More than a decade ago, Debra Sayles Senchak was a professional ballet dancer in New Jersey preparing for a career change.
After devoting nearly 30 years of her life to performing, Senchak began seeking ways to share her knowledge and enthusiasm with youngsters.
She believed that teaching would keep her connected to the art of dance while allowing her to give children the same wonderful opportunities that she enjoyed.
“I was able to have the opportunity to travel all over the world and dance with so many of the wonderful contemporaries of my time,” said Senchak. “But like every dancer who enters their 40s, I saw that it was time to leave the stage and make a transition.
“Just like children, I still felt young in my heart and I wanted to learn. I wanted to take the art of dance and find where I fit in and go with it. So, I asked myself, what is next?”
The answer to that question was becoming co-founder and director of Infinity Ballet Conservatory and Theatre in Apex.
And as the conservatory approaches its tenth anniversary, Senchak can’t help but smile at the thought of how her idea has blossomed.
“When I left the stage and moved down here I thought it was time to put some walls down and see how we can pass on all the education we had learned,” said Senchak. “Now, we have 200 to 250 children in our programs each year.
“The conservatory is about giving the students an opportunity to take those very first small steps and show them that, if they are open to learn, those steps will take them on a path that keeps building. It’s fun to see.”
Senchak has seen many students in her programs move on to prestigious schools throughout the country.
But to Senchak, success is not just measured by the progression of the most gifted students. She seems just as delighted when her programs are able to transform a shy girl into a smiling, confident young lady.
“The creativity in each student will develop differently,” said Senchak. “But they all must be open to learn (and progress). Infinity Ballet is so much about that.”
Conservatory board member Steffee Bowden knows very well how dance can have a positive impact on youngsters.
All three of her daughters participated in Infinity Ballet programs and each benefitted from the experience.
“It helps so much with their academics,” said Bowden. “The ability to comprehend all these dance moves really extends into academics. I saw all of my daughters improve and excel (in school) because of their association with dance.”
Trying to extend those opportunities to as many local children as possible, Infinity Ballet offers programs to several non-profit groups. The conservatory is currently associated with the Boys and Girls Club of Raleigh.
“If (an organization) has an interest to offer that to their children we will work with them,” said Senchak. “We want children who might not necessarily have the funds to get the same education.
For Senchak, who recently received a community service award from the Triangle Community Foundation, helping all children receive the same opportunities in the arts has become her mission.
“I don’t think I had an expectation when I first started (Infinity Ballet),” said Senchak. “What I had was a need to give back to the children the same opportunities that I had. I was so fortunate in my family to have the support to do something I loved.
For more information about the conservatory visit www.infinityballet.com