Staying on their toes in Mt. Airy through the pandemic

by Stacia Friedman
Posted 5/6/21

“I was thinking of closing the school,” said artistic director Joy Delaney-Capponi, “but our students are extremely passionate about what they do."

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Staying on their toes in Mt. Airy through the pandemic

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Philadelphia Dance Theatre (PTD) has kept on its toes throughout the pandemic. “I was thinking of closing the school,” said artistic director Joy Delaney-Capponi, “but our students are extremely passionate about what they do. It’s the highlight of their week, and we didn’t want to take that away from them.”

Located on in historic Baird Hall on the New Covenant Campus, 7500 Germantown Avenue, PDT initially closed in March, 2020. Sensing how this impacted her students, Delaney-Capponi created ballet classes on Zoom. “It was a lifeline for kids to see each other, and it enabled us to continue our contracts with our instructors,” she said.

Last July, PTD re-opened in keeping with State and CDC safety guidelines. “Only 10 students were allowed in each of the three dance studios, and facemasks were mandatory,” said Delaney-Capponi. But there could be no staged performances indoors. 

“In a normal year, senior level dancers would be preparing now to go to the Regional Dance of America (RDA) Festival in Ohio,” said Delaney-Capponi, president of RDA. “This year, the Festival will live stream from our studio, April 23-25. Thousands of dancers from all over the country will participate, including local children.” 

Cancellation of the annual “Nutcracker Suite” performance was a disappointment for aspiring ballerina Hannah Cherry, 18, as well as her father. “Hannah started at PDT when she was 7,” said Patrick Cherry. “We had bounced around to different dance schools, but Hannah came home from her first day at PDT and said, ‘Dad, I found my home for dance.'” 

After 15 years of training at PDT, Hannah, a senior at Martin Saints Classical High School in Oreland, is aiming for a position with a professional dance company upon graduation. “She submitted audition videos to several companies and has yet to make a final decision. She was also admitted to several colleges,” said Cherry. “You would think her focus on dancing would have a negative impact on her studies, but she has maintained a 3.9 GPA.”

Hannah’s academic success is typical of PTA students. “When students enroll, we make academic excellence a requirement. We enter into a contractual agreement with the students and parents regarding the GPA they set for their child,” said Delaney-Capponi.

Cherry and other parents will finally have the pleasure of seeing their children perform on stage again at the Spring Showcase, May 22-23. “It will be an outdoor event on the New Covenant Campus. I have choreographed 'Carnival of the Animals,' a fun ballet for younger dancers,” said Delaney-Capponi. “Older dancers will perform 'Breaking Ground.'”

Dancers of all ages will have an opportunity to improve their agility and technique during PDT’s summer session. Tiny Tots, for children 3 to 7 years old, offers  two weeks of magical fairy tales, creativity, games and outdoor play, June 21 to July 2.

Dance Camp 101, gives 7 to 12-year-olds a full day of pre-pointe dance and visual arts, June 21-July 2. For dancers 12 to 18, there is a five-week Summer Intensive workshop with guest instructors.

“We are primarily a ballet school,” said Delaney-Capponi, “Our students have been invited to study at some of the world’s most prestigious ballet schools and are dancing professionally internationally, but we also offer contemporary dance for those students who may decide to pursue a jazz dance career on Broadway.”

Even if students eventually choose another career path, Delaney-Capponi believes their dance training prepares them for excellence in whatever direction they go. “Dance training teaches students that when they work at something they improve. I really believe we are creating a better humanity when we study the arts,” she said. After training at PDT, Delaney-Capponi’s daughter, Analiese Capponi, 22, studied at the National Ballet School in Toronto and now teaches ballet and jazz at PDT. Delaney-Capponi’s sons, Jude, 15, and Damian, 18, both studied dance at PDT until middle school.

PDT also offers a full program for adult students, college-aged dancers, former dancers, professionals and absolute beginners.

For more information, visit PhilaDanceTheatre.org or callp215-247-4272.

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