YORKTOWN, N.Y. – From the time when they were little girls and first heard about the Yorktown High School Dance Company, Nicole Tolli and Dana DeGennaro longed to be part of the troupe.
They are now seniors and co-presidents of the Dance Company, and they are ending their affiliation with the company with a salute from Westchester County’s premier arts organization.
WestchesterArts chose the Dance Company and director Veronica Dwyer as recipients of the Education Award. The company will be honored along with other winners at its Arts Award luncheon on April 4 at the Westchester Marriott.
The Education Award is presented to an artist or individual, group, school district or organization that through extraordinary vision and leadership, has enriched arts education in Westchester. The Company has approximately 80 students who perform 19 styles of dance, everything from African ballet to swing. The Company has taught dance skills to students since 1974, and more than 4,000 students have been involved in the program.
“It’s a big thing for Yorktown High School Dance Company to be recognized for all the hard work that has gone into this,’’ Tolli said. “We had no idea we were getting this. I don’t think the company has ever got something like this before.”
Both girls have been long-time dancers and had their interest in the Company piqued when they were in elementary school. “I was taking partner dance classes with a friend and Ms. Dwyer said to me that when I get older, I should join the Dance Company,’’ Tolli said. “I always remember that. I was just fooling around. I didn’t think anyone was watching. For her to come say that when I was so young, it was awesome.”
Through their four years, the girls have learned a lot about dance, and they will continue to dance when they attend college. More importantly, however, they have developed relationships and created memories that will endure long after they leave high school.
“I love everything about it,’’ DeGennaro said. “I guess the best thing about it is the family aspect. I’ve made some of my best friends. There are a lot of people with different backgrounds and we all support each other. We’re just a big family.”
The Company performs for local senior citizen groups and at area events. Its big production is in January, when it performed three shows over two days. Dwyer has been the Company’s long-time director, but has been on medical leave this school year. DeGennaro and Tolli shared duties that were previously handled by Dwyer for this year’s show.
“With her being gone, it put a lot of extra weight on our shoulders and doing things that we didn’t have to work on in the past,’’ DeGennaro said. “It helped us in the end. It helped us grow as leaders.”
The award from ArtsWestchester will be bittersweet for both girls. Not only is Dwyer retiring, but they will be graduating in three months. The hours of practice and juggling many academic and extracurricular responsibilities have been demanding, but Tolli and DeGennaro head toward new ventures with nothing but happy memories from their association with the Company.
“It’s kind of like a book,’’ Tolli said. “You start out and you don’t know where it’s going to lead. It was an incredible journey that I got to learn. Dancing is a life sport. It’s there forever. I’ve come to enjoy it more than just about anything else.”