It all began last summer when Joffrey Ballet Director Gail D’Addario visited the Cutting Den hair salon to touch up her highlights. During the treatment D’Addario mentioned to the salon owner Tom LaMarca that she was interested in bringing ballet to a high school in Brooklyn. By the time her highlights were done D’Addario was ready to forge a deal with Fort Hamilton High School.
“Tommy told me (Fort Hamilton school officials) were thinking of making the school into a mini Juilliard and that’s how it all began,” said D’Addario, who lives in Bay Ridge and has been LaMarca’s client for 20 years. “If I didn’t have that conversation with him that day, this would never have happened.”
LaMarca had heard from his wife Millie, a teacher of finance at the Bay Ridge school, that Fort Hamilton High was desperate to create a dance program.
“It’ll be Brooklyn’s own LaGuardia,” said LaMarca. “This will give Brooklyn kids something they could use to fulfill their dreams – and it all came from a Brooklyn Heights barber shop.”
Arranging the deal was surprisingly simple. Millie sent an emaul to JoAnn Chester, the principal at Fort Hamilton, explaining the offer from Joffrey. Within just a few meetings it was agreed and the project was launched.
“I guess my husband does listen when I tell him about work,” said Millie. “It’s amazing how a simple conversation about how the school wanted to expand its art program got us this.”
The Joffrey dance classes are set to begin this coming September. The school has been working hard to prepare a space appropriate to the level of dance instruction the Joffrey will provide. The studio will be in an old shop classroom in the basement after all the old equipment was moved out. The newly renovated room will be equipped with a specially designed $80,000 wooden dance floor, full-length mirrors, balance bars and a sound system. The renovations, which were insisted upon by the Joffrey, cost the school $225,000, but the quality of the instruction will be highly professional.
There are 25 dance majors participating in the program, which will meet every morning at 7am for two periods and will be taught by a Joffrey dance instructor.
Sixteen year old sophomore Iyanni Callender has been dancing since she was five years-old. She is excited about the Joffrey joining the school.
“I’ve heard about them a lot,” said Callender. “To know they’re coming into Fort Hamilton is a great opportunity for us.”