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Sleepy Hollow Performing Arts Center In Step with The Dance Rhythms of Today

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December 3, 2015

by Morey Storck

Sleepy Hollow Performing Arts (SHPA) is a 10-year-old not-for-profit dance company, school and studio located at 362 N. Broadway in Sleepy Hollow, with Artistic Director Debralyn Press at the helm. Their mission is to “educate, elevate, and inspire the arts in Westchester by creating a safe artists’ community in which all arts and artists are celebrated.” And, during that formative period, it has successfully and creatively worked to achieve that goal.

Sleepy Hollow Performing Arts Center has been the recipient of awards from ArtsWestchester for significant contributions to the arts in Westchester County, and, among many other such commendations, they have been recognized by the NY State Senate and Assembly, as well as the City of Yonkers for their work in the community.

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“But, times will be getting tougher,” Press lamented. “A cut of $350,000 in state financial support for the arts is threatened. It’s hard enough now to make ends meet, but with a cut in supporting funds looming, new projects, plus those already in development may have to be cut back. In preparation for such a possibility, SHPA recently held its first ever fund-raiser, hosted by Elmwood Country Club. “It proved to be a triumphant success, due in large part to the incredible number of Broadway people who came out and volunteered their support and talent, plus our wonderful young talent who also performed,” Press said.

Guest performers included Ester Barrosa (London, Miss Saigon); Blake Whyte (Fiyero in Wicked, Sky in Mama Mia); Michelle Dawson (Showboat, Cyrano the Musical, Ragtime); Jimmy Tate (Willie in The Tap Dance Kid, Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk); Al Guerzon (Eddie in Mama Mia, Ghost the Musical, Honeymoon in Vegas); Christian Almiron and Steven Cheves (musicians).

“Because of the fund-raiser success and what we learned from our own young talent, we’re creating a new work with original music by Jimmy Tate, Christian Almiron and Al Guerzon. Emphasis will be placed on partnering in both Broadway styles and classical ballet. Partnering is so important because it gives everything so much more flavor when both sexes are working,” Press said. “More emphasis will also be placed on tap dancing and vocals not only because tap is having a resurgence on Broadway, but because dancers, today, are called upon to do so much more than they did not too long ago and that includes vocals. At the open call audition, the dancer that shines at acting and singing, plus tap, hip-hop, break dancing, ballet, acrobatics, jazz and modern dance gets the call-back.”

Another project in the works is the possibility of keeping the SHPA studio open Friday evenings “for kids to come in and dance, to have some place to go instead of hanging out drinking or smoking, or whatever they do.” She is currently seeking a grant to offset the expected expenses for keeping the studio open and for any additional personnel.

Sleepy Hollow Performing Arts has also been requested to perform at the 92nd Street Y by the Make A Wish Foundation. They will be performing two pieces in December, one by Press, and one by Albert Guerzon. Recently, SHPA performed at Symphony Space, a pre-eminent, multi-disciplinary performing arts center in Manhattan. Two pieces were choreographed by SHPA children and were very well received. Another very special project for the company is Irvington Rocks, an important and relevant piece concerning anti-bullying. Interestingly, when the group was asked if they ever had experienced being a target of bullying, everyone raised their hand. Press noted, “ This one dance piece could, hopefully, make our little place in the world better.” The performance will be in December at the Irvington High School.

In addition, SHPA will introduce small studio evening performances at their school, where both instructors and students can show and discuss their own work in a showcase setting. Their annual Holiday/Christmas show will be presented on December 20 at the Irvington Town Hall Theatre, entitled The Hollow Nut. According to advance word-of-mouth, it’s a little bit serious and a little bit magical, merging Santa Claus with Disney.

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