The Ridgefield School of Dance is a beloved institution fostering excellence and artistry through discipline, challenge and joy. This year marks their 25th anniversary, celebrating a quarter of a century of a school rooted in classical ballet that has developed many talented dancers and delighted the Ridgefield community with a host of exquisitely choreographed recitals over the years.
Nancy Andrews founded the school in 1997 with a passion for classical ballet and a love of teaching. Andrews, who passed away seven years ago, brought her love of dance to hundreds of students as both director and teacher.
"Her creative spirit and devotion to her students established the strong foundation for the school, which continues to grow and excel, building on her legacy," Executive Director Alison Brown says.
Sharing her great talent and passion with the community, Andrews brought experience as the department director of Skidmore College, previously dancing with The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Merce Cunningham and the Martha Graham School. The 2017 Spring performance was dedicated to her memory.
Starting as young as three years old, The Ridgefield School of Dance introduces their youngest dancers to the language of ballet, focusing on teamwork, gross motor skills like leaping and jumping, and musicality. The institution is rooted in the teachings of classical ballet. As dancers move up a level, they are exposed to a more technical side of dance including discipline at the barre. Then, in upper levels, students work on technique and choreography that allows them to learn the artistry and expression of ballet.
In addition to ballet, the studio offers jazz, theatre dance, lyrical and contemporary. "These disciplines are important for dancers to learn to work with their bodies in different ways," Brown says. She notes their faculty is comprised of teachers with a professional dance background, all working together to teach a cohesive curriculum.
"Our faculty has been carefully curated to provide the highest level of classical training," Brown states. "All teaching the same style and working with each other to deliver a cohesive curriculum designed to produce dancers looking to integrate into the professional dance world."
Requiring such a rigorous curriculum first and foremost teaches dancers how to study and appreciate a classical art form. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, it teaches discipline, accountability, both personally and collectively, and how to handle adversity. Additionally, it teaches self-resilience, and encourages self-confidence and self-motivation. All while working in a team environment to lift up and support their fellow ballet students.
The studio is very family-friendly, the parents in town note, who have the option to congregate in the studio's family lounge and watch classes while siblings and young dancers get to know each other.
Each year, one performance of the Nutcracker is presented to the community, along with two performances of their Spring show. While all students are included in these performances, the casting of roles is determined by the dancers' strengths. Roles for the Nutcracker are rotated each year so dancers are able to learn and perform different parts, Brown mentions. "The anticipation for who gets which part is always very high," she says.
When Brown first joined RSD, the ballets were performed on a rotating schedule from Cinderella to Sleeping Beauty to Coppelia.
Artistic director Jessica Boelts, who is responsible for choreography, develops new, fun and exciting ballets that have included Madeline, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Carnival of the Animals. During the height of the pandemic, Boelts created "Four Seasons," limiting the number of dancers on stage to no more than eight at a time.
"Everyone knows we are performing Nutcracker, but we keep the Spring performance a secret until the new year," Brown says. "I think the parents who are new to the school are often very surprised and pleased by the performances and their production value," she states.
There have been multiple accomplishments from both dancers and instructors coming from RSD. Here are a few success stories: Claire Cordano attended the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY Purchase, performing thereafter with Ballet Quad Cities, which she has done for the past five years. Julia Galanski, a 2012 grad matriculated to New York University Tisch School of the Arts. "In addition to performing with local companies, Julia taught at our studio for a year," Brown adds.
This Fall, Sophia Dotterer became a student at the University of Delaware as an exercise science major and dance minor. And, this year, two of the studio's dancers are applying to universities with prestigious dance programs with plans on furthering their careers in dance. "Most of our dancers continue to include dance as an important part of their college experience," Brown says.
Recitals are open to all!