Tags Posts tagged with "Jazz"



Welcome to the 29th edition of Paw Prints, a monthly column for animal lovers dedicated to helping shelter pets find their furever home.


Meet Jazz

This cool customer is Jazz, a twelve year old Yorkie mix up for adoption at Little Shelter in Huntington. While some may consider him a senior, he’s still lively and has plenty of dance moves to accompany any music you choose, whether it’s swing, big band, easy listening or the jive. Lighthearted, as well as light on his feet, he is the most delightful sidekick and companion. Chatty and charismatic, he’ll soon have you convinced to let him move in, share your blanket, and make him pancakes for breakfast! If our boy Jazz sounds like the one for you, do the hustle over to Little Shelter, sign on the dotted line, and waltz away with your new best friend! 631-368-8770, ext. 21


Meet Meowy

This special senior has the staff at the Smithtown Animal Shelter all by the heartstrings. Estimated to be around 14 years old, this black and white tuxedo gets along with dogs, children and other cats. Found as a stray with a severe abscess on her hind end, Meowy is all healed up, but it left a little weakness in her sphincter giving her occassional fecal incontinence where she sleeps. We know that this is not ideal, but there is a home out there that will love her despite this. She loves to be petted , eats up any attention you will give her, and will sit on your lap for hours. She is a good girl for grooming and vet visits. This love muffin would make a great addition to any home. 631-360-757

Peanut Butter

Meet Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter is as delicious as her name…This adorable female, tan Dachshund mix is approximately ten years young and by all definitions, is absolutely perfect. This poor baby was surrendered to the Smithtown Animal Shelter through no fault of her own.  She adores being in the company of people and will not hesitate to greet new friends with hopes of receiving a good petting in return. This sweet girl has a fondness for snuggles and has a lot of unconditional love to give one lucky family.

Peanut Butter’s ideal home can include a calm doggie sibling, possibly cats and kids preferably over the age of twelve. Little Peanut Butter deserves to have the happy ever after she was cheated out of. Let’s all help share Peanut Butter’s story, in hopes of giving her the very best life imaginable.

If you are interested in meeting Peanut Butter please schedule a date/time to properly interact in a domestic setting, which includes a Meet and Greet Room, the dog runs, and a Dog Walk trail. 631-360-7575


Meet Licorice

A six-year-old Labrador/Collie mix at Little Shelter in Huntington, this handsome, likable fellow is Licorice. Looking for an active family where he can be the only four-legged member, he’s hoping for a big backyard and endless games of fetch. Intelligent and adventurous, he’ll inspire you to try new things….the sky’s the limit with this one by your side! Possessing a strong work ethic, he’ll strive to become your best friend and most loyal companion, simply asking for the same in return. An added bonus? Licorice is known to have health benefits and acts as an antioxidant…we call this a win-win! 631-368-8770, ext. 2

Free Rabies Vaccinations

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services and the Town of Brookhaven will offer free rabies vaccinations for dogs, cats and ferrets on Saturday, June 1, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Brookhaven Animal Shelter located at 300 Horseblock Road, Brookhaven. The clinic is available to all county residents, however, the quantity of vaccine is limited and available only while supplies last. All dogs must be on leashes and all cats and ferrets must be in carriers. 631-451-6953

Adopt & Rescue Event

Save the date! Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center, 33 Warner Road, Huntington will host Anna & Raven’s Adopt & Rescue event on Saturday, June 22 from noon to 5 p.m. There will be numerous dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens up for adoption. Enjoy live music, raffle baskets and more! For more information, call 631-368-8770, ext. 21 or visit wwww.annaandraven.com/anna-raven-adopt-rescue.

Rescue is a lifestyle. Adopt, don’t shop.

Check out the next Paw Prints in the issue of June 27.

Paw Prints is generously sponsored by Mark T. Freeley, Esq.


The Jazz Loft

The following are events scheduled at The Jazz Loft for December 2022:

Thurs. 12/1, Friday, 12/2 and Saturday 12/3:    Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker at 7 p.m.                              For three evenings the 17 member Jazz Loft Big Band will present Duke Ellington’s Jazz Nutcracker. Vocalist Danny Bacher accompanies the band. Tickets: $35 adults, $30 seniors, $25 students, $20 children, children 5 and under free

Monday 12/5  Marty Isenberg, bassist , performs a recital for his Doctor of Music Degree from Stony Brook University at 7 p.m. Tickets: $10 Adults, $5 Seniors ,Children and Students, Free for Stony Brook Students, Staff and Faculty with ID.

