Family info: Husband Brian, 4 children: Ava is a rising junior at Wesleyan University, Bryce, soon to be Freshman at Gettysburg College, Noelle will be a freshman at the Professional Children’s school in NYC and Reid is a rising 5th grader at Midland Elementary
Pets: 2 doggies: a petite golden doodle, Maxine, and a Cavapoo, Winnie
Business Info: I am a dancer and I am a Studio Owner and Director and teacher at Brava Dance Center
Would you share your family's story?
Brian and I met in college at Fordham University. He grew up in Westchester and we moved to Rye when we were engaged. We were married at Christ’s Church and have lived here ever since. Our children all attended CCNS and Midland School then Bryce and Ava attended RMS and RHS. Ava danced at Brava and was part of that very special class of 2020. She will be a junior at Wesleyan University in the Fall. Bryce played Varsity football at RHS and swam on the RHS swim team and will be going to Gettysburg College in the Fall. Noelle will be a freshman at the Professional Children’s school in NYC Reid will be in 5th grade in the Fall. He loves soccer and tennis.
Before owning Brava, what was your career?
After I stopped auditioning and performing, I was an assistant to Broadway Director / Producer Hal Prince and then an Assistant to Broadway Director/Choreographer Kathleen Marshall. I also taught at my home town studio JG Dance in Hyde Park, NY where I grew up dancing, and ran their competition team before I decided I needed to be back in NYC and got the job working for Hal. I met and started working for Kathleen while I was working for Hal. Working for Kathleen was also so interesting and fulfilling for me–I did research for all of her shows, and learned so many aspects of the business from casting to pre-production work to being in dress rehearsals with actors and dancers that I grew up idolizing. While I worked for Kathleen, I worked on many Broadway shows that she was directing and choreographing, at City Center Encores!, with Radio City Entertainment at MSG on A Christmas Carol. So many great productions and Awards Galas and Benefits. So many interesting and incredible experiences, outside of performing.
When did you start dancing? What has your journey been like since you started?
Inspired by my first dance teachers, Joe and Ginnie Mazzello, I fell in love with dance and musical theatre when I was about 10 years old. I was a competitive dancer as a teen and performed every opportunity I was offered at my local dance studio, taking jazz, tap, ballet and acro. I went to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia on a talent scholarship, then transferred to Marymount Manhattan where I was a dance minor and majored in Psychology. Once I was back in NYC, I took voice lessons and trained at Broadway Dance Center and Steps with various teachers. I transferred again to Fordham University where I received my BS in Psychology.
After graduation I lived in NYC for 2 years, training and auditioning for Broadway shows and regional productions. I did a few seasons of regional summer productions and was a dance captain for a few seasons at a summer theatre.
Brava Dance is one of the most well known women-owned businesses in Rye. Can you tell us about the journey of opening such a successful business? When did you start?
First of all, that is so nice of you to say and feels so weird to hear.
I don’t think of myself in that way at all! It was never my intention to be a dance teacher and own a studio, really. I started my studio when Ava was 8 years old. She was taking ballet and tap but was asking about Jazz classes and I couldn’t find a class in our area that focused on jazz technique so I decided to offer my own.
I went to a few locations in Rye to see if I could rent a studio and the Wainwright offered me space. I offered 14 classes in all styles and taught them all myself, sent an email out to everyone on the CCNS and Midland directory and with the support of my family and a lot of incredible friends and neighbors, Brava was started! I had our first show at Midland School that Spring. I had, I think, 28 students from age 4-11 that first year and now have over 300 students and families, 14 years later and a full faculty of incredible teachers.
What have been some of the challenges you've faced? Successes?
The greatest challenge has been finding a space to run and grow my program. It’s been quite a journey. Very hard to come by in Rye. Within the scope of running a successful dance program, the most challenging thing was (is) to put a schedule together so there is something for every level and an opportunity for every dancer to train in all styles of dance within that level.
Successes— have been watching the studio grow and being able to offer a full program in all styles to create well rounded dancers. I love so many things about teaching and running a dance school. It’s so rewarding to see children realize their passion that they have for dance and to see their parents embrace it and support it. Seeing our first graduates continue on to dance at college and finding their own successes. Seeing my daughter pursue and become a professional dancer/actor and seeing her passion and drive. Seeing my older daughter being asked to direct the dance clubs at Wesleyan and being asked to be the TA for their Ballet program, even when she had no intention of dancing at school–having her own personal journey in dance and seeing how a dance education can affect your life in so many ways than you might not have thought it would. Seeing the incredible technique that my students are achieving with my faculty at Brava and also the passion in my youngest dancers and seeing that translate into discipline and reaching their own goals in the dance competition world. It is all more than I ever could have imagined or hoped for. I love them all so much and I get so much joy from watching them learn and grow and develop their love for this amazing art.
What is the one thing you always do after a good performance?
Celebrate with friends and family and spend hours going over every moment and detail and hearing what others felt about the performance as an audience.
Do you have a favorite mantra?
Process over prize. Dance training is life training. You control your effort.
Do you have any advice for young people who want to start a career in dance?
To find the best environment for you to train and get the best technical foundation. To find a studio or program and teachers who are knowledgeable and who you trust and then listening to them. To know that there will be ups and downs and it might take time to achieve your goals and to be open to where your path may lead you. It’s not a straight shot, most of the time. And one lesson I learned that I wish I had learned sooner is that you may not end up where you think you intended to end up within your dance journey or eventual career, but it is ALL valuable if you are following your passion and doing what you love. To be willing to do the work over and over again even when it’s hard and obviously above all, to believe in yourself.