Benefactors Help Aspiring Students Learn Locally

Island Life

Section: Lifestyle 


It's a typical Tuesday afternoon in lndiantown. And, like most
other typical Tuesday afternoons, eight youngsters, all under the age of ten, board a bus that will carry them far away from home. They are members of the Florida Arts and Dance Company. And, for these young dancers, membership has its privileges.

Each Tuesday these aspiring dancers, lucky recipients of a generous scholarship program administered through the Indiantown Parks and Recreation program, are joined by students from the Hobe Sound Boys and Girls Club to learn the basics of dancing jazz. 

"They learn dance, but they learn so much more as well," said FADC founder and executive director, Cecilia Serra. "We teach them dance etiquette, respect and how to listen and follow instructions."

The Concierto de Aranjuez represents neo-classical ballet and features music by Joaquin Rodrigo and Armik Dashchi.

In an adjoining room, Tatiana Kopp, artistic director and ballet instructor at the FADC instructs a group of teenage girls. 

Today, they are rehearsing for the History of Dance Series performance, which they and other members of the ballet will present along with guest artists, Alex and Ana Srb of the Nashville Ballet.

Kopp, a small, pixyish woman with strawberry blonde hair and an intensity that belies her minute stature, is focused as she calls out instructions to the girls, frequently halting the music to demonstrate a point.

The girls are barefoot, dressed in their uniforms of long flowing purple skirts and black body suits. Several of their toes are wrapped in bits of white tape and, without exception, their hair is wound into tight buns on top of their heads. These are clearly not newcomers to the art and the subtle details mark their instructor as a professional.

Dressed in black tights, the pint-sized students form a line in restless fashion.   They are bursting with energy and it shows in the way they move.

"Quiet please," their instruc tor calls out as she starts the music in preparation for rehearsal. The room grows quiet, the music begins and the children move into formation, holding hands and flowing into a simple choreographed swing move ment.


Representing contemporary dance, the group performs to an upbeat, bluesy rendition of "Unchain My Heart," by Ray Charles.

 Kopp's background is impressive. Completing dance school in Tibilisi, Republic of Georgia, in 1970 with highest honor, Kopp per formed in the Tibilisi National Theater of Ballet and Opera as a principal dancer for 21 years. Before joining FACD, she studied at the Russian Academy of Ballet Master Theater Art, preparing students for the International Ballet Competition and later served as ballet instructor and ballet mistress at Ballet Mississippi and at the International Ballet Dance School in Jackson, Mississippi.


The students, moving through their dance rehearsal, seem in tune with her presence, respond ing automatically to her frequent instructions.  They move easily to a bluesy version of "Unchain My Heart," sung by Ray Charles.


"Look up! Look up!" shouts Kopp. Instinctively, one of the girls turns her chin upward, aware without being singled out, that the instructor meant her. The movement continues - the girls tracing graceful patterns in the floor - until Kopp stops the music and Anna Serra, stage manager and choreographer, moves onto the floor to demonstrate the intended arm movement to a student.


Serra, daughter of Cecilia Serra, started training under Kopp in 1994 in the world-renowned classical ballet method, Vaganova. She has participated in the International Ballet competition school and has been teaching and choreographing at FADC since 1995 and wears many hats at the school, including choreography, set design and instruction.


A not-for-profit organization, FADC was founded just over eleven years ago by longtime ballet instructor, Cecilia Serra, and boasts a staff of six instructors, all with impressive backgrounds not typically found out- side of major cities. But, as a young and growing center, it relies on a base of volunteers and benefactors to raise awareness and financial support for the company and its programs.


This year, the organization made a major move toward growth with the addition of Christine Storino as fund development coordinator. Their dreams are big and that calls for a well-planned effort and an increase in corporate funding. "We'd like to continue to build our scholarships and bring in even more guest artists;' said Storino.


This year, Alex and Ana Srb of the Nashville Ballet were invited to perform for the End of Year Performance and Miami City Ballet's renowned solo dancers Iliana Lopez and Franklin Gamero are scheduled to perform in the History of Dance Series.

"It's expensive to bring in guest artists of this caliber;' said Storino, "but we feel it's important for both our students and our community." And, in order to make that happen, Storino will be responsible for working with area corporations and benefactors to raise the necessary funds.


Currently FADC offers four per formances annually. The Nutcracker, performed each year during the holi days at The Lyric Theater, is one of their most popular and well-attended events. A Holiday Home Tour fund- raising event and an annual Tea and Fashion Show are two of the compa ny's major fund-raising events. According to Storino, the level of fund raising will increase dramatical ly but so will the level of performanc es and cultural opportunities that will ultimately benefit the Treasure Coast.In the meantime, the 150 plus dance students at the Florida Arts and Dance Company do what they love to do most -they dance.

Ballerinas pause in a movement from the classical ballet Swan lake, by composer Tchaikovsky.



"A few of our students have gone on to study dance at college;' said Serra, "and one of our graduating students, a young man from Fort Pierce, has applied to the School of Dance in Miami. But even if they don't follow dance as a career, the time they spend here is something that will stay with them throughout their lives."

As she speaks, the 15 youngsters from Indiantown and Robe Sound put the finishing touches on their jazz number in preparation for their upcoming performance and form a line. 'That's right;' the instructor encourages them, "now hands up and bow and again."

And, as the students touch fore- heads to knees, bowing deeply to an empty practice room, their own images smile back at them from the mirrors that line the walls appropriate praise for a job well done.

Florida Arts and Dance Company
  57 S.W. Monterey Road    Stuart, FL 34994    561-288-4150 

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