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how it started.

Since 1970

The Academy of Dance San Luis Obispo was founded by Lori Silvaggio in 1970.  Lori’s mission, and passionate purpose, was to provide dance education of the highest standard to the community, and extend broad aesthetic knowledge to students and professionals in a vital, changing dance world.

Little did Lori know in 1970 how vast the support would be from the San Luis Obispo community, and how vital and colorful the school’s path.  Within seven years Lori founded The Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo, and with the capable board of directors at the helm, dance traditions were founded that still exist and are treasured forty years later, including the annual Nutcracker, Spring Gala performances, Gala Fundraising Events, and newsworthy guest artists and workshops.

Lori was recognized by California Gov. Pete Wilson as California’s Representative of Dance Excellence, and has since led select groups of dancers on tours of Paris, China, Russia, and Cuba; the latter including the first performances by American entertainers in Cuba since 1957.  The dancers performing in China were the subject of a KSBY, NBC TV, weeklong documentary series titled In Step With China.  The series was nominated for an Emmy under the direction of, and featuring the talent of, Tony Capolla. 

Lori also hosted From Ballet to Broadway, a weekly radio show on KCBX Public Radio from 1986 to 2012 featuring music and stories that accompany the lively arts.

In 2004 Lori was delighted to turn over the Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo’s artistic directorship to her son, Drew Silvaggio.  Soon after, Drew also took the helm as owner/director of the Academy of Dance.  Lori reports that “there is no greater satisfaction than to see my life’s work shift into the hands of someone fresh, more capable, and gifted with creativity, especially when the hands are my son’s.”

Drew Silvaggio’s education started in the very school that he now directs, and has spanned world-wide as a student and featured performer all over the globe, culminating in his Fine Arts Degree earned from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Drew was honored as a Promising Artist Award Scholar at the University.  Today Drew leads the Academy, and the Civic Ballet, with new energy, an ever-expanding view of choreography, a deep understanding of theatre, and a vast sensitivity about the artistic process.  He knows how to train and treat dancers with the kindness, encouragement, and respect they deserve; always encouraging them to grow as artists and as people.

So, after over forty years, considering the talent and energy that keeps surging and expanding at the Academy, we’re actually just getting started.  Thanks for all your support in the past, and for joining us now.  You are truly welcome to share the excitement at the Academy of Dance.

OUR FOUNDER: Lorilee Silvaggio

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