Wed. 12/7: Young at Heart: It’s The Holiday Season at 1 p.m. The Jazz Loft Trio performs music of the season. Young at Heart is a monthly jazz themed concert series for those that like their jazz in the afternoon. Tickets: $10

Wed. 12/7:  Jazz Loft Trio and Jam at 7 p.m. The Jazz Loft Trio performs at 7 p.m. followed a jam at 8 p.m. Tickets: $10 at 7 p.m., $5 at 8 p.m.

Thurs. 12/8:  Jazz Dispatch at Madiran Wine Bar in Setauket at 7 p.m.  Jazz Loft regulars, Tom Manuel, trumpet and Steve Salerno, guitar, take their performance to Madiran Wine Bar.

Thurs. 12/8: Bad Little Big Band Holiday Show  at 7 p.m. Pianist Rich Iacona leads his 12 member band in performing music of the season. Tickets: $35 adults, $30 seniors, $25 students, $20 children, children 5 and under free

Fri. 12/9: Ray Anderson’s Seasonal Solstice Party at 7 p.m. Trombonist Ray Anderson brings on the holiday spirit with Tommy Campbell on drums and Mark Helias on bass. Tickets: $35 adults, $30 seniors, $25 students, $20 children, children 5 and under free

Sat. 12/10: Interplay Jazz Orchestra Family Show at 1 p.m. The 17 member jazz big band co led by Joe Devassy, trombone and Gary Henderson trumpet perform their annual family holiday concert. Tickets:$ 35 adults, $30 seniors, $25 students, $20 children, children under 5 free

Sat. 12/10:  Tom Manuel’s Eggnog Romp at 7 p.m. Trumpeter and Jazz Loft founder, Tom Manuel performs seasonal music with his quintet. Tickets: $35 adults, $30 seniors, $25 students, $20 children, children 5 and under free

Mon. 12/12: Stony Brook University Jazz Combos Concert at 7 p.m. Combos of graduate music students perform under the direction of trombonist Ray Anderson and trumpeter Tom Manuel. Tickets: $10 adults, $5 seniors & students, Free for SBU faculty,staff & students with ID

Tuesday 12/13 Moshe Elmakias, pianist, performs a recital for his Doctor of Music Degree from Stony Brook University at 7 p.m. Tickets: $10 Adults, $5 Seniors ,Children and Students, Free for Stony Brook Students, Staff and Faculty with ID.

Wed. 12/14:  Jazz Loft Trio and Jam at 7 p.m.  The Jazz Loft Trio performs at 7 PM followed by a jam at 8 p.m. Tickets: $10 at 7 PM, $5 at 8 PM

Thurs. 12/15, Friday, 12/16, Saturday, 12/17: Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker at 7 p.m.  For three nights the 17 member Jazz Loft Big Band will perform Duke Ellington’s jazz Nutcracker. Trumpeter Tom Manuel directs and narrates and vocalist Danny Bacher accompanies the band. Tickets: $35 adults, $30 seniors, $25 students, $20 children, children 5 and under free

Sun. 12/18:  Jazz Nativity  at 6 p.m. The candlelight jazz nativity featuring the Biblical Christmas story is performed by a jazz sextet. Tickets: $35 adults, $30 seniors, $25 students, $20 children, children 5 and under free

Wed. 12/21: Jazz Loft Trio and Jam at 7 p.m. The Jazz Loft Trio performs at 7 p.m. followed by a jam at 8 p.m. Tickets: $10 at 7 p.m., $5 at 8 p.m.

Thurs. 12/22:  Nicole Zuraitis Jazz Christmas Party at 7 p.m. Grammy nominated vocalist, pianist and composer, Nicole Zuraitis, appears backed by a big band ensemble to present holiday favorites. Tickets: $35 adults, $30 seniors, $25 students, $20 children, children 5 and under free

The Jazz Loft is located at 275 Christian Ave in Stony Brook Village. Tickets are available at www.thejazzloft.org and if available, in person prior to events. For more information, call 631-751-1895.

