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Ballet Central New Jersey
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Ballet Central New Jersey

An Exclusive Interview with Mary Carmen Catoya!

by BalletCNJ on 06/02/18

BCNJ: How did you first start ballet?    

MC: I first started ballet when I accompanied my cousin to ballet class I watch and I love it.

BCNJ: When did you know you wanted to be a professional Ballerina?

MC: It was something inside me. I danced everywhere in my house. I decided to be a Professional Ballerina when I was 13 years old. I was offered a work scholarship at the Ballet Teatro Teresa Carreño in Caracas Venezuela.

BCNJ: Who was your favorite Ballerina or Dancer growing up?

MC: My favorite Ballerinas were Maya Plisetskaya, Margot Fonteyn, Ekaterina Maximova, Cynthia Gregory and Cynthia Harvey.

BCNJ: What advice do you have for young aspiring dancers?

MC: The Ballet and the art have to do with the soul with the heart. Enjoy every moment when you do; it is not only doing technical steps. Take care of your bodies. That is the instrument that helps you to be well, my parents always told me if you want to be a dancer do the best you can and correctly.

BCNJ: What is your most memorable performance experience/role performed?

MC: “Romeo and Juliet” when I danced in Madrid for the Kings of Spain and shared the stage with Maya Plisetskaya.    

BCNJ: Since you have danced around the world, which city/country was your favorite? 

MC: They are all charming and have different moments for example: Russia is energetic and enthusiastic. Paris is quiet and if they like [the performance] at the end they applaud with a lot of energy. Indonesia is wonderful and they love [dance].Italy is cozy. The United States is wonderful and they love [dance]. Cuba knows a lot in all aspects and very enthusiastic.

BCNJ: How did you come to be a guest dancer with Ballet CNJ? How do you know the Artistic Director?

MC: We worked together in Miami City Ballet and became friends. He invited me to dance with BalletCNJ when he saw me dance the final gala of the Miami International Ballet Competition.

BCNJ: Tell us about your upcoming performance with Ballet CNJ! What Role? Who will your partner be? Are you excited?

MC: I’m very excited to dance “Paquita” is a majestic, elegant and technically demanding role. I am deeply grateful and happy to dance with BalletCNJ and share my art. I am very excited to be part of this wonderful production and see my friend Alexander again. My partner is Kleber Rebello, Principal from Miami City Ballet, I’m very happy to dance with him. We danced as guest artists in many different performances.
 
BCNJ: When preparing for a new role, what do you feel is the most important thing to make you confident about your performance? 

MC: I prepare physically, mentally and emotionally. I research about the role, if it is a story or not, and I always try to give it a touch of my personality and my work.

BCNJ: Do you still get nervous before a performance? Do you have any pre-performance superstitions or rituals?

MC: I'm always nervous before going on stage, but when I go on stage, my nerves go away. I have to dance without the pressure that if I'm going to get it right or not, I work very hard to get the best out of it and of course, it's not always the same but I work hard so that each day is better. I pray to God and the angels to take care of me accompany me and protect me, always thinking about the positive and doing well.

 

 

 

  

 

 

BalletCNJ Summer Intensive 2017- By Ina Nikolaeva

by BalletCNJ on 09/05/17

BalletCNJ’s 4-week Summer Intensive always pushes students of all ages to drastically improve their dance skills, learn something new and perform at a higher level. The intensive program combines jazz, modern dance, and character in addition to daily classical ballet, men’s, pas de deux and pointe classes. With the students in attendance this year, school founding directors Alexander Dutko and Thiago Silva, as well modern dance instructor Margaret Shue and guest teacher Edgar Clausse (Formerly of Complexions), taught classes and choreography, and led rehearsals culminating in an elegant, stylistic performance on August 26, 2017.

Additional opportunities presented to students during the summer intensive included seminars by experienced ballet dancers (which, over the years, have included topics such as stage makeup and career planning). Furthermore, students learn stretching and strengthening techniques in a customized conditioning class several times a week, and even get to experience hip hop and Yoga classes on occasion. Finally, students are offered services such as head shots and dance photo sessions, allowing them to add these to their resume. Each performance is recorded on video and can thus be used for students to critique their own dancing, or simply for the family’s enjoyment of reliving a student’s moment in the spotlight!

