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At SLG Dance Company, dancers perform to raise awareness, funds for charitable causes

A dazzling display of upbeat hip-hop and jazz dance routines kept the audience entertained Friday night at North Fork Community Theatre in Mattituck. In between numbers designed to entertain were a mix of routines portraying serious topics like domestic violence, school bullying and losing a loved one.

The live charity performance, titled “Dancers Against Violence,” was the work of a relatively new dance group called SLG Dance Company. Founded by Samantha Graviano of Ridge, the company is an outlet for dancers of all ages to not only perform, but do so for a greater purpose. Its motto is “Dancers making a difference.”

In this case, funds raised from the event went to L.I. Against Domestic Violence, an organization founded in 1976 that offers an array of services for victims and survivors of abuse on Long Island.

Ms. Graviano said Friday’s event raised a little over $1,000, which was added to more than $1,000 already raised during a virtual performance via Facebook in February.

Eight women performed as part of SLG Dance Company along with other dancers from the Riverhead-based Where the Lines Overlap Dance Company.

“The show went really well and I was so proud of them,” Ms. Graviano said.

Ms. Graviano, 23, started SLG Dance Company in June 2019. Dancing has always been in her blood, she said. She began dancing at age 2 and continued through college and now teaches at studios. The idea for a dance company started with conversations with friends she grew up with and others in the dance community. 

 Photos by Jeremy Garretson

“We kind of created this safe space for us to all dance,” she said.

The dance company currently has 29 members, ranging in age from 10 to 41. The youngest dancers also perform with other studios for a more competitive atmosphere. SLG Dance Company provides a more relaxed, low-pressure atmosphere for dancers to have fun while also raising awareness for important causes.

Most of the dancers are between 22 and about 30 years old. They bring varying degrees of experience, including some who are self-taught and others who were once part of national champion programs.

“They all dance beautifully together,” Ms. Graviano said.

Ms. Graviano teaches at Studio East Dance Center in Westhampton, which is where SLG Dance Company members rehearse. 

“They’re great to give us the space for anything we may need,” she said.

She said forming the dance company was never about turning a profit and she knew from the start she wanted it to be about helping important causes. Volunteer work has been a vital part of her life. She has worked as a rape crisis counselor for the past three years with the Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk. She started off during college as a volunteer in the child care program, helping to watch kids while their parent or guardian was in counseling. After about a year, she was approached about starting the rape counseling program.

She said that experience helped spark her interested in combining her passions of dance and volunteer work.

The road to Friday’s performance actually began much earlier. The company’s first charity performance had been canceled due the pandemic. That led to the virtual performance in February, which was held in acknowledgment of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. 

Ms. Graviano said she didn’t expect a live performance to happen after that. The theater was reopening following the pandemic and one her dancers, Jenna Spates, who also happens to choreograph for NFCT, helped make the connection.

The goal, she said, is to do a yearly performance in August. That gives the dancers time to begin preparation around May, when some of the members are home from college. Friday’s show, however, came together in about three weeks.

“This was an amazing opportunity,” Ms. Graviano said.

She added that the NFCT is the kind of community-oriented space that was ideal for this type of show.

“I just kept saying to them over there it was kind of a blessing in disguise that nothing was really working out,” she said.

She credited Erin Amendola, owner of Studio East, and Blair Robinson, founder of Where the Lines Overlap, for their mentorship and guidance in forming a dance company and making Friday’s show a reality.

Looking ahead, Ms. Graviano said the goal is to support a different organization each year.

“Hopefully eventually we’ll be able to open our own space,” she said. “A lot of people are really sparking interest, which is great.”

Any dancers interested in joining the company can visit its website: slgdancecompany.com.