Ellen Tharp says one of her most vital roles in her performing arts career is to inspire new energy in the field to ensure that culture will endure for future generations. “Culture is the glue of a civilized society,” Ms. Tharp adds. In addition to mentoring and training scores of talented individuals in the arts, Tharp has demonstrated continued success with financing in the not-for-profit sector, as well as arts management, theatrical production and personnel issues that support the creative individual.
For 27 years, Tharp has provided fully staged performances of ballet, serving in excess of 56,000 audience members, as well as training more than 4,800 dancers for careers in the arts. Some have become theatrical producers, stage managers, arts educators and arts management executives. Others enter the fields of law, finance and many entrepreneurial endeavors – all aided by the poise and discipline that ballet training delivers at an early age.
Tharp is the recipient of a NOVA Award, a Bravo Award, and is an Advance Woman of Achievement. Tharp was honored with a proclamation by the New York State Legislature for her contributions to the arts. She also has served as grant panelist for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. She was honored by the American Cancer Society for her contributions of using dance for patient recovery.
She also has developed approaches for dance to aid in various maladies such as autism spectrum issues, while also creating health and wellness programming serving both the physical and emotional realms.
Ms. Tharp founded the Staten Island Ballet in 1993 after performing many years as a classical dancer as well as an actress on Manhattan stages and in television dramas. She is a SAG-AFTRA member. Her choreography has been performed at the Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse, the Center for the Arts at CSI, Cape May Performing Arts Center, Algonquin Theater, NYC & Co. CultureFest, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, and in venues abroad.
A native of Staten Island and long-time resident of Manhattan, Tharp is a graduate of Fordham University-Lincoln Center, and earned a post-graduate diploma from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She was a principal ballerina and senior faculty member of the Manhattan Ballet.
When she relocated back to Staten Island, she founded Staten Island Ballet and also created the organization’s “Dancing Over Walls” program. The pioneering program provides free, unlimited dance training to talented children from economically challenged homes and has helped launch careers and enhanced college scholarship opportunities for hundreds of youths. It is a signature program of the Staten Island Ballet, achieving remarkable outcomes in developing diversity and generating careers for numerous students.
At the Manhattan Ballet, she trained numerous children of luminaries including Robert Redford, Kurt Vonnegut, Jill Krementz, Sidney Lumet, Tommy Hilfiger, Broadway producer Manny Azenberg, and the granddaughter of Lena Horne.