What is Off Center Dance Theatre?
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WHAT IS OFF CENTER DANCE THEATRE?
Off Center Dance Theatre (OCDT) was created in 1991 by Joe Antony Cavise as a Westchester based not for profit organization, chiefly as a performance vehicle for young professional dancers to have the opportunity to work with various choreographers in a concert setting. Since then, it has evolved into a strong philanthropic organization, in particular, with the formation of the Off Center Dance Theatre Youth Ensemble in 1993. OCDT is now an organization which operates with two missions: Dance Performance and Community Outreach.
The young members of OCDT act as goodwill ambassadors and inspire other children as mentors through dance partnerships. Over the years Joe and the company members have developed relationships through interactive workshops with many children’s organizations including: Ronald McDonald House, Blythedale Children’s Hospital, UNICEF, HELPUSA Organization, and the Maria Ferrari Children’s Hospital at the Westchester Medical Center.
Off Center Dance Theatre has also hosted 10 Danceathons raising close to $70,000 for various charities including Pediatric Cancer Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Blythedale Children’s Hosptial, Ronald Mcdonald House of the Greater Hudson Valley and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
In addition, the Off Center Dance Theatre Youth Ensemble hosts an annual Spring Dance Invitational where they share the stage with invited youth companies, as well as a professional Guest Artist.
Joe Cavise, the company’s Artistic Director, has lived and breathed the art form professionally for over 35 years. His passion within his passion is to work with children. “I have been very fortunate to do work that I love” he says, “and it is extremely rewarding to give back to the community, and more so, to watch that philosophy flourish in these young boys and girls that I work with.”
WHAT IS EXPECTED OF AN OFF CENTER DANCE THEATRE MEMBER?
There are several levels of expectations of an Off Center Dance Theatre member, including technical ability, attitude and dedication.
TECHNICAL ABILITY: Members are chosen through an annual audition process. A Ballet and Jazz audition in front of a panel of judges is required of all potential members. A separate Hip Hop audition is held for the Hip Hop company. The panel of judges is typically comprised of professionals from NYC who consider technical and performance abilities of the dancers.
ATTITUDE: Maintaining a positive attitude and team effort is very important to Off Center Dance Theatre members. Older members are expected to be positive role models to the younger members, during rehearsals, in class setting, and during worshops/performances. The company often performs to those of less capability and privilege than us and disrespect for others will not be tolerated. The company members are expected to act as hostesses and extent a warm welcome with general hospitality to all of our guests at the Spring Invitational.
DEDICATION: Off Center Dance Theatre Youth Ensemble is for the young technically advanced dancer who wants to make a serious commitment to the art of dance as well as the community service that the company does. Dedication and commitment begins in the classroom and extends to rehearsals and our performance and community outreach schedule.
Poor performance in any of the above will lead to a review and discussion of discharge from the company.
Thoughts From The Artistic Director
I dance for the love of it. It’s what I know and what I’ve done for nearly forty years. I know how the power of dance gives you strength and center from within.
Why do I teach? After fulfilling my performance goals, I have experienced first hand how exhilarating, demanding, and at times, grueling it can be. Throughout that exciting chapter in my life I held fast to the idea that I wanted to pass along that passion, discipline, and joy of dance and performance to children. It amazes me to watch a child realize for the first time the simplest connection of movement and rhythm to music. To see it in their face “I can do it!” is a gift. To watch some of these children grow into beautiful dancers is a wonderful reward.
A big part of what I believe is that we can all try to be the best that we can be, the gifted, talented, and those at risk alike. That is what Off Center Dance Theatre and its Youth Ensemble is about. What started out many years ago as a performance outlet for young dancers has grown into so much more.
Bringing these young adults into a facility such as Blythedale Children’s Hospital and dancing with children who were born with physical or mental challenges teaches us about humility and our life priorities. We watch burn victims or children suffering from traumatic accidents dancing in their wheelchairs. Working with the Genesis children from HELP USA in past years has taught us invaluable lessons in charity and giving. I have always said that if I can make a child forget her problems for just 10 minutes, then I’ve done my job.
