In New York City there is certainly no shortage of dance, theatre and music classes for kids. Kids performing arts classes are like Starbucks around here… one on every corner. So how is a parent to choose. With summer here and the kids out of school I vote for a Performing Arts Camp to get those creative juices going all summer long! City Conservatory is a performing arts camp for kids in NYC and has a summer program that you don’t want to miss. I know the fab mama behind this company and she shared her inspiration and some great tips for new entrepreneurs.
I have a BFA in dance and have had a pretty amazing professional dance career. I’ve also spent a significant amount of time teaching at studios, conservatories, high schools and colleges. Basically , I’ve made the rounds and I know what to look for in performing arts schools.
On one of my many dance adventures, I met a Vanessa Hylande. We were actually 9 months pregnant and met during an underwater naked dance photo shoot for a muckty muck famous photographer. I’ve never done a nude dance photo shoot in my life… but 9 months pregnant underwater… can’t beat that!
Vanessa is a dancer for the Metropolitian Opera. This is a coveted gig in the dance world and the best of the best are employed at this very elite company. Recently she started – City Conservatory – a performing arts center for kids. I can’t even begin to sing her praises and express to you how much faith I have in her as an artist, mother and teacher.
Like I mentioned earlier… performing arts classes for kids are all over NYC, how do you choose the one for you? Vanessa and her hand-picked crew, teach artistry and technique and really get to the heart of what the work is. It’s not just steps and 5-6-7-8’s, but rather a process of performance that is taught and encouraged from a young age. She brings her personal Opera performance experience to the classes. I mean if you ARE going to learn pieces from The Magic Flute… why not learn it from someone who was on that very stage for that very production.
City Conservatory has a Performing Arts Summer Camp coming up for 3-4 year olds and offers children a half day of dance, music and theater. Inspired by weekly themes such as The Magic Flute, Swan Lake and Alice in Wonderland, students will learn the fundamentals of ballet based creative movement; the foundations of musicology, ear training and vocal technique inspired by theKodaly method; and theater games that build imagination and confidence. Through their unique, integrated curriculum, teachers work together across disciplines throughout the day to give each child a broad appreciation and experience in all aspects of the performing arts. You can find these classes in Tribeca and the Upper West Side.
Meet Vanessa Hylande – The fierce mama behind City Conservatory
What was your inspiration to create this program?
I have always been a bit of an anomaly as an artist, having had a career as a classical and contemporary dancer, a classical singer, and also dabbling in theater and film. I also play the piano and guitar and compose, and so I have always thought of myself as a bit of a Renaissance woman living in an age of specialization! I believe in a well-rounded arts education for our children for many reasons, but mainly because I have experienced how wonderfully the art forms support one another. I have tried to pass this on to my children, but in New York City with four kids, I find myself running all over town to get each child to the best of this and the best of that and its exhausting. I asked myself, “Where is the European style conservatory where my children can study everything all in one place at the highest level?” Around the same time, my dance colleague and friend mentioned that she needed more work (don’t we all?), and I had the idea to set up some dance classes for her to teach. Because I know so many parents in the neighborhood, I figured it wouldn’t be too challenging to find students. So, one thing led to another, and when I began reaching out to friends, one of the parents approached me and suggested partnering up in order to build a school at a more serious level than I had initially intended at this point in time. So, my partner and I formed City Conservatory! City Conservatory became the actualization of the dream of an interdisciplinary performing arts school for kids. Elite dance training, elite music education inspired by the Kodaly method, and theater training to sew everything together, from the characters to the literature. I decided that it would be amazing to teach all of these skills in the framework of amazing productions that are being done in the greatest houses in NYC right now. That way the kids can go to see productions and then bring that experience back to the classroom and really feel connected. The Magic Flute at the Met, A Midsummer Nights Dream at New York City Ballet. The list of amazing works that are present in this city goes on and on, and what a wonderful introduction for the little ones! Very young children need to be inspired by what they see and hear, empowered to dream and imagine, and then be given the skills to actualize those dreams. That is the vision of City Conservatory, to empower every child to inspire, image and create.
You have an amazing dance resume. What’s one of your most memorable projects?
The beautiful thing about dancing at the Met Opera was that we were able to work with so many different choreographers, composers and directors. I would have to say that my absolute favorite production was Samson and Delilah. There is a huge dance number where we paint ourselves orange and run and jump like crazy. It is super fun! My next favorite was probably The Magic Flute, because I was able to do so many different things, from the Queen of the Night’s wings to dragons! And I have to mention Turandot, because that Zefirelli set is so beautiful and I did about ten million productions!
How do you balance being a mother and an entrepreneur? What are some challenges that you have to tackle daily?
I think that life + kids taught me over time that it is better to lead your own project as a mom, because so many jobs just don’t have the flexibility that I want as a parent. Although starting a business is extremely hard and requires maximum effort and attention, if my kid’s recital is this afternoon, I can arrange my schedule to accommodate it. I can’t do that when I’m chained to a desk. However, there are challenges that come with that! Its like having another child, like being mom all over again! I’m the one that has to fix problems and work until they are solved. There is no going home at the end of the day and leaving work behind. I go to sleep thinking about it and wake up thinking about it! I am lucky to have a very supportive husband and patient children who tolerate mom when she wont stop talking about work! 🙂
Any advice for new entrepreneurs?
Don’t get overwhelmed, even when you feel like you can’t help it. We all make mistakes and look back and think “if only,” but as long as you learn from your “mistakes,” it’s all a part of the learning curve! I think there are a lot of curve balls and unexpected obstacles when starting a business, and adapting to change is a really important skill! Just keep going and stay focused on the big picture!
City Conservatory Summer Performing Arts Camp is open for registration!
June 22 – July 31 (1-6 weeks)
Monday – Friday
9:00am – 12:00pm
$500 / week
Sign up for 1-6 weeks:
Tribeca – Modern Martial Arts – 78 Reade Street
Upper West Side – 80th and Broadway
City Conservatory is having a big sale on their summer camp up to 50% off. So sing up today!!!
Swing by CityConservatory.com for all the deets.