The Jazz Loft
What is Jazz? Tour takes visitors to seven jazz stops in history

The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Avenue in Stony Brook, will be presenting two opportunities to take a LIVE tour through jazz history, with its What is JAZZ? Interactive tour on September 10 (starting at 6 p.m.) and October 21 (starting at 7 p.m.). Visitors can arrive at 10-minute intervals-see TICKETS. The tour is comprised of seven stops within the Jazz Loft’s museum and performance space. Each stop in Jazz history is about four minutes, during which patrons will be treated to a brief performance and historical reflection. The entire live music, interactive experience will take about 30 minutes.

Guests begin in the main lobby and are welcomed to America by a lone pianist who introduces them to the BLUES. Each stop is limited to a brief historical reflection and a singular tune leaving guests hungry for more.

As they continue to the Seaman Gallery, inspired by Jazz photography, guests meet a singer who introduces them to the influence of GOSPEL music in Jazz and they hear a melody reminiscent of a tent revival meeting in the deep south.

As the tour continues, we stumble into the Milt Hinton Music Room and are ushered into the birthplace of Jazz, New Orleans as we hear the sounds of EARLY JAZZ presented by banjo/bass duo. Each time warp landing leaves no time for lingering and as the map leads from stop-to-stop patrons head upstairs to the Teddy Charles Room. Transported to the windy city of Chicago and the heyday of the BIG BAND/SWING ERA this stop is fueled by the syncopated vibrations of a clarinet/vibraphone trio reminiscent of Benny Goodman’s unit (the vibraphone, a 1939 Deagan model actually performed with Goodman and is flanked by photos to prove it!).

Six steps up the elevation climbs further to the wow-room and the journey continues as patrons are in the main performance space of the Jazz Loft, an intimate supper club environment complete with a three-tier bandstand reconstructed from the Roseland Ballroom dance floor and the towering 1927 Irving Plaza Ballroom chandelier, fully restored. Bandstand aglow in the history and story of the city that never slept, New York is alive with the energy, pep, vim and verve of BEBOPheralded by a quintet who’s never ceasing and endless energy abounds.

Is there more? YES! Because the story of Jazz is still evolving as told by the singular Avant-guard trombonist in the Loft’s library who shouts and wails the sound of THINGS TO COME and of beyond the now. The tour may seem complete, but this journey of four-minute stops, scheduled so that every group of guests has their own private walk through of the Jazz Loft will certainly leave much to be discussed.

Guests can then proceed to the Basie Garden to enjoy some lingering sounds of LATIN JAZZ to debrief their experience. Patrons can choose from a select list of wines, craft beers, snacks and drinks available for purchase.

Tickets, which are $30, $25 seniors, $20 students and $15 children, can be purchased at TICKETS

For more information, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

Pixabay photo

By Warren Strugatch

Warren Strugatch

My late wife Cindy and I made the jazz scene at Harmony Vineyards in the mid-2010s. The venue was marvelous, the music superb. We really dug young Zach, the man-bun styled bassist who held forth from Harmony’s tiny proscenium most weekends.  

Zach — first name, Keenan — stood out as both musician and band leader. Still in his 20s, his solid time evoking the legendary Ray Brown, Zach’s star was clearly on the rise. We’d walk in from the cold and listening from outside the room we’d know, from just a few notes, that Zach was on bass. 

The Harmony series ended, alas, but we kept running into this bass-playing prodigy around the North Shore. Tom Manuel, artistic director and Jazz Loft founder, entrusted him with the Loft’s Wednesday Night jam sessions. Week after week, Zach organized walk-on musicians into tight, expectation-defying ensembles. Under his direction, the guys on stage sounded like they work together all the time. On any given Wednesday night, you’d hear some of the finest jazz on Long Island. In fact, you still can.

Back in those pre-Covid days we attended delightful concerts put on by the Three Village Chamber Players. Here again was Zach playing Bach, Handel, and Teleman alongside oboes, harpsichords, and theremins.

Soon thereafter, we attended an outdoor concert by Taylor Ackley and the Deep Roots Ensemble, playing Taylor’s unique hybrid brand of prairie swing. Once more, it was Zach on bass.

