RHS senior looks share love of dance through redistribution costumes

It’s dance recital season, and for most all dancers, that means hours of preparation and rehearsals. But for Ridgefield High School Senior Zoe Butchen, she’s not only preparing for her final dance recital with Enchanted Garden this Saturday, May 26th but she’s also focused on managing Dance Donations (www.dancedonations.org), a non-profit organization that she founded in 2010 to collect and redistribute gently used dance costumes. It was Zoe’s attic full of accumulating dance costumes that inspired her creative idea.

Zoe shares, “In 2010, at age 10, I realized that my retired dancewear could go to better use. When I couldn’t find a place to donate to, I created my own organization, DanceDonations. Our mission is to positively impact the lives of children by providing dance costumes and apparel to studios and school dance and theater programs that are unable to afford such items.”

So far, DanceDonations has collected and redistributed thousands of items throughout the United States and around the world, including Bosnia and Gambia, supporting children’s passion for the arts and love of dance.

What does dance and helping others mean to Zoe? She reflects, “My aspirations are to pursue a career in teaching either as an elementary school teacher or administrator and believe my experience through Dance Donations has shined so much light on how important roles models can be for children. Over the last six years I have been so incredibly fortunate to see my charity grow from just an idea to receiving boxes of costumes almost daily from around the country through the incredible generosity of dancers and their parents. Receiving countless emails expressing gratitude from those on the receiving end of the costumes shows me that I am making a difference in the world and children’s lives.”

See Zoe perform alongside her fellow graduating classmates as part of the Annual Enchanted Garden School of Dance Recital on Saturday, May 26, 2018 at the Wilton High School Clune Center for the Arts. Performances are at 12pm and 5pm. Tickets are $20 and will be available at the door.

This year’s recital, entitled “LIVE,” features local dancers spanning ages 3 through 18, with 16 of them graduating this year. Two large production numbers, “Showtime” and “Belle,” each feature 86 dancers — the largest in the history of the Enchanted Garden School of Dance. Guests can expect to see all styles of dance featured, including ballet, jazz, tap, breakdance, lyrical, Broadway and hip hop. If your child has expressed an interest in or passion for dance, attending this year’s recital is the perfect opportunity to get an overview of the dance program offered by Enchanted Garden.

Currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, Enchanted Garden prides its success over the years on its mission to provide students with a strong foundation in dance on a level of education and training that can lead to professional performance. The school welcomes students who enjoy dancing primarily as a recreational activity. An accepting approach, age-appropriate learning and choreography, and attention to the individual interests and needs of each student have made the Enchanted Garden School of Dance among the most successful in the region. Ridgefield Magazine readers voted it “best kids dance school.”

Director Jean Cobelli, a native of Ridgefield, started dancing at age three. She attributes her accepting approach and teaching style— and the nurturing environment they create — to her own experiences growing up as a dancer.  “Looking back, the dance teachers I had growing up have helped to inspire and shape who I am as a director today.  It makes me proud to say that every single dancer that comes through our doors and performs in our recitals is genuinely happy and excited. You don’t see stress or nerves. I think it’s because we don’t require anyone to audition or compete…they come simply for the love of dance.”

Zoe agrees. “Enchanted Garden has been my family since I was 3 years old. From ‘Judy’s Music’ to now being a senior in the dance program, I have made such incredible friendships and developed a strong passion for dance that I know will last me a lifetime. Miss Jean has been a huge inspiration and role model for me as I have grown up

watching her tireless support of our community through her efforts creating programs that support charities in our community, especially through the dance world. I am so grateful to have had her support throughout the last 7 years of Dance Donations!