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Donor Spotlight: Adopt-a-Dancer

Mandy Kirchner Salva ’99, grateful for the support she received at Purchase, has decided to show her gratitude.

Mandy Kirchner Salva ’99 (dance) wasn’t quite willing to trade dancing for motherhood. She’s happy to discover that dancing professionally and raising children don’t have to be mutually exclusive. And, grateful for the support she received at Purchase, she’s decided to show her gratitude. 

Mandy Kirschner Salva’s education in the Conservatory of Dance led her to perform and tour the world with the legendary Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 2000 to 2003. She later danced in New York with the Stephen Petronio Dance Company until 2010, when she became pregnant with her first child. 

With her children now in school, she’s found time to return to the dance studio. In 2016, she formed the Second Story Dance Project with Jonathan Riedel ’01, MFA ’11 (dance), another Westchester dancer and parent looking to balance family responsibilities with a desire for movement expression.

Mandy Salva '99

Salva’s return to dance brought to mind her own Purchase experience and the financial aid she received that made it possible to earn her BFA at the Conservatory. She decided to return the favor.

In 2018, she participated in the Purchase College Foundation’s Adopt-A-Dancer program, where contributions help support current students who have an eye on a dance career. 

“When I was at Purchase, I had financial support from the school,” says Salva, who lives in Larchmont with her husband, Anthony, and sons Nate (4) and Max (7). “I’m now in a position where I can return the support I received, and I’m very happy to do so. I’m hoping to help get more people from my generation to help support dancers who need a little extra.” 

Her Purchase Experience

Purchase was a good fit for Salva. Among her instructors were Catherine Kerr, who became her mentor, and Ellen Cornfield, a principal in the Cunningham company, with whom she performed after graduation. There was also the Conservatory of Dance’s connection to the New York City dance world. She often ushered at the Joyce Theater in Manhattan, where she got to see some of the world’s top modern dance companies. “Purchase opened me up to New York City and the heart of the dance world,” says the Maryland native.

Satisfying the Urge to Dance

And it was a Purchase connection that brought her back to dancing professionally. “I started taking ballet again in Westchester and found Jonathan,” she says. “We were desperate to get back into the studio, to move around, do class, and create dances. It has satisfied that craving for all of us.”

Salva travels to White Plains each week to the Steffi Nossen School of Dance to rehearse with Riedel and fellow Second Story Dance Project dancer Lorena Egan-Alvarado. 

The three dancers in the Second Story Dance Project come from different modern-dance perspectives. Salva danced with Cunningham, so her dances tend to be more abstract—focused on the pure movement and where it leads. Riedel danced with José Limón Dance Company, so his pieces tell stories filled with emotion. And Egan-Alvarado danced with the Mark Morris Dance Group, so her movement can be more musical and driven by the music. 

“I thought I’d be okay without dance,” Salva says. “But I found that I missed it terribly. I have danced my entire life, and I was trained to perform. Now it feels like I’m back home.” 

—David McKay Wilson