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The mission of the Orpheum Dance Program is to infuse the next generation with a love of dance through participation on the highest level.

Orpheum Dance Program

Combining community dance classes with two major performances a year, The Nutcracker and A Midsummer Night’s Dream The Catskill Mountain Foundation, in partnership with Victoria Rinaldi, helps cultivate young dancers to reach their fullest potential while dancing alongside professional and pre-professional dancers from the most renowned dance programs in the country.

Whether a child is looking for intense training to launch a career, or is yearning to learn and perform on stage, the discipline and skills acquired through these programs will benefit them in every aspect of their future.

History of the Orpheum Dance Program

While I was a ballet student in Washington DC and later a professional in New York City I never questioned what would have happened had I not had exposure to live ballet performances and access to good teachers and training.  It was not until I took a ballet class upstate, years after retirement that I realized how fortunate I had been.  In that studio in Saugerties, NY I saw a few talented, young dancers.  They were the best dancers in the most advanced class that school had to offer.  I knew those young dancers would never reach their dreams with the training available to them.  What is worse, they would never know until it was too late.  The students could tell there was a difference between my dancing and that of their teachers.  They started asking me for help and corrections.  I gave them a firm “No.”  It would be extremely bad form to correct another teacher’s student during a class I was taking.  Their parents asked me if I would consider coaching.  Justin Valentine and Freeda Handelsman, two dancers in that studio in Saugerties became my first two students in what would later become The Orpheum Dance Program.

The following year, in 2014 I needed a space to prepare Justin for international competition. Peter and Sarah Finn graciously gave us use of The Red Barn.  I asked them if there was something that I could do for them.  “A Nutcracker,” they replied.  In 2015 we premiered The Catskill Mountain Foundation’s Nutcracker with two performances at the Orpheum Performing Arts Center in Tannersville.  I featured my private students in major roles, collaborated with colleagues to supply corps dancers, and held an audition for local children to learn the simpler parts.  Participation would be free, costumes would be supplied, children and parents only had to promise to come to rehearsals to be cast in the show. Our Nutcracker has always attracted a complete economic cross section in its participants.  Stepping into rehearsal everyone becomes equal, same pink tights and shoes, same steps to learn, same rules to follow.  All the children participating that first year had no dance training, most had never seen a live dance performance.   The cast has tripled in size over the years.  We’ve expanded Nutcracker weekend to four shows and assign multiple casts so everyone gets a chance to perform.  For many of these children it is the highlight of their year.

It takes great effort to make a ballet dancer.  It is an extremely competitive career.  All that effort is wasted if the art form becomes extinct for lack of fans and support.   Support of the arts must be nurtured.  The effect of Nutcracker on the community was remarkable.  I watched both the children and their parents become ballet fans.  They wanted to see more dance.  The children wanted lessons; they wanted to dance like the dancers on pointe… The Orpheum Dance Program was born.  

In 2018 The Orpheum Dance Program’s Community Class was formed.  Participation has expanded every year and more classes were added.  The goal, to provide local children the same superior dance training I received as a child in a major metropolitan area.  Everyone is welcome, no matter of ability, scholarships are given when necessary.  The Program offers low-cost ballet classes, a yearly spring recital, participation in all the Program’s productions, plus occasional master classes and open rehearsals with visiting residencies.  In 2019 another yearly performance, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was added to the dance roster. 

This unique production makes the Shakespeare comedy accessible by mixing spoken word with dance and is another perfect opportunity to have children dance alongside professionals.   2019 ended on such a high note, Midsummer Night’s Dream was well received, Nutcracker had its most successful season, the local children were making huge progress in their classes.  There were plans to build a desperately needed ballet studio when the pandemic hit in 2020.

2020 was particularly cruel to both children and the performing arts.  March 16th the Community Class was moved to zoom until June.  The Orpheum Dance Program’s alumni had big career propelling events that were cancelled.  These dancers were trained by me, they had all danced in our productions.  The Foundation could take credit for much of their success.  I was able to work with these dancers through the summer, keep them in shape and ready for what came next.  They were able to join the Community Class students to perform in a film shot both on the Orpheum stage and outdoors.   “We Will Dance Again” was presented by the Foundation in September.  CLICK HERE to watch the film!

September the Community Class resumed.  The Foundation made the Red Barn a safe bubble for our ballet classes.  A rotating schedule of one child in the Red Barn with me and the rest of the class attending on zoom was put in motion.  The dancer in the room got individual attention usually reserved for the most serious dancers in their private coaching sessions.  I know they will treasure this one-on-one time as much as I during this difficult time.  We were joined by several young dancers from the city whose families were sheltering upstate for the year.  The parents did their part, erecting barres in living rooms, church basements, moving furniture and manning computers to make sure their children could get the most from their zoom classes.  Everyone has continued to work and learn, three girls even graduated to working on pointe during this time.  Community class has continued without pause throughout the pandemic year.

December 2020, “A Victorian Nutcracker Remembrance” was presented.  An opening sequence shot on location in Windham, Hunter and Tannersville was added to five years of archival Nutcracker footage.  I had the opportunity to see several filmed presentations of this region’s Nutcrackers during the Christmas season and I can say without bias, we have a Nutcracker to be proud of!

