Finding one's niche in Durango's teeming dance community can be a challenge, but Dani Scarafiotti may be on to something.
After teaching dance in Durango for several years, Scarafiotti briefly left town in 2008 for the bright lights of Las Vegas but returned in January to begin Bella Dance Studio. The troupe has a core company of six Durango dance veterans and about 40 students.
That core, however, will be reduced to two when Durango High School seniors Lexy Silva, Laura Nass, Alexa Brennan and Daphne Hamilton graduate tonight. Each will be leaving town for college next fall. Fort Lewis College student Kayla Schultz and Bayfield High School junior Samantha Purdy will stay on board.
Scarafiotti said it is the core company that sets Bella Dance apart from typical groups. She doesn't ignore the technical aspects of dance - the 1, 2, 3s, if you will - but she also teaches the A, B, Cs.
"These girls were interested in teaching internships, and I wanted to give them that experience to make them as well-rounded as possible," Scarafiotti said.
"We're starting small, but my main goal is to give the dancers access to the working dance world as a profession. I want these girls to know what that entails, not just as an idea, but what they need to do to accomplish that. I take them to competitions where they walk away with more than just a trophy."
Bella Dance, its current incarnation anyway, will give one of its final performances Sunday at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. "Bella Danzante" will feature 11 pieces by the company and another 10 by the students including jazz, hip-hop, tap and contemporary numbers. The company surprised Scarafiotti at Thursday's DHS baccalaureate festivities with a pre-going away performance, putting its newly minted production skills into immediate practice.
"These girls are such amazing young women in so many ways," said Cindy Silva, mother of Lexy Silva. "I believe they are the role models any parent would want for their own daughters."
Scarafiotti said Bella Dance Studio will continue classes through the summer with Schultz and Purdy teaching many of the classes. She'll hold auditions to fill in the rest of the company in August.