Facility built on experience, passion and quality staff
By Mike Lauterborn
Fairfield, CT – Tucked in a corner of the business and retail complex at 1580 Post Road in downtown Fairfield is a magical place full of life and learning. Now through June 2012, its proprietors are marking 25 years in business.
D’Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Centre is the fruit of a personal and professional partnership between owners Angela D’Valda and Steve Sirico. Their passion for dance and performing led them to each other in the late 1970s and to the founding of the centre that now serves close to 700 students from Norwalk, Wilton, Easton, Westport, Bridgeport, Fairfield, Southport and Rowayton. Programs accommodate everyone from children 18 months of age to senior citizens, who come for voice lessons, instrumental instruction and dance guidance in ballet, jazz, rap, hip hop, modern, musical theater, preschool, contemporary and afro-jazz.
Patch met with Norwalk residents D’Valda and Sirico at the Centre recently and had a chance to view several classes and speak with both students and instructors.
Providing some background about herself, D’Valda, a petite blonde with a British accent, shared that her father was in the Royal Air Force, stationed in Jordan as a bodyguard to the king. D’Valda herself was born in Israel, spent toddler time in Jordan, lived in England until age 7, relocated to Hong Kong for the next five years, then returned to England for boarding school.
She was always engaged in classical dance and, when she graduated at 16, she got scholarships to Martha Graham School and the Matt Mattox School in New York City, two of the most prominent dance schools at the time. She went on to work professionally for such enterprises as Disney (On Parade) and NBC (television dance specials). She also worked in other countries – Argentina, Spain, France, Hong Kong, England – as a lead dancer in shows.
Sirico was born in Norwalk and went to Central Catholic High School. He took a combination of dance classes and football and got a football scholarship to the University of Tennessee. However, more and more, he found himself wanting to dance, took dance classes with Mikki Williams of A Dance Class in Westport during the summer after his freshman year and decided to drop out of school. He continued to study with Mikki, went on auditions and started getting work.
Fate led them to each other in 1979. As D’Valda tells it, “I was choreographing a TV special in Florida and Steve was the lead dancer. It was love at first sight, I went home to London, packed my bags and three days later came back. Together we formed our own dance act.”
Over the next eight years, the pair worked extensively all over the world and made many notable appearances: guest artists in Wayne Sleep’s show “Dash” in London’s West End, The David Letterman Show, Ed McMahon’s “Star Search”, Scala Barcelona dinner theatre, a gala performance for Princess Diana.
“Whenever we came back home, to Norwalk, we’d gather with friends,” D’Valda said. “On one occasion, in the late summer of 1987, we had dinner with Mikki Williams, who said she was selling her studio and wasn’t happy with the buyers. Steve and I decided to buy it, backed out of a three-month Monte Carlo gig and, within three weeks, became proud owners of the studio, then located at the Fairfield Racquetball Spa (now the site of Fitness Edge).”
The duo sublet the space from 1987 to 1992 and had about 200 students. When they learned the building was being demolished, they looked for a new space of their own and found their current location. They did extensive construction and, today, they have four music studios, three dance studios, changing rooms, an eating/homework area and offices.
“What makes us different is our extensive show business background and faculty that is so diverse and quality, and on the same wavelength as us,” said Sirico. “The curriculum is also unique to ourselves. And not only do we teach students to dance but we also teach dance teachers how to teach and dance studio owners how to run their businesses.”
The latter work, in fact, led to the creation of a parallel business called DanceTeacherWeb, which is both an online resource and an annual live event.
“We both have a tremendous passion for dance,” said Sirico. “Teaching for us is not only teaching dance but life lessons, through building confidence, coping with failure, and teamwork. ‘Making it work’, in fact, is our motto. We get a lot of feedback from former students saying how much our program impacted their lives.”
On Saturday, March 3, the Centre will hold a “Bring on the Groove” fundraising gala, an annual affair, at the Regina A. Quick Center at Fairfield University. Proceeds will go toward dance scholarships. There will be several performances, an auction and refreshments.