The show at the end of the 2017 Summer Intensive had a classical feel, with students in simple and clean attire (as opposed to costumes), and performing favorites from a plethora of ballets. These included the mazurka from Coppelia, excerpts from Giselle Act 1, the pas de trois from Le Corsaire, and dances of the Precious Stones and the Bluebird Pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty. Additionally, brand new choreography from the founders and teachers of BalletCNJ was featured in a contemporary ballet piece and a jazz number. Following enthusiastic applause from the audience at the end of the performance, Director Alexander Dutko expressed his pride with the students, and presented awards to the dancers who stood out throughout the intensive (including an award of encouragement to Rebecca Zou and a scholarship to next year’s summer intensive to Iris Foster). BalletCNJ’s constant focus on putting students first, pushing dancers to perform at their best, and rewarding exceptional effort shone through in the results that the students achieved at the performance.

Congratulations to BalletCNJ and all the students who completed the 2017 Summer Intensive!

In addition to the main summer intensive, BalletCNJ also offers a young dancer intensive for students under 12 years of age (although some students under the age of 12 can enroll in the regular intensive at Mr. Dutko/Silva’s discretion), and continues to offer open/adult ballet classes throughout the summer.

BalletCNJ will be hosting an Open House on September 9, 2017 from 11:00AM until 4:00PM (an excellent opportunity to have registration fees for enrollment waived!)


 By- Ina Nikolaeva

Another incredible performance by BalletCNJ! - By Ina Nikolaeva, PhD(CT)

by BalletCNJ on 06/16/17

Another incredible performance by BalletCNJ!


On June 10, 2017, at Villa Victoria Academy Theatre in Ewing, NJ, BalletCNJ  did it again – the school put on a fun, dramatic and breathtaking performance, featuring completely original works and choreography by the two school founders, Alexander Dutko and Thiago Silva. The show consisted of three distinct acts and pushed every student to dance a role suited to their skills that also challenged and further developed him/her as a performer.

   The first piece featured the school's youngest dancers in a novel piece entitled “Le Petit Pique-Nique”. With an enchanting backdrop of a sunny lake in a forest that changed from a perfect day to a thunderstorm with some clever lighting, this piece told the story of six adventurous picnickers who encountered bees (Nina Rodriguez and Isabella Wilf), a butterfly (Emalea Kiernan), and an army of ants intent upon stealing watermelon slices hidden in the main characters' basket of goodies (BalletCNJ's youngest dancers). This act created magic using drama and humor, giving the audience the intimate opportunity to meet new characters that have never been danced before. One of the most remarkable aspects was Emalea Kiernan, who, at a young age, executed the part of the butterfly en pointe with grace and flourish. This act truly showcased the entire school’s intense focus on artistry and creativity.

The second act, “Gershwin Suite”, featured some of the most experienced students at BalletCNJ, and relied solely on lighting, Gershwin’s iconic music, and the skill of the dancers to create atmosphere and intrigue. It succeeded beautifully. Amid an energetic group dance, Jeanette Smith and Leopold Foster told the story of a couple unsure of and surprised at their budding romantic feelings for each other through an extended pas de deux. The two leads were astonishing: they were exhilarating to watch, not only because they were both very impressive for their age (both only 14), but because they were well on their way to becoming full-fledged dancers who can command the stage completely by themselves. Such a piece could only be made possible through the abilities of the dancers, and it let them shine despite the challenging music and the classically bare stage (with no scenery to hide behind).

The final ballet - Aladdin: The Wedding Act - was positively magical. The scenery recreated the main ballroom of an elaborate Arabian palace, and the wedding guests filed in group by group to perform their finest dances in front of a stern, yet benevolent, Sultan. From the bridesmaids, palace dancers, swordsmen, and jewels to an undulating snake (Michelle DeAngelis) and an exotic bird (Krista Pinkerton), the dancers and special effects created a sparkling, glittering kingdom against a starry sky background. When Aladdin (Gabriel DeRego) and the Princess (Rebecca Huizer) appeared on stage, everything paused – and you could feel the importance of the moment for them. Following a brief ceremony, they sat back to watch their guests entertain, before performing a beautifully executed pas de deux of their own. This act took advantage of sophisticated and technologically advanced prop work (the Genie, Jefferson Konah, emerged from his lamp in a cloud of illuminated smoke to request his release from the shackles of servitude, and the magic carpet made several guest appearances by flying around in the background).

