WOODBURY — If the young women — and the not so young women — in Woodbury and surrounding towns seem to walk with a certain grace, chances are you can thank Sibley Morosco. For 30 years, Ms. Morosco has been teaching ballet, contemporary and other forms of dance to area students of all ages, first from a studio in the basement of her Southbury home, then from Main Street Center for the Arts on South Pomperaug Avenue in Woodbury, which has since evolved into Main Street Ballet School and the nonprofit performing entity Main Street Ballet Company, at the same location.
Over the decades, the studio has undergone various reconfigurations. For a dozen years, Ms. Morosco also ran Main Street Theater, with a specialty in producing Shakespeare, mysteries and musical theater.
But dance is where she began, and dance is the school’s current focus.
Fittingly, Main Street Ballet will celebrate 30 years of dance with a production of the classic ballet, “Sleeping Beauty,” at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 15, in the auditorium at Pomperaug High School in Southbury.
Reflecting on the school’s beginnings, Ms. Morosco noted that Main Street Ballet was born out of a working mother’s tight schedule.
“I started the school because at the time, I was doing graphics work in an office,” she said. “I could not get my daughter to ballet class, so I began teaching her myself. The rest, as they say, is history.”
Main Street Ballet is perhaps best known for its annual “Nutcracker,” the elaborately produced holiday classic which was presented for the 30th time this past December.
Over the years, the company has also produced “Sleeping Beauty,” “Coppelia,” “Giselle,” “Don Quixote” and a number of original works.
One of the school’s specialties is character dance, a specific style of theatricalized folk dance which can be found in many of the great classical ballets.
Character dance might include the Hungarian Czarda, the Polish Mazurka, the Italian Tarentella or any number of Spanish and Arabian dances, Ms. Morosco explained.
“The finale of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is a Mazurka,” she said. “There is a style and a technique to them that is similar but not identical to ballet.
“We’re very fortunate to have Sylvia Davidowitz who is extremely knowledgeable in this field and is able to teach it.”
Main Street Ballet School offers instruction for ages 3 to adult. The oldest student currently enrolled is 75.
“When you teach long enough, former dance students return with their own children,” Ms. Morosco said. “It’s an honor.”
Artistic Director Sibley Morosco received her ballet training at the Joffrey School and American Ballet Theater School under master teachers such as Oleg Briansky, Alexandra Danilova and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, among others. She also received modern dance training in the Humphrey-Weidman and Limon techniques.
She her degree in dance from Mercyhurst College, then went on to perform with the Erie Civic Ballet and Pittsburgh Ballet Theater.
Her specialty at Main Street is teaching the very youngest student.
“One of our specialties is incorporating the youngest dancers into the great classic ballets to make a cohesive whole,” she said. “It takes a lot of creativity to make that happen. Our team is flexible enough to be inclusive of young people.”
Associate Director and Principal Choreographer Lizabeth Skalski holds an MFA in dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Her guest teaching credits include The Hartford Conservatory; School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati, Ohio; Covenant Dance Studio in Brooklyn, N.Y., as well as schools in Canada, Taiwan and China.
She created more than 25 original contemporary ballets for New York’s New American Ballet Ensemble, Ballet Santa Barbara and in showcases throughout New York, Connecticut and in Canada, and has performed as a dancer throughout the U.S. and Asia.
Ms. Skalski has been with Main Street Ballet for 22 years.
“Liz’s specialty is developing young dancers to bring them to the best of their ability,” said Ms. Morosco.
Sylvia Davidowitz began her studies at L’Ecole Superieure des Grands Ballets Canadiens at age 5 and has studied under some of the world’s outstanding teachers.
She toured globally as a principal dancer with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and the Cleveland Ballet as well as with Martine Van Hamel’s American Ballet Stars, and with principal dancers from American Ballet Theatre and the Joffrey Ballet.
“Sylvia has been with us for 12 years,” said Ms. Morosco. “She has the most performing background in classical ballet. Liz did both ballet and modern in her career, as did I.”
Cristin Gordon earned a B.A. in theater arts at Gordon College, where she co-led Gordon’s Dance Ministry Team, and concurrently studied dance at Boston Ballet. Her ballet training included jazz, contemporary, hip-hop and musical theater. Her teaching credits include the YMCA of the North Shore in Salem, Mass., and Westover School in Middlebury.
Ms. Gordon is the newest faculty member, but she is not new to the school.
“Cristin started in this school as a young child, went on to other schools and returned to where she started,” said Ms. Morosco. “It’s very exciting to have her creative talent for our contemporary and hip-hop programs. That’s now an essential part for any dancer in the 21st century. To be fluent in all styles makes you a valuable dancer.”
At times, Main Street Ballet has enrolled as many as 150 students in a season. Over 30 years, there have been so many young dancers, so many dance sequences to teach and learn, so many costumes to build.
“It’s fun to think of where all those students have gone over the years,” Ms. Morosco said. “We have a dancer at the Boston Ballet Company, a dancer at Ballet Santa Barbara, and many have done elite summer dance programs such as The Rock School in Philadelphia, the Joffrey School in Chicago, the Bolshoi program, Boston Ballet and the North Carolina School for the Arts.
“We have a former dancer who now does all the planning for the New York City Ballet galas.”
Ms. Morosco believes that the discipline of dance helps students gain greater self-control, better listening skills and the development of a persistent attitude — all necessary skills for life.
“We have four seniors this year,” she said. “Two are going to Cornell, one to Muhlenberg and one to the University of South Carolina. They’re majoring in things like chemical and biomolecular engineering, psychology and theater, nonprofit work, biological sciences and dance.
“They all take AP classes along with ballet,” she said. “These are serious young women, driven to accomplish. They’re just amazing.”
The director has nothing but praise for young people who “stick it out” with dance throughout their school years.
“If they make it through their senior year as dancers, you can see the influence of dance in their focus, their dedication, their ability to work through difficulties and overcome adversity,” she said. “They have days where they hate it, but they don’t quit. They know how not to give up.
“I think that’s an enormous thing to learn in life at a young age,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re not going to be a prima ballerina. You have the skills to succeed in life, and in the goals you set for yourself.”
Those seeking additional information may call Main Street Ballet at 203-263-5107 or visit www.mainstreetballet.com.