Socially Conscious Dance Company Comes To Town

Dance can change lives. It offers young people a creative, physical way to express themselves. It teaches confidence, focus, discipline, strength and poise.

Dancers learn to work as a team, while exploring — intellectually, artistically, even actually — the wide world around them.

But it can’t happen if youngsters don’t have a chance to dance.

Several years ago, Michelle Sperry started Encore Youth Company. The non-profit offered lessons to boys and girls, ages 5 through high school, in underserved communities like Bridgeport.

She raised — and gave away — over $200,000.

Recently, Sperry — a choreographer who has written original ballets, and produced musical theater shows for schools — changed her non-profit’s name.

And its focus.

CT Theater Dance Company still offers scholarships. But Sperry has added a professional component. So — in addition to lessons — young dancers now have powerful, performing role models to look up to.

Its Ketchum Street location is perfect, Sperry says. Dancers from New York and New Haven take the train to Westport, then walk a minute or to the Saugatuck site.

Dancers from as far as Brazil come to train with resident choreographer Alejandro Ulloa.

Those dancers are attracted by CTD’s mission. Sperry — whose title is artistic director — calls this a “socially conscious dance company.”

That means CTD dancers use movement, lighting, music and emotion to bring awareness to social issues. The goal is to inspire empathy and awareness through contemporary ballet.

A CT Theater Dance rehearsal in Westport.

Each performance champions a local nonprofit organization. Special choreography highlights the cause and passion of that group. Causes include dancers with disabilities, human trafficking, world hunger and animal rights.

A few days ago, CTD debuted “Blue For Dance,” at the Westport Country Playhouse. All 3 pieces were inspired by the struggles of autism. The production highlighted the main professional company, local dancers, and students ages 4 to 14 from CTD school.

Rivera says that if the audience left the Playhouse “questioning, happy and confused,” he was successful. “My work forced you to feel.”

Sperry is proud of her new company. “I want to create a company with meaning, provide jobs to working artists, and give opportunities to younger dancers,” she says.

“We’re challenging audiences with contemporary ballet — not flowers and props.”

Tavon Dudley, a member of the CT Theater Dance company.

As part of its socially conscious mission, CTD has already reached out to West Rocks Middle School in Norwalk. Dancers showed the students how they warm up. They talked about autism. And they tantalized them with snippets of their show.

CTD will do similar outreach in other cities. And Sperry is excited to do it from Westport.

“This town is really savvy about performing arts,” she says. “I think people here will understand and appreciate the caliber of dancers, and what they do.”

“This is a town that embraces diversity,” she adds. One of her dancers is a pan girl, with a shaved head. Another is an African American with tattoos. They’re not your typical ballet dancers.

And CT Theater Dance is not your typical company.

(For more information on CT Theater Dance Company click here, or email

2 responses to “Socially Conscious Dance Company Comes To Town

  1. We’re proud to be a part of the CT Theater Dance Company. Great work Michelle!

  2. Amy Benjamin

    My daughter who is 14 has been fortunate to dance with Michelle. She has performed in a tribute dance
    For a 6 year old girl from Norwalk who died from the flu and the autism piece. She learned how dance can depict struggles and sorrow as well
    As beauty and joy.
    The autism performance was amazing. I hope the community supports and sees their next show.
    Thank you Dan this is a great blog