American Repertory Ballet Hosts 2012 Alumni Gathering Following THE NUTCRACKER

American Repertory Ballet Hosts 2012 Alumni Gathering Following THE NUTCRACKER

American Repertory Ballet presented yet another successful opening night of the highly acclaimed Nutcracker production Thanksgiving weekend at McCarter Theater in Princeton. Since the Company's Nutcracker premiere in 1964, the performances have become an enduring and beloved holiday tradition for New Jersey families. 

After its opening day performances on Friday, November 23rd, American Repertory Ballet also hosted its 8th Annual Alumni Gathering, welcoming back many of ARB and Princeton Ballet School's former students, company members, and faculty who have shared the joy of performing in this holiday classic.

Among the alumni crowd this year was ARB student and company member Shari Nyce. She first danced the role of Clara in 1978 and went on to become a principal dancer with ARB. Now Nyce is the owner of Nyce Bodies Pilates Studio in Pennington. One of her three daughters now studies at Princeton Ballet School takes part in the production as a mouse.

Another notable alum who has attended the Annual Gathering in the past is Dodie Petit, former student and company member who danced the principal role of Sugar Plum Fairy in the 1970's. Petit returned again to the organization as a guest artist and later went on to have an extensive Broadway career. ARB's Princeton Ballet School offers a merit scholarship in honor of her mother, Ruth Petit, costume designer for Nutcracker for many years.

Many recent high school graduates also return home for the holidays to reconnect with their friends at the gathering. One recent alum, Emily Munoz, is studying at Pitzer University in California. Her parents, Tim and ARB Board of Trustees member Jo-Ann Munoz continue to grace the production as one of the sophisticated couples in the first act's party scene. Princeton Ballet School alum Angelica Generosa also visited from the West Coast, where she dances with Pacific Northwest Ballet. Morgan Caglianone visited on her Thanksgiving break from Columbia University, where she is studying Engineering and dancing with the Columbia Ballet Collaborative. Maria Katarina Raphael is studing at Princeton University, where she also coninues dancing with student dance companies including Princeton University Ballet. Brothers Evan and Ian Law were also in attendance. Evan is now studing at School of American Ballet, the official school of New York Ciy Ballet, and Ian is a US Army Calvary Scout studying at Rutgers University.

Some other illustrious Alumni and also American Repertory Ballet Wall of Fame members who have danced in ARB'sNutcracker include:

Bebe Neuwirth- Actress, singer, dancer and also Tony and Emmy Award Winner

Carol Estey- Founder Audrey Estey's daughter, Broadway performer and Chair Dance Department at Stephens College

James Vincent- Former Artistic Director of Hubbard Street Dance and Netherlands Dance Theatre

Phyllis Papa- Artistic Director of Atlantic City Ballet

Kraig Patterson- Mark Morris Dance Group company member

Karen Russo Burke- Choreographer and Artistic Director of Dayton Ballet

Lynda Sing- Dance Theater of Harlem, Susanne Farrell Ballet and Twyla Tharp Company Member

Annie Woodside Gribbins- Director of Marketing for McCarter Theater

Erin Du- Washington Ballet Company Member and School Director for American Dance Institute

Sean Mahoney- Paul Taylor Dance Company Member

Dianne Partington- Joffrey 2, Ballet du Nord, Les Grands Ballet Canadiens Company Member and Director of Dianne Partington School of Classical Ballet

Tim Acito- Paul Taylor 2 and Momix Company Member, Writer and Composer of musicals

"It is always a pleasure reconnecting with alumni sharing their 'remember when' stories and the impact Princeton Ballet School training has had on their lives," says Lisa de Ravel, former ARB dancer and current Princeton Ballet School Dean of Students and ARB Alumni Relations Coordinator. "Sometimes it takes a little distance to gain a perspective of what a gift it is to learn the craft of ballet and perform alongside professional dancers in magnificent theaters. A few former students brought their own children to experience the magic. We are a family of families and treasure what each individual has offered in our continued mission of keeping the Nutcracker tradition alive. In planning our 50thNutcracker reunion for 2013, we are actively seeking all former Princeton Ballet School and American Repertory Ballet cast members and parents who have contributed to this wonderful history."

For more information on next year's 50th Annual Nutcracker Alumni Reunion, please contact Lisa De Ravel, Princeton Ballet School's Dean of Students and ARB's Alumni Relations Coordinator at her email: lderavel@arballet.org or call at (609) 921-7758 ext. 11.

American Repertory Ballet's mission is to bring the joy, beauty, artistry and discipline of classical and contemporary dance to New Jersey and nationwide audiences and to dance students through artistic and educational programs. The organization is comprised of: American Repertory Ballet, the preeminent contemporary ballet company in the state; Princeton Ballet School, one of the largest and most respected non-profit dance schools in the nation; and the Access and Enrichment initiatives, ranging from the long-running and acclaimed DANCE POWER program to the newly launched On Pointe series. The professional company is a classical and contemporary ballet company committed to presenting ballets from the 19th and 20th century alongside new and existing works by choreographers from today. Founded in 1963, the company is currently under the artistic leadership of Douglas Martin, former principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet. The company's rich history of repertory includes established masterpieces by distinguished American choreographers such as George Balanchine, Gerald Arpino, Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp; cutting edge works by choreographers such as Val Caniparoli, Kirk Peterson, Dominique Dumais, Harrison McEldowney, Amy Seiwert, Susan Shields and Melissa Barak; and former Artistic Directors Dermot Burke, Marjorie Mussman, Septime Webre and Graham Lustig. ARB has been designated a "Major Arts Institution" by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts consistently for the past two decades, and has repeatedly been awarded a Citation of Excellence by the Council. ARB was voted People's Choice for Best Dance Company in 2008 and 2011.

Princeton Ballet School has gained a national reputation for its excellent dance training since its founding in 1954 by Audrée Estey. Princeton Ballet School currently enrolls approximately 1500 students annually from age three through adult and is directed by Mary Pat Robertson. Princeton Ballet School has studios in Cranbury, New Brunswick, and Princeton which are equipped with shock-absorbent floors, non-slip dance surfaces and pianos for live accompaniment. Many of Princeton Ballet School's faculty members have performed professionally; others have attained graduate degrees in dance education and have won awards for their teaching. Students from the school have gone on to dance in professional ballet and contemporary dance companies in the US and abroad. Graduates have danced with such diverse organizations as the American Ballet Theatre, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Miami City Ballet, STREB, Complexions, Mark Morris Dance Company, Twyla Tharp, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and Momix.

Pictured: Morgan Caglianone, Angelica Generosa, Emily Munoz, Alumni Relations Coordinator Lisa de Ravel, Maria Katarina Raphael, Evan Law, and Ian Law. Photo Credit: George Jones.