As is customary at BalletCNJ, the costumes, props and backdrops were almost entirely hand-made by the founders and other dedicated volunteer helpers, demonstrating the overall familial atmosphere of the school and the caring and hard work that goes into every one of their shows. Additionally, this choice allows each performance to stand out, avoiding a formulaic appearance for the characters. In other words, every piece is unique and you cannot see it anywhere else. As always, the dancers were fully prepared, and performed every dance with skill and enthusiasm. Fellow audience members, who had never previously attended a BalletCNJ show, were astounded at the intricacy of the choreography, storylines and scenery, and - of course – at the proficiency of the dancers themselves.

The BalletCNJ family have outdone themselves yet again, and we cannot wait to see what they come up with next!

-       By INA NIKOLAEVA, PhD (CT)

Photo credit: Princeton Headshots

For more information on BalletCNJ
Visit www.BalletCNJ.org

BalletCNJ
4 Tennis Court 
Hamilton Twp., NJ 08619

(609)-249-4066
Info@balletCNJ.org

Ballet Central New Jersey Stuns in Annual Spring Performance - By: Alexandra Dalii

by BalletCNJ on 06/11/16




EWING, N.J.-Saturday, May 21, Ballet Central New Jersey took to the Villa Victoria Academy stage in Ewing, NJ to perform their annual Spring Performance. This three-part program featured dancers of all ages and combined classical and contemporary choreography in a way that highlighted the dancers’ strengths in technique as well as performance. 

Opening the program was Night at the Ballet choreographed by BalletCNJ faculty Nanako Yamamoto. With a set reminiscent of the Stahlbaum household where the first act of The Nutcracker takes place, Night at the Ballet is centered around seven young dancers whose ballet storybook comes to life. These dancers adorably give the audience a glimpse into their storybook as they introduce snippets of classic ballets. As these young dancers introduced each ballet ranging from the three swans of Swan Lake to the pas de deux from Cinderella, their older counterparts displayed the maturity in technique and performance that BalletCNJ clearly instills in its dancers. Despite the clear excitement of the younger dancers, a few of whom waved at the audience and practically leaped onto the stage from the wings, the older dancers were composed and beautifully told the stories of the ballets that they represented. With each new ballet that was introduced, the dancers continued to shine whether in a solo, trio, or classical pas de deux. 

Founding Director, Alexander Dutko’s, Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 challenged in a way unseen in most pre-professional programs. With only 16 dancers, this piece followed the dynamics of the music and alternated between quick staccato movement and elegant legato movement. Situated under three sparkling chandeliers, the dancers and their costumes adhered to the differing statuses found in a professional ballet company ranging from the corps de ballet to the lead male and female. The lead woman, Krista Pinkerton, was the Marilyn Monroe of the stage, flirting with the audience as her white dress twirled and her headpiece dazzled. Each pirouette was accentuated by the costumes, giving the impression that despite the jazzy and often quick-tempo of the score, time slowed as the dancers turned. Most impressive was the length of the piece and the ability of the dancers to perform it in its entirety without dropping their energy levels. Filled with numerous moments where the audience expected the piece to come to a close, Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 definitely challenged the stamina of the dancers. However, they rose to the challenge, not once wavering while on pointe or, in the men’s case, sacrificing the height they lifted the women. 

To close the Spring Performance, BalletCNJ's older dancers, accompanied by guest artists from Rutgers' Mason Gross School of the Arts beautifully executed Act II of Giselle. Complete with intricate costumes and sets and an overture that served to transmit the audience from the happy-go-lucky mood of the preceding piece to the dark and ominous scene of Giselle Act II, Marius Petipa’s choreography was definitely a fit for the BalletCNJ dancers. The infamous Willis section highlighted the strength of the corps as they floated across and throughout the stage. While the Willis may have been (purposefully) dead in the eyes, their unison, bourrées, and port de bras were very much alive. An act that heavily relies on the strength of the corps, BalletCNJ’s Willis allowed Michelle DeAngelis to flourish as Giselle.

