When the instructors at MGOS Academy of Irish Dance—certified by the Ireland’s An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha to teach Irish dance—wanted to branch out, they created Ashford Ballet Company. Today, the two studios partner up to cover a diversity of dance styles to children, with Ashford Ballet Company’s New York State–certified staff tutoring tykes in the intricate steps of ballet, tap, and jazz.
The family-friendly studio makes the kid-centric space amicable for parents—who can sit in and watch their children's classes or cheer silently from behind the observation window—as a way to put kids at ease. When designing the curriculum, co-director Caitlyn Redmond and her fellow instructors swapped tales about their own childhood dance experiences (both good and bad), and from those stories settled on a philosophy based on nurturing individual progress, rather than adhering to a strict curriculum. "When you have a cookie-cutter approach to teaching dance, some kids don't fit the mold," she said. But at Ashford Ballet Company, "they all have a place to dance and feel included."
That includes the kids in her Movement for Dancers with Special Needs classes, which Caitlyn, who is also a special education teacher, began teaching to combine her two passions. "It increases their level of self-confidence. It gives them an opportunity to express themselves in a different way," she said.
She believes all their dancers—who range from toddlers to teenagers—reap those same benefits as they work together in a non-competitive atmosphere. At the end of the year, students perform in a one-hour recital designed to highlight each student's growth and show off their skills with plenty of solos, offering a departure from traditional dance studios' four-hour Macarena marathons.