Recently, Patrick Taylor, Greenwich High School choir director, while showing off the new Steinway grand concert piano in the performing arts center, said he was surprised the facility was not used more often by outside groups.
Well, that’s about to change.
Dancers from the renowned Greenwich Ballet Academy will take the stage to present The Nutcracker on Nov 16 and 17.
The performance is a full-length production with no scenes omitted and runs two hours. There are two acts and an intermission in between.
The Nutcracker is beautifully performed and artistically presented. The ballerinas have been taught by renowned professionals in small classes where the program is inspired by the prestigious and historic Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia.
A premier classical ballet school drawing students from Fairfield and Westchester counties, Greenwich Ballet Academy is unique in that it is a non profit.
Founded in 2006, the school attracts serious students, and many aspire to become professional dancers. In fact, Greenwich Ballet Academy alumni have gone on to join professional dance companies such as Paris Opera Ballet, Joffrey Ballet Chicago, Washington Ballet and Atlanta Ballet. Others have matriculated at top universities such as Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Julliard School and Boston College.
Chairman of the Board Patricia Franklin, previously Board Chair at Whitby School, is an attorney and former professional ballet dancer herself. Her twin daughters, Carolina and Victoria Rivera, sophomore students at GHS, are enrolled at the Greenwich Ballet Academy and will be dancing the roles of Snow Queen and Dewdrop, respectively.
Ms. Franklin said that except for the two male leads, the entire cast of The Nutcracker is comprised of Greenwich Ballet Academy dancers, but in the past the school has occasionally brought in professionals for the lead parts.
“This year we are so proud that Allison Chen, a dancer here at Greenwich Ballet Academy, plays the role of Sugar Plum,” Franklin said. “It’s nice to have one of our own in that lead ballerina role because the younger dancers aspire to that.”
Karla Walsh, parent of ballerina Caroline, a Greenwich Academy junior, described the dancers as a self-selecting group.
“They are a really disciplined, high-performing group who are dedicated to this, but they are also standout students,” she said.
“It’s intense and she loves it,” Walsh said of her daughter.
“They train 17 to 20 hours a week – that’s the typical commitment for an advanced dancer,” she said, adding that the girls have a nice bond even though they attend different public and private schools.
“Greenwich Ballet Academy is probably the most well known ballet school, and has the highest draw, including students who travel 25-30 miles to attend,” Walsh continued. “All our advanced dancers are recognized Honor students at their local high schools, and with the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA).”
Dancers hail from Greenwich High School, Greenwich Academy, Darien High School, Mamaroneck High School, Horace Greeley High School and Harrison High School.
This is the first year the production will take place at Greenwich High School, and Ms. Franklin said the dancers are excited about the performing arts center and that tickets are selling quickly.
“It’s great to see The Nutcracker ballet’s whole story unfold on stage,” Ms. Franklin said. “Especially the growing Christmas tree. I can’t think of a better way to kick-off the holiday season.”
Nerlyn Pierson said her daughter Siena, 9, a 4th grader at North Street School, is delighted to have been cast as Clara.
“Siena kept mentioning ballet dancing when she was around 3-1/2, so we put her in a local dance school, which was not so serious,” Pierson recalled, adding that Siena stayed focused on ballet.
“By age 5, I saw she loved it and had a real passion for it, so wanted to find a school that would give her the proper foundation,” she added. “Ballet is so technical, if you don’t start off right you can develop bad habits.”
“The level of teaching at Greenwich Ballet Academy, you can’t find better,” she said. “The teachers are so supportive and truly love what they do.”
The faculty consists of full time and part time professionals with extensive classical and modern dance experience.
The artistic director is Andrei Jouravlev who studied at the famed Perm State Choreography Academy in Russia and went on to become a Principal Dancer in the Perm State Opera and Ballet Theatre.
The academy has a spacious new facility with three dance studios at Waterfront Place in Port Chester where there is abundant parking.
