The Harid Conservatory is an academically enriched school dedicated to producing professional dancers.
There are a few remaining hidden gems in Florida but Harid Conservatory can most definitely be described as one, especially for anyone involved in the national international dance community. The Boca Raton school, which was established in 1987, has maintained its founding philosophy: highly qualified faculty members, superb training facilities, strong and comprehensive curriculum, and talented and motivated students.
Located on five acres, Harid’s campus includes an administration building, a state-of-the-art dance facility and a student residence, which can house up to 50 students. This academic school year has 40 students, who were all selected through auditions for full-tuition scholarships.
“Harid’s founder and benefactor, the late Fred Lieberman, was determined that the school should establish very high standards in every area of its operation,” explains Gordon Wright, the executive vice-president and director of Harid. “In order to ensure that talent remained the sole criterion for admission, Fred made Harid tuition-free for all students. This really leveled the playing field for students from all economic backgrounds.”
In the mornings, students attend academic classes such as math, science, social studies and English at the nearby Spanish River Community High School. Credits for the courses completed at SRCHS are transferred to Harid, which is a recognized Florida high school. The rest of the day is dedicated to dance.
The school’s four-year dance curriculum is based on the Vaganova (Russian) school with some influences from the French school. “Today’s dancers, however, must be very versatile and competent in other dance styles. Therefore, we also offer classes in character dance, modern dance, jazz dance and Spanish dance,” says Wright. For contemporary dance, renowned Montreal choreographer Mark Godden hosts annual workshops at the school. Also offered are courses in music, nutrition, kinesiology, dance and music history, and Pilates, all beneficial to dancers. At the end of each semester, the school presents public performances that include classical, neoclassical and contemporary ballets, as well as character and modern dances.
The school also recognizes the importance of social events and encourages students to participate in SRCHS' extracurricular activities such as pep rallies and prom. In addition, the Harid student council plans holiday parties and trips to local Florida attractions.
While the school maintains a limited enrollment, it hosts nationwide auditions every January and February to recruit new students. Of approximately 400 participants, 60 are selected to attend the Harid’s four-week summer school. Then the incoming class is selected from the summer school. “During the audition process, Harid looks at body type, physical proportions, flexibility and line, and talents,” says Gordon. "Year ago, [Lieberman] told me, 'I don't care if you have 10 students or 50 students, so long as they meet a high standard in terms of their abilities and work habits.'"
Their strict auditioning process has paid off. Alumni are employed by more than 80 professional dance companies worldwide, with a number of them cast as soloists and principal artists in major companies such as American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada.
Harid students performing in The Sleeping Beauty, by Alex Srb
Harid students in Mark Godden's contemporary ballet, Mantis-cide Straight Up, by Alex Srb
Svetlana Osiyeva teaching students in ballet class