So why do I do it? Simply put for the love of dance and children. When I started out teaching simple plies and tendus I hadn’t planned on how much my approach and, in fact, vision would change through the years. The children have taught and influenced me as much as I have them. If I have helped influence their future in a positive way, there is no better reward.
Joe Antony Cavise
Thoughts from the OCDT Youth Ensemble Members:
“Being in Off Center has taught me so much about caring for others and making their time with us fun and enjoyable. It helps me spread my passion for dance to others and put a smile on their face. The best part about OCDT is that you can do what you love and still help those less fortunate. I’m so grateful that I got to experience being a member of OCDT and will carry its benefits with me for the rest of my life!” – Laura Angley, age 16
“ This is my first year in Off Center and it took me so many tries to get to where I am today. When I finally reached my goal I felt so accomplished. To me, Off Center means determination, perserverance and success.” – Emily Biehl, age 16
“ I love being part of the Off Center Dance Theatre because it’s a place where I can share my love for dance and be a teacher, mentor, and friend to other children. I am helping to teach children that they can dance, no matter what circumstances they are in. This is something they may not have had the opportunity to do. Realizing they can dance helps the children to never give up hope and always T-R-Y to accomplish their larger goals. Seeing their faces light up when they realize this warms my heart. These kids soak up any form of encouragement given to them and are so open and willing to befriend a complete stranger like me. I am honored to be a part of the Off Center Dance Theatre.” Fiona Cavise, age 16
“This is my first year in Off Center Dance Theatre, and it has taught me so much! I love doing the workshops with children and seeing their faces when they get applause from everybody watching them dance. I have been really moved by all of the inspiring words the children say. I hope to continue being in this wonderful company and reaching out to my community.” – Phoebe Cavise, age 14
“The first time I put on my OCDT bedazzled leotard, I felt not only special but I felt like I was part of something big. Being in OCDT to me is a dream, I can’t believe it’s happening, the experience is amazing and I couldn’t ask for anything more. The best part is that I get to do something that I love not only to make me happy, but to make other kids happy for a good cause.” – Maya Coben, age 11
“OCDT is an amazing place to dance and help others who cannot.” – Charlotte Constan, age 14
“Being a member of Off Center Dance Theatre has really put my own life in perspective. I am so fortunate to be able to do what I love while helping those that wouldn’t normally have these types of experiences.” – Kelsey Davidson, age 14
“Off Center is a place where I can go to do the thing I love to do…dance. I also get to help other people. I get to spend time with my friends and make a difference in someone’s life. Every time we visit a child we make a difference; either raising money or just being there changes that child’s life. Visting the children is a life changing experience that I will always remember. This is my second year in Off Center Dance Theatre but I hope I will be able to be a part of this family for many years to come” – Alia Dixon, age 15
“I love the OCDT Youth Ensemble and I’m very proud to be a member! Off Center has taught me that dance isn’t just about performing on big stages or competitions. It’s about sharing your passion with others and having fun doing it. It feels amazing to know that I’ve made a difference for less fortunate children and seeing the smiles on their faces is so fulfilling. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share my love for dance with others. The Youth Ensemble has helped me gain experience, happiness, and great friends.” – Rennie Durr, age 16
“The Off Center Dance Theatre Youth Ensemble is totally awesome to me! I get to work with really cool choreographers, dance with really talented people, and work out to great music. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s are the best nights of the week because after school, I get to go to Dance Cavise and have the greatest time! And no one laughs at me when I try new cool moves!! It’s really awesome!!! – Danny Etkin, age 10
“To me, dance is a great way to express yourself. I love having this amazing opportunity to perform with Off Center Dance Theatre. It gives me a chance to work hard, hangout with my friends and make lots of other children happy.” – Jessica Ewald, age 12
“Off Center Dance Theatre is not just a place where we dance, it’s a place where we come together and perform as a family. This is my first time in OCDT, and already I have made friends that I know I will have forever. Performing for the kids, just to see them smile for one second, makes my day! I have been doing hip hop for a while, but being picked for a company is an honor that cannot be described in words. I hope I can be a part of this wonderful opportunity next year as well.” – Haley Gibbs, age 12
