Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance aims to widen community reach

RIDGEFIELD — The town’s cultural district designation may answer a pandemic-prompted question that has plagued local arts leaders since last March: Can their organizations survive post-COVID?

Amy Piantaggini, executive director of The Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance, believes this to be so.

As the only nonprofit dance school within the state’s first cultural district, Piantaggini views the designation as an opportunity to enhance RCD’s collaborations within the community and widen its audience base.

“It is considered to be the center of artistic and economic activities,” Board President Hilary Aronow said of the designation, “and the enthusiasm on social media and overall media attention is contributing to increased enrollment for (the) fall.”

Although the conservatory is more than 50 years old, it was established as a nonprofit in 2003 following the passing of its founder, Patricia Schuster. Through RCD, students earn a “high level” of foundational dance training to prepare them for careers in professional conservatories, ballet companies and even on Broadway.

“The skills they learn here — dedication, organization, discipline — they can carry into anything they do,” Piantaggini said.

Since taking over as executive director eight years ago, Piantaggini has honed RCD’s focus on engaging with other arts organizations in Ridgefield to give students a more integrative experience outside of routines and recitals.

Whether it’s dancing alongside actors from Thrown Stone or SPHERE, or partnering with the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, “we like to be out there, doing more and giving back,” Piantaggini said. “It’s really important for the students to see how, as artists, we can engage with others.”

There has been some discussion at the board level on collaborations to come, but Piantaggini couldn’t disclose further details. She personally envisions large-scale projects with partners such as the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra and the Ridgefield Chorale.

“The cultural district ... is only going to bring us more opportunities to collaborate, and ... allow us to do more of what we do with a wider audience,” she said. “And I think that’s true of all the organizations.”

Piantaggini expressed excitement about reinstating RCD’s “elite” student companies that perform to the public throughout the year. The groups have previously performed at Ridgefield’s annual Holiday Stroll and Stamford’s DanceFest.

The conservatory is also gearing up for its full-stage production of “The Nutcracker” at The Ridgefield Playhouse. All of these happenings are bringing energy back to RCD.

“It’s wonderful to see the reclaimed joy that these kids have,” Piantaggini said.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com