By now, the man-bun was history.

Between sets, Zach mentioned he’d enrolled at Stony Brook University’s doctoral program in music performance. He said his studies were weaning him from his long-time need for audience approval; he felt now he could more readily play from what he called his authentic self and feel the music was going over with audiences. Clearly, his performances continued to blossom. 

As for getting a doctorate, he felt that would help hone his performances in all genres, while expanding his career options.

As Graduation Day approached, Zach reflected that his enrollment was a wise choice, having raised his appreciation for the nuances of chamber music even as it’s propelled him forward as a jazzman. 

“It’s all music,” he explained in a recent conversation. “I love jazz and I love chamber music. At this point in life and musical progress, I don’t feel there is all that much difference between musical styles. It’s not like jazz is pure improvisation and classical music is entirely written out. There’s substantial structure in jazz and much room for improvisation in chamber music.

He continued, “In fact, jazz really is a kind of chamber music. Musicians listen to each other and improvise together, whether it’s a jam session or a chamber recital.”

At age 34, the Miller Place native finds himself at a musical and personal crossroads.

“I really am at a precipice,” he says. “I face so many transitions. I ask myself: What comes next? Do I move further west and compete for more gigs and opportunities in jazz? Do I get more involved in classical bass playing? Do I pursue a faculty position at a university and maybe relocate to a rural area?”

The self-questioning brings him back to a comment he’s heard at SBU more than once from Ray Anderson, the jazz trombonist, teacher, and philosopher: “Let’s play, let’s have fun and maybe, just maybe, we’ll learn something.”

Zach smiles. “That’s the essence of jazz. Right there.” 

Coltrane Day celebrated it’s third year at Heckscher Park this past Saturday, July 22. Long Islanders were treated to a variety of music workshops and classes, as well as a community jam session, live performances and more.

With great admiration, many in the area are remembering a jazz music preservationist who recognized the importance of the American-born genre from its early days. Ann Sneed, 87, formerly of Stony Brook and founder of the nonprofit foundation International Art of Jazz, died in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 21, from cancer.

Sneed founded the International Art of Jazz foundation in the 1960s and organized concerts in the Three Village area, as well as surrounding towns. The foundation also traveled to schools to introduce children to the sounds of jazz throughout the state.

When Tom Manuel, trumpet player and owner of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook, decided to open his venue, he reached out to the music preservationist. He said for years he had heard about her from other musicians, who when they discovered he was from Stony Brook, would ask him if he was familiar with her.

Ann Sneed outside of The Three Village Inn before a campaign event for Assemblyman Steve Englebright in October of 2012. Photo by Maria Hoffman

“Ann used to produce these amazing concerts not just in Stony Brook but in the Three Village area, Port Jefferson, at the university,” he said in a telephone interview. “Some of the first jazz concerts at the university were produced by Ann. So, I always heard about her and was always kind of impressed that the oldest organization for jazz in the history of our country was founded right here in Stony Brook. What an amazing accomplishment.”

Manuel said Sneed’s health was failing when they connected, so the majority of their conversations occurred over the phone. The two of them would talk for hours about her life in music and her days running IAJ.

“She was there at the beginning,” he said. “There are so few people you can talk to like that now.”

Manuel described Sneed as spunky, bright, genuine and inspiring. He said he admired her for recognizing the importance of jazz music and preserving it.

“Everything she said was so powerful and so applicable today — that the music was so important, that the artists were so underappreciated,” he said.

Manuel was always in awe of her stories about all the musical artists she met, especially composer, pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington.

“She actually had a fairly well-established friendship with Duke Ellington, and that kind of floored me,” he said. “Not only just the fact that he was a jazz legend but Ellington was arguably one of the greatest American composers of all time, and so much of the jazz standards are Ellington compositions.”   

John Broven, music history author, also had the opportunity to meet Sneed when she lived in the Three Village area.

“For many years I knew Ann as the always-friendly ticket collector at Democratic fundraisers, but for a longtime had no idea of her background in classic jazz,” Broven said.

Sneed invited him to her home after she discovered his wife Shelley’s father was the founder of Golden Crest and Shelley Records of Huntington Station.

