The New England Academy of Dance was established in 1968, under the name of the New Canaan Academy of Dance by Doris Driver. Mrs. Driver was a professional dancer who appeared in numerous productions, including Broadway’s “Kiss Me Kate” and Radio City Music Hall’s “Christmas Spectacular” as a Rockette. When she retired from performing, she identified the need for a dance academy that offered professional training in the area and started her school with 12 students.
Over the years, the School trained dancers of all ages and staged numerous performances. In 1985, the studio presented the first annual Nutcracker Ballet. This tradition continues today, featuring students of NEAD and company members of the New England Dance Theater, the performance arm of the New England Academy of Dance. In the mid-1990s, Mrs. Driver hired professional dancers from New York City to perform principal roles in the studio’s productions, which is how she met Ted Thomas and twin sisters Ginna and Frances Ortiz. In 2003, Mrs. Driver retired from her position as director of NEAD, passing the role to Frances, Ginna and Ted.
Ginna, Ted and Frances all earned their BFAs from SUNY Purchase and worked professionally for several Dance Companies before focusing their creative energies on NEAD. Their guidance has helped the school grow to over 300 students and offer levels of dance from Moms and Tots through high school students. The New England Dance Theater is run by a separate board of directors and focuses on maintaining high quality productions, bringing in high profile professionals to teach Master Classes as well as community outreach. In addition to our annual Nutcracker, the New England Dance Theater has also put on many classical ballets and has invited several guest choreographers to work with our dancers to develop a contemporary repertoire. Our dancers develop the highest quality of ballet technique and attend many prestigious summer programs and colleges.
Today, the School boasts a distinguished staff, a pre-professional training program for the most advanced students, and a comprehensive dance curriculum to develop young dancers. Now, nearly 45 years after its founding, the New England Academy of Dance and New England Dance Theater have achieved the vision of delivering high quality, professional training and superior performance opportunities to dedicated young dancers.