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Young dancers take step up this summer


TAGHKANIC–The Hudson Valley Academy of Performing Arts presented its spring performance Saturday, May 16 at its studio on Route 82 in West Taghkanic. The students of the creative dance, pre-ballet and basic ballet up through Ballet IV demonstrated for a full house of friends and families what they had been learning during the spring semester. In an afternoon filled with the choreographed movement of many bright young spirits, one highlight was a pas de deux from “Paquita” performed by students Grace Howard and Orlando Harbutt.

At the recital Academy Director Debra Jo Hughes announced that these two dancers have been accepted at notable summer dance workshops. And though Ms. Hughes’ students have earned acceptance into many dance programs over the years, these are among the two most prestigious. Grace will be attending the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive in Middlebury, CT, and Orlando has been accepted to the New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA) in Saratoga.

The Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive is a six-week session open to serious ballet students age 9 to 14. It is a rigorous training program conducted at the Westover School by Bolshoi Academy instructors. At the conclusion of the term all students will be considered for enrollment in the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. Classes are conducted in Russian with the assistance of English-speaking translators, so Grace will also earn language credits. She has been dancing at the Hudson Valley Academy since she was age of six. Now she is 13, soon to be a freshman at Taconic Hills Central School, where her father is superintendent.

“I live for ballet,” said Grace, “It’s where I put all of my creative energy. I dance five days a week in 1-1/2 hour classes, and sometimes two classes back-to-back.”

About her future as a professional dancer, she says, “I am at that point where I need to make that decision.” As for her summer with the Bolshoi, she says, “I wanted to see what a more intense schedule will feel like. It’s four classes each day–you just go and go.”

Orlando, also 13, is about to start 9th grade at Hudson High School. He has studied ballet with Ms. Hughes for several years, and also hip-hop dance with James Polo, a choreographer and instructor with Roz’s Dance Works in Hudson. Orlando will attend the NYSSSA School of Dance, a four-week workshop at Skidmore College taught by dance professionals. New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Daniel Ulbrecht is the artistic director and professional dancer and instructor Amanda Edge is associate artistic director.

Of the recital he said, “Grace and I have never taken a partnering class, so it was difficult at first, but after practicing, we were able to do it. It was also difficult because she was on point, so she was much taller than me.” And about the summer program he says he is very excited. “I have friends who will be there as teachers–it will be a great experience for me.”

He is the only boy who has trained at the Hudson Valley Academy for Performing Arts. Ms. Hughes says that he has a supportive family. “His dad is an artist, his family has lived in Europe. I think that they are not as influenced by the social pressures that many boys from the area feel about dance,” she said.

Orlando says, “I do think about it sometimes, and it would be better if there were other boys who would be in the program.”

As the Founder and Director of the HVAPA, Ms. Hughes has been providing classes in her studio in Taghkanic since August 2006. She says of Grace and Orlando, “They are both exceptional students and very focused. It is difficult when they have so many other interests, but they have managed to dedicate themselves to ballet training. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to work with them.”


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