VSPAC | HISTORY
Almost fifty years ago, American Ballet Theatre Company’s tour brought them to Athens. As part of their tradition, The National Ballet of Athens hosted their stay. Professional dancers must take class every morning, so The National Ballet of Athens invited the dancers of American Ballet Theatre to take class in their studios.
During those classes, the directors of American Ballet Theatre recognized the talents of Vicky Simegiatos, then a young dancer with the Athens company. Before they left Athens, they’d offered Vicky a full scholarship to come to New York City and study with the American Ballet Theatre Company. As ABT was internationally recognized for having attracted the best ballet dancers from all over the world, Vicky knew that she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Within the year, she’d moved to New York City and joined up with the company. Once in America, she also received an offer from the San Francisco Ballet, one of America’s very first ballet companies.
Though she went from success to success at the elite level of the ballet world, Vicky knew that she had to choose between pursuing the exacting career of a professional ballerina, or raising a family. She chose to raise a family and she never looked back.
Her young family settled in Brooklyn and the next phase of Vicky’s career began. Her love of ballet remained so deep and required expression. So in 1972, The Vicky Simegiatos Dance Studio was founded, and Vicky opened for business at the Third Avenue location. She taught the Russian influenced Balanchine technique of ballet. She also taught Greek dancing, and received great support from the Greek community, having earned the love of many students at Holy Cross, where she taught Greek language. Her 1972 class boasted 50 students.
A whirlwind of energy and love of her craft, Vicky opened the Fifth Avenue Studio in the following year. Her roster of students progressively expanded and Vicky taught every class that her studios offered. She taught all styles of dance, to all ages, and at all levels. She also initiated her own version of the apprentice system within her studios. Nearly all of her teachers began their association with her studios as students in her classes. She inspired them with the example of her own teaching. “They learned the way that I do things. They are an extension of me,” Vicky said. “They are like my own children, my own family. I love them all.”
In 1980, Vicky launched the Vicky Simegiatos Dance Company, taking on the extremely ambitious project of staging and performing a full length ballet, The Nutcracker. The Company spawned the Scholarship Program, for which Vicky hand picked her strongest ballet students, and gave them the opportunity to learn the scope of ballet technique, artistic expression, and performance. These classes are given to the Scholarship Students free of charge, and the Company remains as a non-profit entity, funded by the community. They’ve performed several full length ballets, including Coppelia and Cinderella.
Throughout the years, the Studios and the Scholarship Program continued to flourish, attracting students from all over Brooklyn to Vicky’s three separate studio locations. Collectively, the studios offer 80 individual classes per week, to over 500 students. Matina Simegiatos, who studied at the School of American Ballet and La Guardia High School for the Performing Arts, and performed with New York City Ballet, now runs the Ballet Scholarship Program. Though she was recently awarded a recording contract, she also teaches music at the Performing Arts Center. Despina Simegiatos, who won prestigious Choreography Awards at LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, and studied at Broadway Dance Center and Steps, has brought her experience as a dancer and a producer of music, as well as her cutting edge pop culture sensibilities, to the studio’s jazz classes and Competition Teams.
In May of 2005, our Jazz Team was chosen out of thousands of applicants for the opportunity to perform at Madison Square Garden at the season opener for the New York Liberty.
Many of Vicky’s teachers and former students have gone on to perform in the most rarefied circles in New York City, with companies such as Alvin Ailey, Joffrey Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, and LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts.
Eight years ago, Vicky founded the Performing Arts Center, offering classes in Musical Theatre and private music instruction. They mounted a stellar production of the Wizard of Oz, complete with singing and dancing to the accompaniment of a live Broadway orchestra. At the same time, Despina began taking Jazz Teams to Competition. Today, the studios can boast several multi-award winning teams and many star soloists, in Jazz, Ballet, Lyrical, Theatre Dance, Vocal, Tap, Hip Hop and Salsa.
At her last gala, Vicky told the audience that her experience with the studios has been the same as a night spent at a wonderful party. It was all such an enjoyable affair, that she never felt the time go by. That is why we take the opportunity to pause for this moment and commemorate this milestone in the history of Brooklyn’s best dance studio, while looking ahead to a future that only grows more brilliant.