Studio: Dance (Ballet and Modern Dance Program)

Dance Studio

Michelle Mathesius
Chairperson/Dance Department
voicemail: (212) 496-0700 Ext. 2837
FAX: (212) 724-5748

The Dance Department utilizes a rigorous conservatory approach. In keeping with this approach, professional musicians accompany all classes.

All full-time instructors have danced professionally with major companies including: American Ballet Theater, Joffrey Ballet, New York City Ballet, New York City Opera, Royal Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, Boston Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Ballet Theater, Martha Graham Dance Company, Erick Hawkins, Merce Cunningham, Lar Lubovitch, and Twyla Tharp.


Dance Department Chairperson
Michelle Mathesius
Dance Instructors
Mary Brienza
Tadej Brdnik
Catherine Brikké
Kristen Foote
Lloyd Knight
Kelley Prouty
Greg Sinacori
Joey R. Smith
Anne Souder
Sean Stewart
Dance Musicians
Bradley Harris
Robert Marbach
Lyudmila Melerud
Andy Monroe
Sam Ospovat
John Prestianni
Steve Weinstock

Commencement Dance Examination

Section I: Performance On-Demand (January) 

Section II: Senior Exit Project (administered at the school during the spring semester) 

Section III: Written Examination (June) Students must take all parts of all three sections to complete the examination. This examination aligns with the Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in Dance.

For more information, please contact your Dance teacher.

Curriculum Overview

The Dance program follows a rigorous conservatory approach with an 80 minute ballet class and an 80 minute modern class each day. All studio classes are accompanied by live music. Supplementary courses include: 
  • Survival Skills for Freshmen 
  • Dance History for Sophomores 
  • Choreography and Theater Dance for Juniors 
  • Career Management for Seniors 
  • Repertory for Seniors 
All courses are required for dance majors. There are no electives in the dance department.
All instructors have danced professionally with major companies including: 
  • American Ballet Theatre
  • New York City Ballet 
  • Royal Ballet 
  • Boston Ballet 
  • Martha Graham Dance Company 
  • Lar Lubovitch Dance Company
  • Joffrey Ballet 
  • New York City Opera 
  • Dance Theatre of Harlem 
  • Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre 
  • Erick Hawkins Dance Company
  • Twyla Tharp 
  • Houston Ballet

Freshman Year

Ballet 1
The study of classical ballet for the entering student with little or limited previous study and experience. Emphasis is placed on fundamental principles of ballet technique: correct body placement, alignment, turn-out, transfer of weight, muscle strength, flexibility, coordination, musicality and classical port de bras. Students will learn and practice in detail the mechanics, dynamics and artistic qualities of basic ballet movements and develop self-discipline and a professional attitude.

Ballet 2
The study of classical ballet for the entering student with previous study and experience. Students will work on refining their knowledge and execution of proper turnout and correct placement and alignment; these concepts will be integrated through the entire class. Students will learn and practice in detail the mechanics, dynamics and artistic qualities of ballet movements and develop self-discipline and a professional attitude.

Modern 1 & 2
An introduction to the concept of modern dance through the technique developed by Martha Graham. By practicing floor work, standing work and traveling phrases in the Graham style, students will pay close attention to gesture, breath, focus and attack.

Survival Skills I
The study of dance-related areas including dance etiquette, nutrition, anatomy, prevention and treatment of  dance injuries, and dance vocabulary.

Survival Skills II
A foundational approach to learning about the body with emphasis on its relationships to dance and creating strong and graceful movement.

Extra-Curricular Activity-Pointe
This after-school class is open to all female students. Students will enter one of the two specified levels to strengthen the lower leg, ankles and feet in order to produce strong and graceful movement. This class has prerequisites for participation.

Sophomore Year

Ballet 3 & 4
An in-depth study of the foundation of classical ballet technique mastered in freshmen year with an emphasis on increasing physical, technical, musical and artistic expectations and skill. Students are also introduced to specific musical concepts that aid in the execution of their movement.
Modern 3 & 4
A continuation of the study of the Graham technique of modern dance. Emphasis is placed on increased technical strength and vocabulary. In the spring of Sophomore year students will be introduced to the Lester Horton technique of modern dance with an emphasis placed on core strength, clarity of codified shapes and movement in space.
Dance History
An exploration of the history of dance from pre-historic times to the 21st century with a highly interactive approach. Major choreographers as well as their dancers and works are viewed and discussed in class. Dancers, choreographers and scholars are regularly invited for lecture/demonstrations. Each unit of study examines the historical, social and cultural context of the time period studied as well as the evolution of other art forms (music, art, theater) and literary works and their relation to dance.

Junior Year

Ballet 5 & 6
The extension of in-depth study mastered in sophomore year with a strong emphasis on more complex coordination, technical skill, musicality and artistic expression.
Modern 5 & 6
The study of advanced-intermediate work added to previous work in Graham technique in Freshman and Sophomore years. The student is expected to master extensive knee work and standing falls. Students will be also continue to study the dance technique of Lester Horton, building upon vocabulary learned in Sophomore year. Also expected is the ability to execute complex technical and musical combinations with knowledge of stage and musical terms.
Theater Dance
Jazz and Musical Theatre Technique: The study of American jazz dance techniques as used in commercial theatre, film and television. The student is expected to have an understanding both verbal and performance of this dance form through changing eras.

Tap Dance: The study of the basics of this vernacular dance form. Students will be expected to master tap vocabulary, techniques of rhythmic clarity and use of weight shift, traditional steps such as the Shim Sham, Waltz Clog, Soft Shoe and Time Steps as well as learn different stylistic approaches from musical theatre tap to rhythm tap. More experienced students will be placed in a more advanced class.

Choreography Workshop
The study of basic rhythmic, spatial, and dynamic materials used in the designing of dance. From short simple works, the student choreographer will progress to larger compositions and produce a complete work for evaluation by the dance faculty and formal presentation during the senior year at the annual February Dance Showcase.

Senior Year

Ballet 7 & 8
Senior year, a greater emphasis is placed on developing a harmonious balance between clarity of movement, mastery of the complexity and versatility of advanced level ballet technique, musicality, artistry and professionalism. Students are expected to become competitive for auditions to dance colleges and to be able to address the technical and behavioral demands of an advanced level class in the industry.
Modern 7 & 8
The study of both the Graham and Horton technique of modern dance technique with an emphasis on stage technique and performance, and audition experience learned through experience in school auditions conducted by guest choreographers.  Students are expected to be responsible for arranging after-school activities around the needs of the dance department and to know their own rehearsal schedules, costume fittings, and photography shoots.
Career Management
The study of the dancer's professional career, including contracts, unions, auditions, resumes, head shots, and self-produced concerts.  In addition, alternative careers within the field of dance are explored through the use of guest speakers.
The Senior Dance Ensemble works with eminent guest artists from a  variety of disciplines. In recent years, the SDE's collaborators have  included choreographers Camille Brown, Brunilda Ruiz, Paul Taylor, and  Mathew Neenan, conductors Justin DeCioccio and Bob Stewart, costume  designer George Hudacko, lighting designer Farley Whitfield, and laser artist Norman Ballard.