History and Mission
Salvatore LaRussa Dance Co, Inc. / Salvatore LaRussa Dance Theatre (SLDT) was established in the fall of 2003 and formally incorporated by New York State, receiving Non-Profit 501(C) (3) status in the summer of 2004.
SLDT - The Academy, established in 2008, serves as a permanent home allowing the company to invest in the artistic, creative and educational needs of the Queens community. Directed by Janna Naylor (Principle Dancer, SLDT), the Academy is a long-term, innovative, exploratory learning center for children and adults that will bring the joy of the performing and fine arts to the community. SLDT - The Academy’s mission is to offer professional dance instruction and arts education to a diverse income area that is lacking in the arts, cultural and community activity.
- Classes available (all ages & levels) in Ballet, Modern, Musical Theatre Jazz, Acting, Music, and Fine Arts
- Private preparation classes available for Performing Arts High School & University Auditions
- Performing & Fine Arts Residency
- Free Sunday Arts Performances
- Queens Council On the Arts - Queens Art Express
- Moving Books - Early childhood literacy and dance program
Salvatore LaRussa, a native New Yorker, is a graduate of Hofstra University, under the direction of Lance Westergard. Salvatore's dance credits include Robin Becker Dance, Now Dance, La Compania, Michael Mao's ballet, Firecracker, and numerous projects with Broadway Choreographer, David Marquez, including Tom Sawyer (Broadway) and the Alan Awards. Salvatore premiered his first NYC season in 2004 which marked the start of his company, Salvatore LaRussa Dance Theatre. SLDT has performed extensively in New York City in traditional and non-traditional spaces including Ailey Citgroup Theater, Merce Cunningham Studio, The Goldman-Sonnenfeldt Auditorium, DEEP, Green Space and Knitting Factory. Salvatore received critical acclaim in Dance Europe Magazine where Tim Martin writes, "...Another example of LaRussa's excellent sense of dance theatre." In 2009, Salvatore founded Salvatore LaRussa Dance Theatre - The Academy, a performing arts school and a home for his company in Middle Village, Queens, NY.
Janna Naylor holds a BFA in Dance from the Ballet Department of the North Carolina School of the Arts. She is honored to have received her training from Melissa Hayden, Duncan Noble, Gyula Pandi, and Nina Danilova, to name only a few. She traveled to Budapest to study with the National Hungarian Ballet. She has performed as a soloist with Ballet New York, toured china with the Michael Mao Dance Company as a principal dancer, and is a dancer in Matthew Barney's art film Creamaster III. She has choreographed works for various theatre productions and the musical Ferenet Baranka. She has developed Moving Books, an early childhood program addressing literacy through dance performance, and she is currently a dancer with SLDT.
Dana Leigh Snyder is a New York-based actress with a background in dance and experimental theatre. After graduating from UC Davis with her Bachelors degree in Dance and Experimental Theatre, she spent a year teaching and performing in Sacramento before attending the infamous Actors Studio Drama School where she received her MFA in acting. Dana has performed in over 60 roles nationwide in theatre, film, television, and dance, including Off-Broadway productions of both original and published plays. She is a founding member of Capitol T Theatre and Fat Cow Productions (both California-based theatre companies) as well as Blue Blanket here in New York City, and sits on the board for the Sacramento Film and Music Festival. Dana can be seen in the upcoming production of "She" as well as the original web series entitled "This Web Series is Gluten Free."
ERNEST BAKER II is a New York-based dancer, choreographer, film director and scholar. He is also a recent graduate of Eugene Lang, the Newschool for Liberal Arts. At the age of 17, Ernest performed for President Barack Obama and the White House administration at the Kennedy Center in honor of becoming the first U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts for Hip Hop Dance. With his nomination through the National YoungArts Foundation he was also bestowed the compliment of working with dancer and director, Bill T. Jones on the Emmy Nominated HBO series, "MASTERCLASS." As a result of his accomplishments, he was given a Proclamation from his hometown, Opa Locka, FL of having January 23rd declared 'Ernest Baker II Day'.
He is currently a Hip Hop dance teacher at Harlem School of the Arts, Washington Heights Cultural Arts Center, and Salvatore Dance Academy where he's able to give back and inspire through his instruction to aspiring professional dancers. Ernest also participated in the Hip Hop: Cultural Traditions and Movin' Comercial program at the Jacobs Pillow School. He has danced and choreographed for TV, theater and live performances including BET's Source Awards, Spring Bling, NBC's America’s Got Talent, and The San Francisco International Hip Hop DanceFest. Some of his credits include working with Bill T. Jones, Desmond Richardson, Jeffery Page, Rennie Harris, Earl Mosley, Mr. Wiggles, Pop Master Fabel, Jennifer Archibald and more.
As a filmmaker Ernest was asked to work with Simon & Goodman Picture Company as a location scout for the film, "Strangers No More," which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. He then directed and produced his own film, a documentary short, "The Hidden Gem of Washington Heights," that was accepted into the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Creative Minds in Cannes program.
