SHAR ADRIAS VOTED BEST HIP HOP WESTCHESTER MAGAZINE 2011
Shar Adrias went from dancing in her living room to dancing on stage with Ludacris at the MTV Video Music Awards—and today, you can dance right along with her during her hip-hop classes. The dancer, who teaches her own original choreography and routines to young adults at the school, picks up her inspiration from the song itself. “The music tells you what to do,” she says. “I’ve been training so long that when I listen to a song, I can just envision the movement.” She describes her style as free, flowy, sassy, strong, confident, and “I’m-so-Sasha Fierce.”
SLEEPY HOLLOW PERFORMING ARTISTS VOTED BEST HIP HOP STUDIO 2010
Sleepy Hollow Performing Artists
Sleepy Hollow (914) 909 5070
This award-winning, not-for-profit outfit is so synonymous with cutting-edge, authentic, superior-quality dance instruction that it’s getting embarrassing already. Debralyn Press, SHPA’s tireless artistic director, trolls New York City for the best and most relevant talent to teach these cool classes. Press is proud that many SHPA dancers grow up to become working professionals and return to SHPA to teach new generations of top-rockers and moonwalkers. “All of our kids,” she says, “are fierce.”
Featured in Westchester Magazine-Best of Westchester 2009:
Sleepy Hollow Performing Artists'
With dance classes, theater, dance camp, and even a Fairytale Class for tots, a variety of dance forms are explored at SHPA. Featuring hip-hop, jazz, ballet, musical theater, cabaret, and break-dancing classes, there is something for everyone, no matter what age or level of experience.
Best of Westchester Winners: 2009
Best of Westchester - Editors' Picks:
Best Hip-Hop Dance Instructor - Debralyn Press - 2009
For tip-top hip-hop lessons, look to Debralyn Press, who’s been dancing for more than 36 years and teaching for 20. She takes hip-hop as seriously as classical dance forms like ballet, hiring instructors who have choreographed for Ludacris and danced with Janet Jackson. Today, SHPA—a not-for-profit that moved to a new 3,500-square-foot studio last year—has its own company of teen hip-hop dancers, and students even perform a one-of-a-kind hip-hop version of The Nutcracker each year.
Where to pop ’n’ lock in Westchester
BY: MORGAN DUBIN PUBLISHED JULY 22, 2009 AT 06:53 AM
Hip-hop—yes, it is all the rage. Just ask any young dancer. But where can you learn to pop ’n’ lock, Harlem shake, and do the Crip Walk in Westchester? Almost every local dance studio offers hip-hop classes—but which is the best? Sleepy Hollow Performing Artists, according to the scores of dancers we spoke to. Here we take a spin with Debralyn Press, the artistic director at Sleepy Hollow, who has trained with the Boston Ballet and at the Tisch School at NYU.
Q: Describe hip-hop dance.
A: I used to dance with rock ’n’ roll bands in the eighties; that was ‘hip-hop,’ but it was really jazz dance. It is a very American dance form, but today it’s become a mix of African jazz, contemporary dance, ballet, and Brazilian martial arts.
Q: Describe a typical hip-hop class.
A: First we stretch, then do isolation exercises, then crunches and push-ups. Then for forty-five minutes to one hour it’s choreography. We sweat a lot. Hip-hop is a real cardio experience. And as for what to wear? I let my students wear sneakers and baggy clothes. Many wear hats.
Q: Do hip-hop dancers need to be technically trained?
A: I’m a big believer in technique—especially if you want to dance professionally. Hip-hop is now a necessity if you want to work professionally. Look at In the Heights and Rent; there’s a lot of hip-hop on Broadway and in professional venues.
Q: Has hip-hop attracted more guys to dance?
A: Absolutely. I have a whole bunch of males at my studio. I brought them in with break-dance, but eventually they learned that their break-dancing and hip-hop would get better with jazz and ballet. Hip-hop opens doors for males because it can be a more macho style.
Q: What do you think about the hip-hop programs here in Westchester?
A: Too often, it’s not real hip-hop. I see ballet dancers shaking their butts a little bit. Someone may have all the training in the world but that doesn’t make them a hip-hop dancer.
Candy Canes and Cavaliers Meet Icons of the Hour
By Iris Hickey Arno
There’s Clara, and the Sugar Plum Fairy, and dancing snowflakes, break dancers, unicyclers, Brittany Spears, Dora the Explorer and…say what? That’s right—all those characters appear in The Sleepy Hollow Performing Arts Center’s version of “The Nutcracker”—here dubbed “Nutcracker Now 2008”—which opens tonight (Dec. 12) at the Irvington Town Hall Theater and continues with two show tomorrow.
Although not completely dispensing with ballet dancers on pointe or Tchaikovsky’s lush score, this non-traditional version of the perennial holiday favorite also makes room for modern dance, jazz, hip-hop, pop songs, and lots of dialogue. Debralyn Press, the founder and artistic director of the Sleepy Hollow Performing Arts Center (SHPAC), wrote, directed, and choreographed the show along with company director Annie Doss. Many in the cast of more than 50 students aged 7-18 added their input to the final product.
