Founded in 1968 by former Broadway dancer and esteemed ballerina Doris Driver, NEAD began as a boutique studio with only 12 dancers. Slowly, the school grew to extend class offerings to dancers of all ages, and encompass a studio company. In 2003, ownership was transferred to 3 directors with professional dance & choreography experience: Frances Ortiz, Ginna Ortiz, and Ted Thomas. Together, the new directors focused their energy on defining a curriculum for each distinct age group, and transforming the Nutcracker and Spring Performances into highly theatrical, community events. Enrolling over 500 dancers each semester during the past decade, NEAD has grown to become one of the foremost dance institutions in Fairfield County.
At NEAD, each class level has a unique curriculum that has been carefully crafted with specific, age-appropriate goals and achievements in mind. Both the classical Russian Vaganova technique and Italian Chichetti methods are incorporated into class work for all age groups. Additionally, the three NEAD Directors are certified to teach the AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE® National Training Curriculum, levels primary through five (5). At its core, the curriculum aims to provide students with the highest quality of age-appropriate, outcome-based training. These leanings have been integrated into all levels of NEAD schooling, to ensure high levels of physical and mental engagement across age groups.
Frances Ortiz, Director, graduated from the New World School of the Arts in Miami, FL, and went on to earn a BFA at SUNY Purchase and a MA in Dance Education at NYU. During her professional dance career, Frances received scholarships to Dance Theater of Harlem, The Martha Graham School and The Ailey School, and performed works by Kevin Wynn, Elisa Monte and Ti Martin. Additionally, her choreography was showcased in City Arts on PBS. In 2002, Ms. Ortiz co-founded Thomas/Ortiz Dance, a company that has since been invited to perform at esteemed venues such as Jacobs Pillow and Battery Arts Dance Festival. One year after founding Thomas/Ortiz Dance, Frances simultaneously became a director of NEAD, where she continues to act as a teacher, choreographer, and mentor for many. While overseeing progress of NEAD, Frances has taught and presented dance works at Yale and NYU, while also teaching dance at Greenwich High School. In 2015, Frances became certified to teach the AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE® National Training Curriculum, levels primary through five (5).
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Ginna Ortiz, Director, studied dance at the New World School of the Arts in Miami, FL, and received her BFA from SUNY Purchase with her twin sister Frances. For almost five years, Ms. Ortiz performed with Dance Theater of Harlem, and subsequently worked with a number of independent choreographers in New York City. In 1996, Ms. Ortiz began teaching at NEAD, where she later became a director in 2003. In addition to teaching and directing rehearsals at NEAD, Ginna actively performs with the Thomas/Ortiz company. In 2015, Ginna became certified to teach the AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE® National Training Curriculum, levels primary through five (5).
Ted Thomas, Director, attended La Guardia High School of Performing Arts in New York City, where his early interest in dance evolved into a professional passion. He went on to earn his BFA in dance from SUNY Purchase, and his MA in Dance Education from NYU. During his time dancing professionally, Ted spent seven years as a member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and performed with Ballet Hispanico, the Elisa Monte Dance Company, and Nikolais/Louis Dance. He was also afforded the opportunity to teach dance at Barnard College. In 2002, Mr. Thomas co-founded Thomas/Ortiz Dance with Frances Ortiz, and one year later became a director of the New England Academy of Dance. In 2015, Ted became certified to teach the AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE® National Training Curriculum, levels primary through five (5).