The youngest students are taught in the Greenwich Arts Council building at 299 Greenwich Ave.
Click here for tickets to GBA’s The Nutcracker at Greenwich High School’s performing arts center. Performances are on Saturday Nov 16 at 12:00 Noon and Sunday Nov 17 at 2:00pm.
Allison Chen, Sugar Plum Fairy, discovered her love of dance at a weekly toddler ballet class in Ossining, New York. She began to train more seriously after joining Greenwich Ballet Academy (GBA) in 2013. Her first role in GBA’s The Nutcracker was as Marzipan eventually dancing many of the beloved dances such as Russian, Spanish, Arabian, Waltz of the Flowers, Snow Waltz, Snow Queen and now the most coveted role, Sugar Plum Fairy. Allison has also competed for GBA in multiple ballet competitions both as a Junior and Senior competitor. She has received awards at various competitions including 3rd place at Connecticut Classic in 2018 and Top 12 placement in both Senior Classical and Contemporary divisions at Youth America Grand Prix Regional Semi-Finals in 2018 and 2019. Additionally, in the summer of 2018 Allison participated in a National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program to study ballet and Russian language at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow with full scholarship from the US Department of State. At the conclusion of the summer program, Allison was the highest scorer in the Russian language proficiency exam and was invited to study year-round at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. This past summer, Allison worked as a stretch instructor for the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive program in New York City (BBASI PREP). For the past two years, Allison has led GBA’s Adaptive Dance Program, a fun dance class tailored towards kids with down syndrome. Allison is also the President of GBA’s chapter of the National Dance Honor Society. When she isn’t dancing, Allison can be found in the art department of Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua NY, where she is a part of the honors society. Allison is the Editor-in Chief of her school’s art and literary magazine and President of the Graphic Design club.
Patrick Mihm, Sugar Plum Cavalier, began ballet training at the age of twelve, six years ago at the Heartland Ballet in Dubuque, Iowa. In 2015, Patrick moved to Boca Raton, Florida to train at the prestigious ballet school, The HARID Conservatory. After two years of rigorous training at the HARID, Patrick moved to New York City to train at the Ellison Ballet Professional Training Program. He is currently in his third year at Ellison Ballet where he trains under the guidance of Bat Udval. In 2018, Patrick competed in the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) Finals in New York City, as part of an Ensemble from Ellison Ballet, which placed third. Patrick has extensive performing experience including various guest appearances. Last year Patrick had the privilege of performing the Nutcracker Grand Pas de Deux with the Metropolitan Ballet in the role of Cavalier. In addition, Patrick has danced the role of Snow Queen Cavalier in GBA’s 2017 and 2018 The Nutcracker productions. This year he is thrilled to dance the role of Sugar Plum Cavalier in GBA’s The Nutcracker. Patrick plans on auditioning for professional ballet companies in the spring. He has an interest in both American and European companies. He would like to thank his teachers at Ellison who have molded him into the classical dancer he is today.
Carolina Rivera, Snow Queen, started studying ballet at a young age becoming a more serious ballet student once she joined Greenwich Ballet Academy (GBA) in 2013. She has danced many roles in GBA’s The Nutcracker including Angels and Ginger to Marzipan, Spanish, Arabian, and Waltz of the Flowers. This year she is thrilled to dance her first pas, the role of Snow Queen with guest artist Ian Stocker. Carolina has also competed for GBA in multiple ballet competitions both as a Junior and Senior competitor. She has received awards at various competitions including Silver Medal at The Connecticut Classic and Top 12 placement at Youth America Grand Prix Regional Semi-Finals as a Junior competitor in 2018. In 2019, her first year in the Senior category, Carolina received Top 10 in the Competitive Senior Contemporary division and Top 15 in the Competitive Senior Classical division at the Universal Ballet Competition. This past summer, Carolina attended Houston Ballet Academy’s Summer Intensive program in Houston, Texas. In prior years, she attended the Ellison Ballet Summer Intensive program in New York City as well as the Bolshoi PREP summer intensive program in New York City. Two years ago, Carolina had the opportunity to study ballet at the Vaganova Academy for a one-week visit. Carolina is an officer of GBA’s chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts. Carolina and her sister Victoria, at the age of 12, started their own business, Dazzlers by Vica, selling elaborately decorated pointe shoes. Their pointe shoes were featured in an issue of Dance Spirit Magazine, and are sold at the Grishko store in New York City, Beam and Barre and Etsy. Carolina is currently a sophomore at Greenwich High School where she is a high honor roll student taking Advanced Placement and Honors courses.