In the editing of the final credits of Nutcracker I had to compile a list of every performer during the five years.   Over 190 children, dancers and adults have been in costume, onstage since 2015.    Thousands have watched the performance as an audience member.  That’s a lot of lives touched!  The structure and discipline of ballet class has helped our local children become the best version of themselves.

For more information about the Orpheum Dance Program, Community Dance Classes, or auditions for The Nutcracker, please contact Victoria at rinaldi.victoria@gmail.com

Community Class


A year-round program offering instruction in dance to children of all ages and abilities.

8-Week Fall Session Begins Tuesday, September 20

For information about schedule, tuition and safety protocols contact:
Victoria Rinaldi, Director, Orpheum Dance Program •  rinaldi.victoria@gmail.com

Tuesday Schedule:
Basic Ballet I: 4:15 - 5:15
Ballet III: 5:15 - 6:45

Thursday Schedule:
Ballet II: 4:15 - 5:30
Ballet III 5:30 - 7:00

CLICK HERE to download the Parent Handout
CLICK HERE to download the Release Form


Orpheum Dance Program Production Alumni

Catskill Mountain Foundation credits:
The Nutcracker: Cavalier 2015, 2016, 2017.
American Dream: 2015, 2016, 2017
A Victorian Nutcracker Remembrance: 2020

Gold medal VKIBC St. Petersburg Russia 2017, Silver Medal Concorso di Danza Internationale Spoleto 2016, Silver medal VKIBC New York 2016, 2017, Yuri Groigorovich Young Ballet of the World, Sochi 2016 Bronze medal, South Africa International Ballet Competition 2016, VKIBC 2015

In 2016 Justin studied at the Vaganova Ballet Academy St. Petersburg, Russia. Justin is currently a Principal Dancer with the Columbia Classical Ballet, Columbia SC

Catskill Mountain Foundation credits:
The Nutcracker: Christmas Star, Arabian Dancer 2016
American Dream: 2017
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Helena 2019
We Will Dance Again: 2020
A Victorian Nutcracker Remembrance: 2020

Freeda has participated in several international festivals and workshops. In 2019 she was selected to study at Zurich University of the Arts as the first exchange student from CalArts. Freeda would have participated in Springboard Danse Montreal in the summer of 2020. She will receive her BA from CalArts University, Santa Clarita, CA, spring 2021.

Catskill Mountain Foundation credits:
The Nutcracker: Nutcracker Prince 2015-2016
American Dream: 2015, 2016, 2017
We Will Dance Again: 2020
A Victorian Nutcracker Remembrance: 2020

Gold medal at VKIBC NY in 2016

In 2017 Orlando received a full scholarship to The Julliard School.  He also has a full scholarship to Arts Umbrella Vancouver, Canada. Orlando would have participated in Springboard Danse Montreal in the summer of 2020.

SYDNEY HENSON, 17, Saugerties, NY
Catskill Mountain Foundation credits:
The Nutcracker: Clara 2015-2017; Snow Queen, Christmas Star, Marzipan 2019
American Dream: 2016, 2017, 2018
Community Class Recital: 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: 2019 Soloist
We Will Dance Again: 2020
A Victorian Nutcracker Remembrance: 2020

Sydney attended summer intensives at ABT New York and Washington Ballet D.C., and has won international scholarships at VKIBC finals NY in 2017 and 2018. She was a 2020 finalist at YAGP, which was cancelled. In the summer of 2020 Sydney was accepted to summer intensives at English National Ballet, London; Academie Princess Grace, Monte Carlo; and Dutch National Ballet, Amsterdam. Sydney is presently a senior level student at The National Ballet School, Budapest, Hungary

JUSTICE LEMAN, 19, Windham, NY
Catskill Mountain Foundation credits:
The Nutcracker: Nutcracker Prince 2017, Party Parent 2018, Mouse King 2019
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Demetris 2019
A Victorian Nutcracker Remembrance: 2020

Justice Leman is presently pursuing an acting career in New York City.

NIKITA BORIS, 20, River Edge, NJ
Catskill Mountain Foundation credits:
The Nutcracker: Sugar Plum Fairy 2015, 2016
American Dream: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Hermia 2019
We Will Dance Again: 2020
A Victorian Nutcracker Remembrance: 2020

Grand Prix Concorso di Danza Internaionle Spoleto 2016 and VKIBC St. Petersburg, Russia 2017; Gold medal VKIBC New York 2015-2017; Yuri Groigorovich Young Ballet of the World, Sochi 2016; Silver medal South Africa International Ballet Competition 2016

Nikita joined Boston Ballet in 2018 and is presently a member of Cincinnati Ballet.

Hopes for the Future


The Catskill Mountain Foundation and Victoria Rinaldi share in the belief that the Orpheum Dance Program has and will continue to foster elite local talent to exciting careers in dance. The ODP will create the next generation of dancers, fans and supporters through the community programs it offers. In addition the ODP hopes to establish a yearly Orpheum Summer Dance Intensive and Festival that will continue to enrich not only the community but visitors far and wide.