties located at 333 Post Road West (on the left before the studio if traveling south towards Norwalk).

every dancer in last year’s nutcracker performance receives a free professionally shot and edited movie!  you can pick your copy at at the studio

Tonight–Wed 7/6 between 5:30-7:00pm
Mon 7/11 between 5:15-7:00pm
Tue 7/12 between 5:00-7:00pm
Wed 7/13 between 5:15-7:00pm

other pick-up times available will be available and if you don’t pick your copy up on one of the days listed above we will email you with those days/times.

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 »

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…

we know andrew taft as the talented male dancer who works with our company girls in partnering classes and recital performances.  but, when the windchill drops in new york, he gets on a plane for honolulu.  while he enjoys dancing for various schools and companies in the national nutcracker flurry there’s something amazing about dancing in hawaii, even he has to forgo opportunities on the mainland to make room for it.

the “aloha” spirit is evident even before he leaves! the director sends a recent dvd in the mail and discusses which roles he should study. she makes a few changes and says to not stress about anything. he loves her attitude!!!  once he arrives in oahu and  rehearses once or twice it’s off to the races with a tech/dress followed by 3 shows.  he loves both the huge theatre and that he can literally fall out of bed onto the beach in waikiki!

ballet hawaii always flies in stars from either new york city ballet or abt to play the cavalier and sugar plum and he is constantly in the wings learning from these amazing dancers!  dancers from around the country guest for the other divestments.  this year there were dancers from pacific northwest ballet and carolina ballet.

this year he had time to take a side trip to maui after the last show for some resting and some surfing time while we were shoveling snow.

it is truly his dream gig and he is looking forward to returning again this summer for another performance! he danced “by george!” and “serenade” last year and is anxious to see what’s in store next!