Local ballerinas are poised to take dance exam in NYC

Dancers at Dance Incorporated practice for their upcoming exam in New York City.

Dancers at Dance Incorporated practice for their upcoming exam in New York City.


At Dance Incorporated in Plainville, 13 young ballerinas stand at the barre pointing their toes in perfect unison. They introduce themselves with a graceful curtsey, confidently answer questions on ballet theory, and stand impressively straight as instructor Dorothy Zerio adjusts their posture and positions.

On Feb. 15, the eight dancers from Southington, and five from surrounding towns, completed their final rehearsal before they will be tested on their skill, technique, and strength on the big stage.

This weekend, they will travel to New York City for an examination.

The girls will perform a one-hour ballet class for a panel of judges from the American Ballet Theater (ABT). They will perform barre routines, core strength exercises, and short routines. They will be asked to define ballet terms, identify points of the room, and demonstrate positions of their feet and arms.

This is the first time Zerio will bring her students before the judges, and she is the first instructor in the area to do so.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said 10-year-old Lauren Dattilo, who has been dancing at Dance Incorporated since she was three-years-old.

Rather than preparing a dance for a recital, they are memorizing a whole class.

Dancers practice their barre routines.

Dancers practice their barre routines.

“We’re going to New York City to show the class that we’ve been preparing for the examiners,” said 10-year-old Molly Gage, a student at Thalberg Elementary School, “They’ll be scoring us on things like how turned down our feet are, or the position of our fingers.”

“This class is a bit more dedicated than the others,” said Dattilo, a student at Plantsville Elementary School.

“Its not a competition,” said Dattilo. “It’s more to see what we know so we can be better in the future.”

Dattilo and Gage said they practice the routines at home every day, practice at the studio three days after school, and have been studying ballet theory as much as possible. Though the girls said they aren’t nervous, both shared that the preparation has challenging.

“The technique here is very intense,” said Gage.

Zerio’s class is taught based on the American Ballet Theater curriculum, from pre-primary classes through Level 3 classes.

If the girls pass the exam, they will be approved to move up to Level 2a in the ABT curriculum.

In order to teach this curriculum, Zerio herself had to be certified by the ABT, so the examination is both a test of her students’ technique and her teaching style.

untitled (1 of 10)The ABT, a national ballet company, offers an eight-course curriculum that advises teachers on methods for teaching ballet principles, while incorporating elements of French, Italian, and Russian ballet.

The curriculum allows instructors to develop their own syllabi, but encourages them to teach students how to use their bodies correctly by focusing on coordination, anatomy, kinetics, and alignment.

“Our goal is to provide teachers with the tools and information they need to provide the highest quality training to dance students of all ages and skill levels,” said ABT’s Director of Training Programs, Molly Schnyder.

The instruction also focuses on knowledge of terminology, technique, and theory.

“Our school does not focus on competitions,” said Zerio, who has been teaching ballet locally for 30-years, “Our focus is the development of proper training and the knowledge of classical ballet.”

The class will be examined on Feb. 20, and they will be notified by mail of their individual scores.


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