Arts & EntertainmentThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Local Ballet Company Has Sights Set on Bringing Joys of Dance to Public

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The Westchester Ballet Company is embarking on a 75th anniversary year drive to expand its presence in the community. It will hold its Annual Benefit Gala this Thursday evening at Sleepy Hollow Country Club.

The upcoming year is a critical one for Westchester Ballet Company.

Established in 1950, next week the nonprofit organization that trains young dancers in the region between six and 18 years old, will be kicking off its 75th anniversary year with its Annual Benefit Gala on Thursday evening, June 13 at Sleepy Hollow Country Club.

In addition to continuing to offer scholarships and financial assistance to students who need them, the Ossining-based organization is also hoping to have a home of its own in the not-too-distant future.

“We have some big dreams for the company,” said Amy Harte, president of the board for Westchester Ballet Company. “One is to expand our physical footprint. We hope to find a physical home. Right now, we don’t have rehearsal space. We don’t have storage space. We’re trying to bring everything under one roof. So, we’re looking at a potential brick and mortar building. That’s our dream, and by doing so, we hope to expand what we can offer to the community at large.”

Considering the challenges, Westchester Ballet Company has been doing some remarkable work training young dancers. In addition to its school, audiences have enjoyed two productions a year – the holiday season staple “Nutcracker” and a spring production. This year, the company presented performances in mid-May of “Peter and the Wolf” at the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center.

Just before the Memorial Day weekend, a cast of mainly understudies from those performances brought the children’s favorite to the students at Douglas G. Grafflin Elementary School in Chappaqua. For many children, having an opportunity to watch a ballet at school is their introduction to the art form, which could lead them to trying it themselves or have them become future audience members.

The company has also visited the Claremont School in Ossining and the Milton School in Rye.

“It’s so important to our mission because what we’re trying to do is create access for dancers but also for audience members, and our youngest audience members, they will look at these dancers, they’ll see themselves reflected,” Harte said.

At its May 23 visit to Grafflin Elementary School, Nick Logrea, the company’s associate artistic director, and Company Manager Sabrina Lobner spoke with the students to help explain in an age-appropriate manner about ballet.

Logrea said there is a strong correlation between dancing and his interest and participation in various sports as a child. There are also many classes and rehearsals for the performances, similar to how an athlete trains and practices.

“I was able to do all these things because dancing really helped me become the athlete I was able to be,” he said. “How we do that is we take dance classes.”

It takes about 10 years of lessons to become a ballet dancer, Lobran added.

Harte said she hopes the children enjoyed and appreciated the performances, particularly experiencing it live.

“I hope that they felt joy, absolute joy in being at a live performance,” she said. “So, what I noticed with the school kids, the event was so palpable, in the way you would never get, for example, if you just saw it on a screen.”

Harte mentioned that to help reach its goals, Westchester Ballet Company is starting its capital campaign in time for the milestone anniversary year. The goal is to raise $175,000, which is critical to increase scholarships and financial assistance to dancers, she said.

Children who currently attend classes come not only from Westchester but from as far away as the Bronx and Orange County and many communities in between.

Other efforts in recent years have been to move its “Nutcracker” performances to the Lehman Center in the Bronx, which has seen a more than doubling of its attendance, the expansion of community outreach, including a new partnership with the United Way of Westchester and Putnam, and a 400 percent increase in merit-based sponsorships and need-based financial assistance.

“I guess our dream is to not only train very, very accomplished ballet dancers but also give other people in the community the opportunity to appreciate ballet for not just ballet but other forms of movement for health and wellness,” Harte said.

To learn more about Westchester Ballet Company, including classes and next week’s gala, visit


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