Ian Stocker, Snow Cavalier, from Rockford, Illinois began dancing at the age of 15. In 2016, he joined the Joffrey Academy of Dance in Chicago and performed in the student showcase production of Don Quixote, and as a Ragamuffin in Christopher Wheeldon’s The Nutcracker with the Joffrey Ballet. Ian joined the Ellison Ballet Professional Training Program in 2017 where he has danced in several showcases performing works such as Laurencia Cavaliers, Napoli Pas de Six, Ellison Ballet’s Class Concert and several contemporary pieces as well. In 2018, Ian competed in the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) Finals in New York City, as part of an Ensemble from Ellison Ballet, which placed third. Ian is very excited to be a part of Greenwich Ballet Academy’s Nutcracker and dance the role of Snow Cavalier.
Caroline Walsh, Lead Arabian, has been training in classical ballet at Greenwich Ballet Academy for the past five years. She has enjoyed performing many different roles in The Nutcracker including Flowers, Snow, Marzipan, Russian, and Spanish. This year Caroline is performing as lead dancer in Arabian and as a demi-soloist in the Snow Waltz. She has attended the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive for three years, and has also loved attending GBA’s Summer Intensive Programs. Caroline is currently a Junior at Greenwich Academy where she is a High Honor Roll student. Her coursework has an emphasis in AP level STEM classes, and she is a member of the school’s STEM program. Caroline is also a Junior Art Editor of Greenwich Academy’s prize-winning literary and arts magazine, Daedalus, and is Vice President of GBA’s chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts.
Victoria Rivera, Dewdrop, began taking ballet lessons as a young girl, juggling many other interests in the arts and sports. She fell in love with ballet once she started dancing on pointe at Greenwich Ballet Academy (GBA), where she has been a student for the past six years. Victoria has danced many roles in The Nutcracker, from Soldiers and Angels to Snow Waltz, Spanish, and Arabian. This year Victoria will perform as the Dewdrop, a new solo role in GBA’s Nutcracker created especially for Victoria. Victoria has attended the Ellison Ballet Summer Intensive Program in New York City for the past three years, and prior to that the Bolshoi PREP Summer Intensive in New York City. Two years ago, Victoria had the opportunity to study ballet at the Vaganova Academy for a one-week visit. She is currently a sophomore at Greenwich High School where she is a high honor roll student taking two Advanced Placement courses, and all honors courses. Victoria and her sister, Carolina, also began their own business at the age of 12, Dazzlers by Vica, selling beautifully embellished pointe shoes. These shoes are sold at the Grishko store in New York City, Beam and Barre, and Etsy, and were also features in an issue of Dance Spirit Magazine. Victoria is also an officer of GBA’s chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts.