It all began about eight years ago, when Press and Doss (once one of the Press’ students, now a dancer, choreographer, and teacher in her own right) were fantasizing about what a modern “Nutcracker” would look like. “It’s a fantasy so, in ours, Clara really wants a laptop and her stepbrother wants an iPhone,” Press said, explaining that the company has performed the show four times in the last eight years, each time making changes to keep it up to date.
“The themes this time around are blended families and teenage obsessions with commercialism and being popular,” she said. Clara is initially disappointed with the large nutcracker doll she receives in lieu of a computer but, after it comes to life as a prince and takes her and her six Barbies (who come to life as real-life pop singers and speak in the lyrics of their hit songs) on a trip to the Enchanted Land of Sleepy Hollow, Clara learns some important lessons about happiness.
From Mouse to Boss
As a child and teenager, Press, now 45, progressed from mouse to angel to snowflake and on up the line with the Boston Ballet’s “Nutcracker.” After earning a BFA in dance from NYU Tisch School of the Arts, she went on to be a principal dancer with the Ballet of Contemporary Arts at Harkness House and the American Dance Machine, a company specializing in Broadway-style repertoire. She also choreographed, directed, and performed in television, stage, and film productions. “It was in the ‘80s and it was a really interesting time,” she said, remembering the days when she worked with the likes of Billy Idol, the Rolling Stones, and Madonna.
In her late 20s, she earned a dual master’s degree in social work and dance therapy at Hunter College and spent five years working in the New York city school system, choreographing a show that toured 100 city schools and working in crisis intervention at Lehman High School in the Bronx. “That was hard,” she said, “and I wanted to do something a little bit more fun.”
So, in 1995, Press moved to Sleepy Hollow and began teaching in various dance schools in Westchester. In 1999, she founded SHPAC. “I wanted to create the place I wish I’d had as a kid,” she said. “I had a vision of a place that would look at the person as a whole and train technique and artistry with no loss to the student’s self-esteem. When I was trained, I was really somebody else’s canvas, somebody else’s clay. I didn’t have a lot to contribute as an artist. In this place, the students are able to be part of the creative process.”
Press said that what she finds especially inspiring about teaching is, “You can really affect the kids’ lives in positive ways. A lot of people have talent but, if they’re not trained well, it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s wonderful to train that talent and help the person to grow at the same time.”
A ‘Culture of Kindness’
Aside from teaching classes in ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and musical theater, and overseeing the school’s numerous performing companies, Press, who has lived in Irvington since January, works hard on the overall ethic and atmosphere of SHPAC. “There’s a culture of kindness among us. We don’t allow any mean behavior among our young artists here. They all have to accept everyone and work together as a group,” she said. “Meanness is an issue that we work really hard with and magical things happen.:
Daisy Gumin, an Irvington sixth-grader, has been studying at SHPAC for two years and is playing the role of Clara. “I love how everybody is nice to everybody else here,” she said. “It changed me. I used to be not as open—I’d be scared to sing a song—and this brought me out of my box. Now I’m more open to meeting different people and more comfortable as myself.”
Jarette Seligman, an Irvington eighth-grader, remembers being a mouse in “The Nutcracker” when she was 5. “I watched the big girls and wanted to do everything they did,” she said. Now, Jarette is a fairy, a snowflake a candy cane and singing in several numbers. Parts are given out after an extensive audition process but, Jarette explained, students are encouraged to make the most of whatever part they are assigned. “Something Debralyn teaches us is that, no matter how small your part is, the more you act it, the better it will be,” she said.
Sophia Harris, a fifth grader at Springhurst in Dobbs Ferry, agreed. “In the last show, I had a tiny part—only one line in the whole show—but here, even though you have a small part, it will be amazing,” she said. “Whatever you do, it’s extremely fun, because all the other actors are so great and it’s so fun being with them and dancing with them!”
Giving Something Back
Irvington High School students Kayla Frimer, a junior, and Katie Ferguson, a senior, have benefited from the increased responsibility that is part of the SHPAC experience. Both have taught dance classes and taken a leadership role in choreographing and directing. In the current production, Frimer plays the evil Mouse Queen, belting out a bluesy number complete with jazzy choreography.
Ferguson, who is portraying the Sugar Plum Fairy and on of the Star Dolls, is contemplating her high school graduation this spring with mixed feeling. “In some ways, I’m so ready to go to college,” she said, “but this place has been my life for as long as I can remember and it’s going to be really, really weird to leave it. Everyone here has backed me on everything and supported and pushed me to be the best I can be. Debralyn is like my second mom, and one of the best parts of growing up is having her listen to you and respect your opinions. It’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of fun.”
SHPAC’s mission goes beyond establishing a self-contained community of artists and extends to providing scholarship assistance and sending groups to perform frequently at local schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and shelters as well as at street fairs and festivals. “Our community service aspect allows children to have more opportunities to perform, while it also involves the community and spreads a lot of joy and happiness,” Press said.
And speaking of joy and happiness, she anticipates plenty at this weekend’s performances of “Nutcracker Now 2008” which she described as “a happy, upbeat, exciting show with some beautiful ballet and a lot more.”