Neglia Conservatory- 20th Anniversary!
BUFFALO- SEPTEMBER 2014: Buffalo native Heidi Halt and Argentine born husband Sergio Neglia moved to Buffalo in early 1994 without a plan. They were transitioning from being full time ballet company dancers to freelance dancers and needed a home base. Although the couple made the decision to move to Buffalo together, it was Neglia who made the big plug for Buffalo. “ I loved Buffalo from the first moment I arrived for a visit many years ago. I loved that it was near water (for fishing), that it was a small city and that there were many creative people here,” says Neglia.
As word got out that there were professional ballet dancers in town, parents started approaching them about teaching classes. Halt says, “ I had quite a bit of teaching experience at that point so I was totally ready, but Sergio had virtually none. He was definitely not that enthusiastic about it. He was worried he’d be too strict. I pushed him to try and here we are 20 years later!”
The Neglia Conservatory opened their doors in September 1994 with 10 students. They rented a studio downtown for a few weeks and shortly after found space on the third floor of the historic Pierce Arrow building on Elmwood Ave and have been there ever since. The space has an “old school” feel to it. There are windows all around allowing for a lot of natural light and the studios are very spacious.
The Neglia Conservatory holds classes 6 days a week for approximately 100 students. Approximately half of the students live outside of the city of Buffalo and many travel several days a week from as far away as Angola, Colden, Lewiston and St. Catherine’s, Ontario. “The Neglia Conservatory has everything we were looking for in a pre-professional program!” says parent Chris Arndt. “It is not an easy task driving from St. Catherine’s to Buffalo 6 days a week. As a family we made a commitment to give Hannah the opportunity to pursue her dream. We trust Sergio and Heidi to help make that happen.”
The Conservatory now has two international boarding students enrolled. Yuha Tomita from Japan will be starting her third year at Neglia and Manuela Ch Valle from Argentina will begin her first year. Through collaboration with Buffalo Seminary both students take academic classes and board at Sem during the school year.
The Conservatory has been successful in identifying and nurturing young talent and several have gone on to have careers with the careful guidance of Halt and Neglia. The focus of the conservatory is classical ballet with contemporary classes offered to supplement their ballet training. Creative movement and pre-ballet classes are offered to 3-6 year olds. Because the school is relatively small, it gives Halt and Neglia the opportunity to really get to know each student and help each one reach their potential. “At Neglia, everyone who works hard gets attention.,” says Halt, “Because the classes are small and at a certain level they are required to attend several hours a week, by the time they leave Neglia they have developed strong technique, artistry and a great appreciation of the art form regardless of if they want to pursue a career in dance, go to college for dance or simply learn to dance.”
Maisha Copeland studied at the conservatory from 1998-2001. When asked how her training and experiences at Neglia influenced her she said, “I learned the importance of rigorous training, discipline, consistency, and hard work. Neglia Conservatory allowed me a platform to learn, practice and grow. The instructors are experts who develop professional and technically excellent dancers. The school influenced me to push myself to the next level on a daily basis. The technique I learned later became the foundation for everything I did in the field of dance. I am thankful to Neglia Conservatory because throughout my career as a dancer I’ve been complimented on my technique. I applied to 5 dance colleges where I was accepted on scholarship and none of that would have been possible without the training I received at Neglia Conservatory.” Today Maisha is a dance teacher and choreographer at Miami Carol City Senior High School and travels to different schools as a guest choreographer.
As the Conservatory begins their next 20 years Halt and Neglia hope to expand their national as well as international programs. “Buffalo is a very accessible city and parents feel comfortable leaving their children here,” explains Halt. “They receive great training and individual professional guidance at Neglia and housing and excellent academics at Buffalo Seminary. Not only is it appealing for parents and students from abroad it is also wonderful for our local students to interact and make lasting friendships with kids from different cultures.”
Neglia Conservatory is located at 1685 Elmwood Ave in the historic Pierce Arrow Building. For more information on classes call 716-447-0401 or visit www.negliaballet.org. Registration is ongoing.