“It wasn’t until she asked me about three years ago to identify the valuable jazz albums in the large record collection at her Stony Brook home that I became aware of her deep involvement in the music,” he said. “As we browsed through the LPs with the red wine flowing, she brought alive revered artists as real people. She seemed to know them all, including Clark Terry, Marian McPartland, Billy Taylor and a personal favorite, Ruth Brown. Ann was a remarkable pioneering lady in the world of jazz, full of compassion for the musicians, and in a sense paved the way for today’s vibrant Jazz Loft facility in Stony Brook.”

In her autobiography “Miss Rhythm,” rhythm and blues singer Ruth Brown credits her participation in Sneed’s organization International Art of Jazz as being one of the opportunities that helped her get back on her feet after suffering with a career downturn and financial hardships.

“The work that she did, the pioneering work really that she undertook as the executive director of the International Art of Jazz, helped set the stage for the current level of appreciation that jazz has in our society.”

— Steve Englebright

Brown, who lived in Deer Park, wrote in her book how IAJ organized workshops in schools, from kindergarten to college, sometimes two or three times a week to expose children to jazz music.

In addition to her involvement in music, Sneed was also a member of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, and she was a familiar face at many campaign events for Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) where she was a volunteer manning the front desk.

Englebright said he knew Sneed for 35 years but when it came to her productions he was only able to attend one in the early years of IAJ. However, he said through his conversations with her about jazz and her productions he felt as if he attended all of her events.

“She had the great luminaries of the years when she was there (IAJ) from all over the country and all over the world,” he said. “She was the catalyst really for bringing so many of these people to our shores and to our community on Long Island. I think she lifted the level of our cultural experience rather significantly.”

The assemblyman echoed both Manuel’s and Broven’s sentiments about Sneed’s groundbreaking work as well as her paving the way for jazz appreciation even in present times. “The work that she did, the pioneering work really that she undertook as the executive director of the International Art of Jazz, helped set the stage for the current level of appreciation that jazz has in our society,” Englebright said. “Ann Sneed was well ahead of her time.”

The assemblyman said that it was after Sneed’s work with IAJ that she began to volunteer at his campaign events.

“I was so very privileged and honored that she spent a good deal of her time working to help me in my work with the public,” he said. “Often she was the person who would greet you at the door at the Englebright fundraisers, graciously show you in and make you feel that all was good.”

Matthew Barton, curator at the Library of Congress’ National Audio Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia, said recordings of the jazz concerts that Sneed produced are housed in the Library of Congress. The recordings include performances by jazz legends such as Brown, Wynton Marsalis, Illinois Jacquet, Johnny Hartman, Thad Jones and more.

“There are more than 200 of the jazz concerts that Ann Sneed mounted with the International Art of Jazz in the Library of Congress’ recorded sound holdings,” Barton said. “The tapes include a wonderful range of the best performers in jazz over several decades. It’s a wonderful and fitting legacy for someone who loved jazz so much, and did so much for it.”

Sneed is survived by her two daughters Jan Sneed and Kathleen Lukens and two grandsons. Services will be announced at a later date.

Jazz Loft’s Tom Manuel and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine get ready for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo by John Broven

By John Broven

Jazz past, present and future arrived with a blast at Stony Brook Village on Saturday, May 21, with the opening of a new home dedicated to the music: The Jazz Loft at 275 Christian Ave.

Jazz Loft’s Tom Manuel and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine get ready for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo by John Broven
Jazz Loft’s Tom Manuel and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine get ready for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo by John Broven

The celebrations commenced with an early afternoon street parade, New Orleans-style, prior to a ribbon cutting in which Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) presented Tom Manuel, the Jazz Loft’s founder and president, with a proclamation from the Town of Brookhaven.

Also in attendance were Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which owns the Loft’s historic building.

Soon the first notes were struck by the LIU Post Big Band performing Duke Ellington’s “Far East Suite” under the direction of Manuel to a standing-room-only crowd.

Visitors were able to view the Loft’s museum exhibits featuring greats such as saxophonist Louis Jordan, the biggest African-American star of the 1940s and a massive influence on the subsequent rock ’n’ roll era; heartthrob crooner Arthur Prysock; upright bassist Lloyd Trotman, a prolific session musician; society bandleader Lester Lanin; and the seafaring vibraphonist and composer Teddy Charles.

