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Decades Of Dancing

Olga Berest, a Manhasset resident, can’t travel anywhere in the world without meeting a current or former dance student.

For more than 30 years, her dance studio has graced Port Washington and warmly welcomed close to 6,000 students. For many Port children, as well as aspiring adults, taking classes with Olga is a rite of passage that creates enduring memories for both the teacher and her students.

“My dream has come true,” Olga said recently at her South Washington Street studio.

Currently, the studio conducts 100 classes a week for all ages and abilities, and what hasn’t changed in three decades is Olga’s gentle insistence on courtesy, manners and discipline. Most students thrive in this environment and know they have to work hard for the applause and annual assessments. However, The Center embraces new technology such as “flash mob” dances, Facebook pages and YouTube videos that reach a broad audience.  

Olga’s daughter Heather Berest and Heather’s husband Orion Duckstein also live in Manhasset and are professional dancers formerly with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. They continue to fuel artistic expression on Long Island through master classes and Orion’s faculty position at Adelphi.

“Heather’s 90-minute classes create a special world where outside cares and concerns do not intrude, enabling each student to explore her creative self,” said Carol Hiller, a student.

In fact, the number of adult students in the studio shows that dreams can be deferred, but the desire to dance will manifest regardless of circumstance.

“I am a woman who started ballet for the first time at age 47, three years ago through an adults beginners’ class,” said Marina Hadley. “I had always wanted to do ballet but wasn’t allowed to. Suddenly as a middle-aged woman my childhood dream was realized.  I had become a ballerina!”

Olga’s focus on ballet and proper technique provides the foundation for modern ballet. She believes this type of dance is locally underrepresented, and a current goal is “to be the hub of modern dance on Long Island.”

As a teacher, dancer and entrepreneur, Olga’s high standards remain, and Heather, a partner since 2006, will continue the family legacy.

“My vision for the Berest Dance Center over the next decade is to be known as a safe environment that cultivates the artist within,” Heather said. “For my greatest mission is to reveal each dancers unique and creative expression in movement."