Agape Dance Academy's Cinderella

Photo by Alixandra Art & Photography

Scotts Valley’s Agape Dance Academy brought the story of “Cinderella” to life over the weekend of June 14-16 at Aptos High School’s Performing Arts Center. Replete with evil stepsisters Anastasia and Drizella (played by Emi Prograce and Olivia Hughes), Fairy Godmother (played by Hannah Ruvo), a cadre of mice and Prince Charming himself (danced beautifully by Zaiah Jones), the entire dance troupe delivered a gorgeous rendition of the age-old fairy tale. Set changes were quick and nearly unseen; the music was boisterous and ebbed and flowed with the characters’ story, and the costumes were dazzling explosions of tulle, satin and sparkles galore. Arden Emhoff, who played the title role, was a study in grace, power and control as she spun through the transforation from under-appreciated housemaiden to a princess in love.

Hannah Ruvo has been dancing since she was three years old. Now 16, and attending Coast Redwood High School in Felton, this is her fifth year with Agape. Her role as the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella is special thanks to the costumes and music, and she has some advice for burgeoning dancers, too. “Just keep going, and you’ll eventually get a good role. They should work hard, too!”

Owner and founder Melanie Useldinger knows all about hard work. She’s been teaching ballet for 30 years, and has performed at San Francisco Ballet, Dance Theater of Kansas and San Jose Dance Theater. Useldinger has expanded her company to five studios in Santa Cruz County, and thrives on introducing classical ballet to her students, who begin to learn pliés and positions as early as age three.

Agape is not only known for the quality of its performances, but also for the heart with which it serves our community—Jacob’s Heart, to be exact. While each production lifts the spirits of all who attend, Agape which translates to “the highest form of love, charity,” donates a portion of its proceeds to two local nonprofits that improve the lives of others in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties: Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services, a nonprofit agency that provides financial and emotional support to families of children with cancer, and Hospice of Santa Cruz, which aids families with end-of-life care for loved ones.

Watch for Agape’s upcoming winter performance of “The Nutcracker” this December and set your sights on supporting this company’s mission of combining dance with love for others. It’s truly the Agape way.

Christina Wise is a writer, reporter, and community advocate who resides in Felton. She writes for the Press Banner on housing, education, arts and culture. Contact her at

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