In the evening, the Jazz Loft Big Band concluded the day’s festivities backing up vocalist Lauren Kinhan, a member of the New York Voices, for a supper-club audience on a stage constructed from the dance floor of the famous Roseland Ballroom on 52nd Street in Manhattan.

From left, Assemblyman Engelbright, Supervisor Romaine, Tom Manuel (holding proclamation), Councilwoman Cartright and Gloria Rocchio. Photo from WMHO
From left, Assemblyman Engelbright, Supervisor Romaine, Tom Manuel (holding proclamation), Councilwoman Cartright and Gloria Rocchio. Photo from WMHO

“Our opening day was so moving to me,” Manuel, of St. James, said in a recent interview. “To parade through Stony Brook with 100 people in tow, a dozen classic cars honking those great vintage horns, cutting the ribbon — there just aren’t words to express my joy. It was a real highlight to have so many people there that helped make the Jazz Loft become a reality. It also was a real treat to look around the building and see some up-and-coming students in the same space as some of the jazz world’s greatest musicians.”

Manuel, an educator, musician and jazz historian, said the Jazz Loft is unfolding plans that “relate to our tri-fold mission of jazz preservation, education and performance. Our performance calendar for spring and summer brings to the Loft and Stony Brook Village some outstanding talent, recognized not just locally, but nationally and internationally. Our education calendar is about to be unveiled and includes some wonderful listening lectures and Jazz 101 classes presented by outstanding educators and performers.”

He added that the Loft is looking forward to displaying new acquisitions including memorabilia from jazz legends such as Dave Brubeck, Buck Clayton, Ruby Braff, Lloyd Trotman and others.

From today, June 2, the Jazz Loft will be open Thursdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 adults, $7 seniors, $5 students, children under 12 free. For more information, including upcoming concerts and programs, visit www.thejazzloft.org or call 631-751-1895.

John Broven is a member of the editorial staff at Times Beacon Record Newspapers and the author of three books: “Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans” (recently republished), “South to Louisiana” and “Record Makers and Breakers.”

Musicians celebrate the opening of The Jazz Loft. Photo by John Broven
Musicians celebrate the opening of The Jazz Loft. Photo by John Broven

Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

Walking into the dance studio at the Huntington YMCA feels like walking into a family gathering full of distant relatives you’ve never met before. But the vibe is one of comfort and inclusion, especially if you’ve got a penchant for impromptu group renditions of Taylor Swift songs.

Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

The friendly atmosphere inside the studio is natural, according to dance instructor Pam Christy-Allen, after students, teachers and parents have worked together for as long as they have.

“I have the same kids every year, so I build relationships with them,” Christy-Allen said in a recent interview. “As their sweet sixteens have come we’ve been invited to them and they include you like their family. It’s very rewarding.”

Last month, the YMCA’s dance program turned two decades old, a milestone that staff there celebrated. But there’s no resting on laurels — program leaders say they plan to stay on their toes.

In a recent visit to the program, students showed appreciation for their instructors. Thirteen-year-old hip hop, acro and ballet student Samantha Sluka began taking YMCA dance classes at age 3 and said that Debbie Smith, her ballet teacher, has kept her interested in dancing through the years. Sluka said YMCA classes have improved her self-confidence in addition to technical dance skills, and that in the future she “would love to dance on Broadway”.

Mary Dejana, a 17-year-old tap and jazz student, said that she likes lyrical and contemporary dance styles best because they help her express her feelings. She said that the YMCA program has taught her teamwork.

“Under the tutelage of my ballet, modern and pointe teacher Jo-Ann Hertzman and with the many opportunities the YMCA provided, I have come to understand not only more about dance but more about myself and the world around me,” wrote former student Mariah Anton in a letter to the staff at the YMCA. With plans to continue dancing at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Anton wrote that her “experiences at the YMCA have directed [her] to invest back into others through teaching, encouraging, and opening the world to the next generation in the same way that the YMCA invested in [her].”

Students practice using the bar at the YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Students practice using the bar at the YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Citing the Huntington YMCA as a “second home … during [her] childhood and early adulthood,” former student Melanie Carminati, now physical therapist and Pilates instructor in East Northport, called the dance program “a safe haven for artistic growth and creativity” in a written statement. She attributed the environment to the guidance of Edie Cafiero, cultural arts director.