As a whole, BalletCNJ's 2016 Annual Spring Performance served to show that central New Jersey has more to offer in terms of the arts than meets the eye. The versatility of the program perfectly reflected the versatility of the dancers as well as the capabilities of founding directors Alexander Dutko and Thiago Castro Silva to harness and further such talent. 

For more information about BalletCNJ and its programs you may contact them at:

BalletCNJ
4 Tennis Court
Hamilton Twp., NJ 08619
609-249-4066
info@BalletCNJ.org
www.BalletCNJ.org


Ballet as an adult beginner – why start and what you can learn! - By Ina N.

by BalletCNJ on 01/14/16

As adults, we are expected to do our full-time jobs and still find time to exercise and stay healthy. This task is made much easier if we come across a physical activity we enjoy and are passionate about. With a multitude of exercise programs currently available, and more emerging every day, it is difficult to decide which fitness classes to try out. I attended a beginner ballet dance class, taught by BalletCNJ School Director Thiago Silva during Free Week at Rutgers in the Fall of 2013. I also tried several other classes ranging from barbell weight training to yoga and Pilates. I was instantly hooked on ballet, as were quite a few of the other students present. It probably helped, too, that the instructor was an incredibly energetic young man who came up with hilarious, and therefore memorable, metaphors for the various steps.  I am now in my 3rd year of recreational ballet training, and I want to share some of the things I learned from spending so much of my personal time at the dance studios of Ballet Central New Jersey.

Hard work leads inevitably to improvement

As with any class that requires physical or mental effort, sometimes we have bad days. As I struggled to learn longer and more complex combinations in ballet, and add arm movements to them, bad days became inevitable. But in the end, I stayed with it and improved to the point where I can follow along even in some higher level classes. And let me tell you, the feeling of having a great class outshines any feelings of self-doubt during tougher days. I’ve seen this happen with other students too. If they stick it out through the confusions of learning a new form of exercise and build up some endurance, they feel accomplished and genuinely enjoy themselves! And yes, we all have busy weeks when we cannot come to class. Don’t let that discourage you! The right instructors will always welcome you back and help you pick up where you left off.

There is always room to grow

                If you are like me, then you don’t feel satisfied repeating the same routine of exercises every time you hit the gym. While I tried increasing the weights I trained with, or cutting down on my 1-mile time, going through the motions still felt monotonous. Every next step required more exertion, but it was still the same exercise over and over. Ballet is different in that once you are able to adequately perform an exercise, the exercise changes. Combinations and movements differ from class to class, and new steps, jumps or turns are introduced all the time. On several occasions, depending on the students present and what they want, the instructor can completely abandon the normal class format and do a whole hour and a half at the barre en pointe or teach a variation.

The physical benefits

Will you get a dancer’s body from starting ballet as an adult? The truth is, no. However, ballet does burn a lot of calories when done right, and after several months of classes, you can start seeing changes in your body. Building lean muscle makes you look toned but not bulky. In clearer terms, you can look forward to much less jiggle! So while you will not experience a complete change of your body shape, ballet classes will move you in the direction of a dancer’s body.

Eye-opening new experiences!

If you have never done ballet dance before, you quickly learn that there is an entire group of muscles you rarely put to use in other physical activities. The motions of ballet are very different due to the constant need to turn-out.  Furthermore, depending on the ballet school and instructors, you *may* have the option of learning pointe work, if you so wish. If you have never slipped into a pair of toe shoes before, it is a novel feeling that adds a completely different layer of challenges to balance and dancing.  Finally, something that Ballet Central New Jersey does is sometimes allows adult students to perform in annual shows, if they are willing to put the work into classes and rehearsals. I have tried all of these things, and discovered that learning a physical activity is very different than learning something from a book. For instance, I had no idea that performances would make me so nervous, and that completing a show as a group leads everyone to become closer, regardless of age and experience. The choreography stays with you and the music you danced to gains a whole new meaning in your life. You remember it forever.

So go forth and find a local ballet class! You might never know if you have a dancer inside you unless you try!

- Ina N.