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March 22, 2018
Donna L. Muzio – The Women of West Chester
Donna L. Muzio – Artistic Director and Founder at Brandywine Ballet
Years in Business: Dance Center, forty-four, Brandywine Ballet, thirty-nine
Like the dancer she is, Donna L. Muzzio makes running the Dance Center and Brandywine Ballet look effortless. But like the art itself, you don’t see the hard work behind the scenes.
In 1974, when asked to step in at a small dance school after the previous director moved away, Donna took on the challenge. She started with 35 students, growing to 75 by the end of the year. That’s when she decided to keep the school going and opened the Dance Center. “I was studying to be a teacher, but this moved up my plans to open my own school.”
Five years later, she founded Brandywine Ballet. “We needed to give serious students an outlet to perform and the opportunity to work with professional choreographers and master teachers without moving to New York,” Donna explains.
The company grew in both numbers and prestige. Today, the Dance Center offers training in West Chester and Lionville and, in partnership with West Chester University, offers a Certificate in Dance. Brandywine Ballet produces three shows a year at the Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall at WCU.
"I’m teaching my second generation of students—I love that the tradition is continuing."
According to Donna, Brandywine Ballet has trained many dancers who are either dancing with professional ballet companies, contemporary companies, or on Broadway. “And too many to mention are the hundreds of students who have received dance scholarships at colleges and universities,” she says.
Success didn’t come easily. The main obstacle Donna faced when establishing Brandywine Ballet was finding funding to support the Company’s mission of providing professional-level performance opportunities, “It took a lot of money, as the visiting professionals were expensive and so was their choreography,” she says. “The board of directors stepped up and raised money, wrote grants, and sought out professionals who could help establish the artistic quality I was seeking for the company.”
Donna is proud of the community she’s created. “Most of my students found their best friends here and still keep in touch,” she says. “I’m teaching my second generation — I love that tradition continuing.”