Andrei Jouravlev, Drosselmeyer, Mouse King and GBA Artistic Director, studied at the famed Perm State Choreography Academy in Russia and went on to become a Principal Dancer in the Perm State Opera and Ballet Theatre. He won a Diploma and the Silver Medal in the International Ballet Competition in Russia. Mr. Jouravlev toured internationally with the “Stars of the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballet” and performed in England, Italy, Japan, China, Czechoslovakia, Poland, South Korea and Germany. Mr. Jouravlev toured with American Ballet Theatre Principal Nina Ananiachvili in Japan and South Korea, where he danced Espada of “Don Quixote”. He also toured with Bolshoi Theatre Principals E. Maksimova and V. Vasiliev in Tokyo and Osaka. He has performed in over thirty principal roles in classical and contemporary repertoires including “Giselle”, “Swan Lake”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Don Quixote”, “The Nutcracker”, “La Bayadere”, “Spartacus”, “Raymonda”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Coppelia”, “Cinderella”, “La Sylphide”, “Serenade”, “Theme and Variations”, “Carmen”, “Who Cares”, “Allegro Brillante” and others. Mr. Jouravlev taught at the Joffrey Ballet School for three years. He is delighted to be GBA’s new Artistic Director this year.
Olga Yaroslavtseva Gershanok, Clara’s Mother and GBA Faculty, was born in Riga, Latvia (the former Soviet Union). At age nine, she started her professional training at the Riga Ballet Academy, where she was trained in all aspects of ballet, with a strong emphasis on traditional classical techniques. During her school years in the Academy, she performed at the Latvian National Opera House. After graduation in 1982 she became a member of the Latvian National Ballet, and in 1985 was promoted to principal dancer. She performed leading roles in the full classical repertory including Swan Lake, Le Corsaire, The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and many others, touring internationally. In 1989, while on tour, she defected from the Soviet Union, and became a member of the American Ballet Theatre under Mikhail Baryshnikov. Over her eleven years with ABT, she performed a wide variety of soloist and leading roles, including Pas de Trois in “Swan Lake”, Harlots and Friends in ”Romeo and Juliet”, Bathilda in “Giselle”, and Madam Vyrubova in “Anastasia”, as well as many others. Olga toured extensively with the company throughout the United States and around the world. Olga has been teaching at the Greenwich Ballet Academy since 2011.
Nadia Zhivotenko graduated with honors from the Tashkent State Choreographic School in Tashkent, Russia and danced with the Boshoi State Academy Theater of Ballet in Tashkent (soloist) from 1976-1992. From 1992-1994 she danced as a soloist with the Russian Ballet Company in Moscow before coming to the US. From 1994-1996 she danced with the Brighton Ballet Company in Brooklyn, NY and from 1996-1997 the Staten Island Ballet Company. She has danced lead and soloist roles in a wide range of classical ballets including Nutcracker, La Bayadere, Les Sylphides, Cinderella, Paquita, Coppelia, Le Corsaire, Creation of the World, Raymonda, Don Quixote, Giselle, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. Since 1995 she has taught and choreographed at several ballet and dance schools in the New York area, including the Two World Dance Center, American Theater Dance, Nassau Dance Center, and the June Claire Dance Center from 1998 to the present.
Adrienne Schulte was born in Guatemala and began her ballet training with Marcia Dale Weary at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet at 7 years. She continued her studies as a scholarship student at the School of American Ballet and at the Paris Opera Ballet School in France before joining the American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company in 1998. Schulte joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in January 1999. In 2007 she moved to London and danced as a First Artist with the English National Ballet for two seasons. Schulte rejoined ABT in September 2011. Her roles in the Company included Helena in The Dream, Katia in A Month in the Country, Two Swans and Lead Czardas in Swan Lake, the Lead Gypsy and Flower Girl in Don Quixote, Bianca and a Carnival Dancer in Othello, and leading roles in Duets, Black Tuesday, Dark Elegies, Drink To Me Only Within Thine Eyes, workwithinwork, as well as roles in all of the Company’s full-length ballets. She created Red Riding Hood in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Sleeping Beauty. Schulte retired from ABT in July 2015 and has been a guest teacher with Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Ballet Academy East, Eglevsky Ballet, Fusion Dance Workshop, Prodigy Dance and Performing Arts Centre, and Dallas Ballet Center. Adrienne was on faculty during the 2016-17 academic year at the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, Children’s Division.