“Being a part of Off Center means doing what I love best and giving back at the same time. Dance has always been a part of my life and now I get to share my passion with an amazing group of girls. Knowing that you made a difference in somebody’s life, big or small, is a rewarding feeling. I am so happy I get to be a part of this amazing experience.” – Emma Gottdiener, age 14
Off Center to me is a place of self-expression and stress relief. With my hectic schedule and schoolwork it’s always comforting to take time out of my life to give back to the community, especially in a way that involves dance. Off Center consistently offers me a healthy environment in which I can express how I’m feeling through dance and I am extremely thankful to be a part of such a positive group.” – Emily Hauben, age 15
“ I love being a part of Off Center because I’m lucky enough to be able to make others happy while doing something I love!” – Chiara Heintz, age 16
“To be in Off Center Dance Theatre is like a dream to me. For as long as I can remember, I always looked up to the girls in the black bejeweled leotards. Now to rehearse with them every Tuesday night is the highlight of my week. I feel honored to be a part of the company. The best part about being in Off Center is that I get to do what I love for a good cause.” – Talia Mandell, 13
“Being a member of OCDT means so much to me. Having the opportunity to express myself through dance every day, and also spending time with all of the great people who are also members of the company is amazing. Even though it is a lot of hard work, every bit of it is worth it after seeing the happiness and excitement of all the children we perform for and dance with.” – Mary Kate Moseman, age 16
“Being a part of Off Center Dance Theatre means so much to me! I have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate while at the same time sharing my passion for dance with friends who are equally as avid. OCDT has helped me to grow not only as a dancer but as a person as well, teaching me lessons in commitment and determination. It is such a great privilege to be a part of this.” – Theresa O’Quinn, age 16
Off Center gives me a chance to let loose, be myself and follow in my sister’s “dance” steps.” – Cori Pitiger, age 13
“ I am so happy to be a part of this company. I always have so much fun and I hope I will get this same opportunity next year.” – America Richmond, age 13
“To me, Youth Ensemble means hard work, dedication, and friendship. Going to rehearsal and performing for other children really highlights my dance life. I am so glad to be part of the company.” – Camille Swersky, age 17
“To me, Youth Ensemble is freedom to have fun and interact with kids by doing what I love. It is a chance for me to be who I am and for others to see me.” – Juliette Swersky, age 15
“Off Center means a lot to me. It was a big deal for me when I was little because I wanted to be just like the older girls. Now that I am what I considered one of the older girls I really appreciate it. I love being part of a company that is so giving to children who need some extra cheering up in their day. Off Center gives me the opportunity to dance for the benefit of someone else. Off Center makes me a stronger dancer and a stronger person. I’m proud to be part of such an amazing dance company. “ – Cameron Swift, age 13
“What Youth Ensemble means to me is that I get to dance with kids that probably wouldn’t get to dance on a regular basis. Also, I get to have fun and hang out with the people I love.” – Susanna Wach, age 15
JOE ANTONY CAVISE, began his professional career in 1981 when he joined the Actor’s Equity Association and the Screen Actor’s Guild. Mr. Cavise received critical acclaim from The New York Times for his role of Dick McGann in the Off-Broadway production of Street Scene. In 1983, he joined the original Broadway Company of Cats and later, performed the lead role of “Mr. Mistoffelees”. He was featured in A Chorus Line- The Movie, and has appeared in many TV films and Soap operas.
In 1991, Mr. Cavise founded the Off Center Dance Theatre, Inc., (OCDT ), now in residence at the Dance Cavise Studios. He has created over three dozen pieces exposing scores of dancers to his choreography. Mr. Cavise has been teaching dance for over twenty five years and decided to leave his performing career to dedicate himself to children and dance education. He managed and taught at STEPS on Broadway, one of NYC’s foremost dance institutions. In 1989 he and his wife Lori, opened Dance Cavise Inc. located in Mamaroneck, NY. In 2001, Mr. Cavise was quoted as “Westchester’s Dance Man” in Dance Teacher Magazine, a national publication dedicated to dance educator’s in the United States.
He strongly believes that children are our future, and hopes that his legacy will have a lasting and positive affect on their lives.