Kristen Hafford is a native of Winsted, CT. She began dancing at the age of four under the tutelage of Sharon E. Dante, with the Nutmeg Ballet in CT. She attended NYU, Tisch School of the Arts, earning a BFA in Dance & a Minor in Sociology. While at NYU, she was honored to perform in the Tisch Gala at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center with Dr. Bill Cosby, Alec Baldwin, & Savion Glover. During college & after Kristen has had the honor to work & perform professionally with Ronald K. Brown, Doug Varone, Doug Elkins, Sean Curran, Gus Solomons Jr., James Sutton, Miriam Mahdaviani (NYCB), Ann Reinking, Cassandra Phifer, Cherylyn Lavagnino, Naomi Goldberg, & Moses Pendleton (MOMIX), to name a few. She has danced with Ballet Stars of Moscow, Joffrey Ballet Workshop, Albano Ballet, Nutmeg Ballet, Richmond Ballet, and SYREN Modern Dance. Kristen has performed with Helen Hayes Theater Co. in The Music Man, Voice & Vision Theater Co. in Crossings & OFF-Broadway's showcase of VALENTINO The Musical. Kristen has also performed with ElephantStageWorks in their Los Angeles premier of Under the Mango Tree. She won honorable mention at the ARTS Recognition Competition for ballet & recently was nominated to return at the Bessie Schönberg Choreography Workshop in NYC for her choreography.
Stavros Pavlides was born in Ohio but raised in Greece, and from an early age exhibited a mystification with movies, animals, monsters, and adventure. He received a BA in 2006 in Literature and Critical Theory from Duke University, before deciding to pursue art at SVA, from which he graduated in 2010. Stavros' work has been exhibited in various group shows, such as "Beautiful Losers" at the Visual Arts gallery, "Cabinet of Curiosities" at the Gershwin hotel, Amalia, the Society of Illustrators, and most recently a solo show at Salvatore Larussa Dance Studio entitled "Regression". He is currently collaborating on a public mural, painting commissions, working on new work for a show, and is also writing freelance for an art-criticism magazine.
Ballet class draws from the techniques of Cechetti, Vagonava, Balanchine and Bournonville. In a positive and nurturing environment, students will learn body placement, proper execution and understanding of the ballet vocabulary, musicality, artistry, aesthetic awareness and discipline.
Modern Class draws its techniques from the greats such as Martha Graham, Lester Horton, Jose Limon, and Merce Cunningham. The class involves standing and floor warm ups, spirals, strengthening core movements, combinations, and jumps. Dancers will learn to create their own choreography through exploration of movement, space, and rhythm.
Ballet Modern Combo
In this class students will enjoy part instruction in classical ballet and then part in modern dance/creative movement. We focus on the techniques of both with an overall blending of every aspect of dance and its creative possibilities. Students will learn proper placement, vocabulary, and discipline while exploring both worlds of ballet and modern dance.
We offer pre- beginner ballet and creative movement classes for ages 3-4 yrs old. The students will learn very basic movements and vocabulary of ballet at the barre and across the floor and they will enjoy creative movement exercises with lively and encouraging music. We integrate books and imaginative movement to tell stories which is a precursor to understanding ballet, developing musicality, and strengthening physicality and coordination.
This class is an extension of our Pre-k class for students who have progressed in age and/or maturity and need the next transition into a more disciplined, technique focused class. Students will continue to develop the creative aspect of storytelling through dance furthering their understanding of technique and musicality.
Urban Funk Hip Hop
Inspired from hip hop culture and lifestyle, Urban Funk is a highly energetic variety of improvised, high impact and forceful, rhythmic clicks, pops, locks, African and Jazz movements.
Drawing Fundamentals For Artists
Bring images and ideas to life! This class is designed to provide strong fundamentals in drawing and painting but also to teach students how to think creatively and use the skills they will acquire to better express their art.
Using Stanislavski's revolutionary method acting and techniques by Uta Hagen, we focus first on the actor, then the character, then the role, utilizing peoples' real-life experiences to bring fictional characters to life. Through monologues, scripts, improvisational scenes and games, we foster an honest form of self-expression and bring a sense of reality to the stage.
Learn what it takes to be a part of a play from beginning to end. We take the students through the experience of acting in an original production by engaging them in a step-by-step process used in professional theatres. From headshots and resumes, to auditions and callbacks, casting, table reads, blocking, sets and costumes, lighting and sound design, and finally, a mounted production of their work, each student will learn what it’s like to act in a professional production.
Moving Books - One Step Further is an arts infused literacy program involving book inspired, interactive dance performances, and art exhibits. This program was first developed in 2008 with the partnering school Positive Beginnings, in Middle Village Queens.
As the partnering school, you will select a book, which may be useful as a template for classroom activities that will in turn inspire the culminating performance by dancers from SLDT bringing the book to life. Performances may also include but are not limited to, costumes, set, art, puppetry, dramatic play, matching and sorting games, live and recorded music, and different forms of dance. Each performance project is specifically developed to meet the needs of the partnering school and their students.
We have found that the students understanding and enjoyment of each book, with all of its inspired curriculum, was subsequently enhanced by the program and both the students and teachers looked forward to the selection and performance of the next book.
If you are interested in joining us in the Moving Books Program or would like more information, please contact us via the contact form or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org