Jennifer Whalen trained at Hollywood Beach School of Ballet under Linda Strangio Herberg and at Gustafson Dance in Santa Barbara. She also participated on full scholarship at the following summer intensives -The Royal Ballet School in London, San Francisco Ballet and The Kirov Ballet. Jennifer started her career at the age of 14 at State Street Ballet and at the age of 17 joined American Ballet Theatre where she was in the Corps de Ballet and did corps and soloist parts for seventeen years. She was the gold medal winner at Youth American Grand Prix in New York, 1st place winner of the Performing Arts Spotlights Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Center in Los Angeles, she won the Santa Barbara Classical Ballet Competition and a competitor in the 3rd Annual Japan Ballet Festival. Jennifer has been featured in Discount Dance Magazine and Dance Distributor Magazine. She was in Black Swan, a Jessie Harris music video, The Jimmy Kimmel Show, and a swan in a Blackberry commercial.
Rachel Hamrick is a former professional ballerina originally from Williamsburg Virginia, where she trained with Sandra Balestracci. At the age of 12 she was accepted as a scholarship student to the Kirov Academy of Ballet where she trained with Adrienne Dellas, Nickolai Morozov and Alla Sisova. Upon graduation, she danced professionally all over the world for companies such as Dutch National Ballet, Hungarian National Ballet, Universal Ballet in Seoul Korea, Orlando Ballet, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal. After a decade of dancing internationally, Rachel’s career was disrupted by an emergency operation that left her spinal extension and mobility drastically reduced. In her pursuit to regain flexibility and re-sculpt her own form, she embarked on a mission to better understand anatomy, kinesiology, and its applications to dance-specific movements and overall functional health. With a Pilates, Yoga, and Strength Conditioning certification under her belt, she started working with clients of all ages and flexibility levels to help increase their range of motion, strength, and anatomical awareness. Rachel is the inventor of the Flexistretcher®, which she created out of a personal need to help her own flexibility and strength while dancing professionally. Through Rachel’s extensive experience she has created a training method that utilizes elastic resistance for optimal results. This program combines ballet, stretch, and pilates into a full-body lengthening and strengthening class. Rachel’s methods can be tailored to all ages and ability levels. She works with dance schools, conducts master classes, trains private clients and leads teacher trainings globally.
Cody D. Berkeley originally from Dallas, TX, began dancing at age 6 and has trained to elite levels in many styles of dance, including: Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary, Hip-Hop, Modern, Tap and Partnering. At 19, Cody was awarded a full scholarship to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia courtesy of the NYCDA College Scholarship Foundation. He has performed the works of Doug Varone, L-E-V, Aszure Barton and William Forsythe to name a few. His studies took him abroad to perform and train throughout Europe, most notably at Centre National De La Danse Paris. Berkeley graduated in 2015 with a B.F.A. in Dance Performance and received the Expressivity Award, in recognition of his outstanding performance and leadership excellence. In 2015 Cody joined Clairobscur Dance Company in Los Angeles under the direction of Laurie Sefton. Berkeley then returned home to Dallas to join Dark Circles Contemporary Dance USA for their 4th season where he performed the work of Madboots Dance, Joshua L. Peugh and Gregory Dolbashian. In the summer of 2017, Berkeley moved to NYC to work for Ellison Ballet Professional Training Program. Most recently, Cody has performed with Pigeonwing Dance under the direction of Gabrielle Lamb. His award winning choreography has been shown at Young Arts Foundation high school finalists and YAGP in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Berkeley was awarded “Outstanding Choreographer 2018” by YAGP for his work with Ellison Ballet students on both regional and national levels. Berkeley currently leads the contemporary program for Ellison Ballet and tours with New York City Dance Alliance as an adjunct faculty member.
SOURCE: Story courtesy the Greenwich Free Press.