Cafiero stressed the importance of allowing dancers to express their creativity from a young age. “We start with 3-year-olds,” he said. “We make it fun while still using terminology and introducing steps. We let them explore themselves at that age.” She said that classes become more serious as students age and advance, but that they have the option to either hone in on certain dance styles or further expand their horizons and learn new styles.

Among some of the less conventional dance classes offered at the YMCA are Irish step, hip hop, acro, lyrical, contemporary, modern and adult ballet.

When asked what factors have contributed most significantly to the success of the Huntington YMCA dance program, Cafiero pointed to the variety of classes offered and the welcome-all attitude of the staff.

She said she walked into a famous ballet school at age 15 “and they told me I was over the hill before seeing me dance. I never wanted a kid to feel like that. We don’t turn anyone away. If they have the passion to dance we want to nurture it.”

Anyone interested in the Huntington YMCA cultural and performing arts program is invited to contact Cafiero at 631-421-4242, ext. 132.

Elsa Posey is to be honored by the Northport Historical Society at the Northport Yacht Club next week. Photo from Posey

By Susan Risoli

Elsa Posey, founder and director of Northport’s Posey School, will be recognized by the Northport Historical Society next week for her lifelong commitment to dance education.

A dinner and dance in Posey’s honor will be held on May 30 at 7 p.m. at the Northport Yacht Club. Proceeds from the event will support the historical society’s community and education programs.

In an interview this week, Posey said she was grateful to be honored and pleased that the recognition would bring attention to the dance school she opened in 1953. She brought her love of dance to Northport because it is her birthplace, she said, and because “I love it here. I’m a sailor. Just being near the water is important to me.”

Posey describes herself as a dance historian. She and her staff teach the legacy of choreography and the freedom of improvisation. Building on tradition in dance means the individual dancer is “never alone. You are supported by all the dancers that went before you,” Posey said.

Dancing is alive with what she called “the spirits, the ancestors” of those who have performed and loved dance through the ages. Posey School students often recreate historic dances, the founder said, including minuets from the 1400s and 1500s. Posey said her students will perform excerpts from the ballet “Swan Lake” — a work from the 1800s, she pointed out — at Northport Middle School on June 6.

A distinguishing characteristic of her school is the lack of recitals. Posey is not a fan, she said, of recitals where children are not really dancing but merely reproducing steps by rote. Instead, “we do performances when the dancers have something to show,” she said. “They’re performing with the music, to bring out the elements that were intended in the role.” That flow between dancer and music is achieved through performance plus education, Posey said. She herself was trained at the School of American Ballet in New York City as a youngster. Today her students — who range in age from preschoolers to seniors — take classes in ballet, modern dance, jazz, folk and country dances.

Elsa Posey is to be honored by the Northport Historical Society at the Northport Yacht Club next week. Photo from Posey
Elsa Posey is to be honored by the Northport Historical Society at the Northport Yacht Club next week. Photo from Posey

The school is not about competition among students. “We don’t compare one person with another,” Posey said. “It’s not that you’re better than somebody else.”

Dance inspires in many ways, Posey said, and can even improve lives. “I help the children understand dance as a part of history and their culture,” she explained. Appreciating cultural differences, and the values held by those who live in other places, “is what makes us better people.”

Make no mistake — though dance is surely physical, it’s much more than athletics, Posey said. “Dance is not a sport. It’s an art.” Musicians, too, she said, know that music and movement can create “an opening of the mind.”

Posey was the founder and first president of the National Dance Education Organization, which gave her its Lifetime Achievement Award. She is current president of the National Registry of Dance Educators, a group of master teachers of dance.

Heather Johnson, director of the Northport Historical Society, said the organization is honoring Posey because “she always talks about how great the community is here. But she’s part of what makes it wonderful.” Posey “is so very dedicated to her students,” Johnson said. “And she’s also been a supporter of the historical society.”

In a press release from the historical society, Steven King, president of the society’s board, said, “The entire Northport community has benefited greatly from Elsa Posey’s commitment to providing dance instruction and performance.”