February 20, 2019

Princeton Ballet Master Classes Broaden Students’ Perspectives

STEPS ON SUNDAY: Teachers from a range of backgrounds come to Princeton Ballet School the last Sunday of the month to lead classes that are open to all. This Sunday, Cuban ballerina Ana Lourdes Novoa will give intermediate and advanced ballet classes. Pictured are students in a regular ballet class.

By Anne Levin

After taking over as director of Princeton Ballet School last August, Aydmara Cabrera thought it might be a good idea to expose students to the ideas of master teachers from dance companies around the world. The concept evolved into a monthly series, which has become popular with students from inside and outside of the school.

This Sunday, Cuban ballerina Ana Lourdes Novoa will teach intermediate and advanced ballet classes at the school in Princeton Shopping Center. Last month’s guest teacher was Sean Mahoney of the Paul Taylor Dance Company; former Pennsylvania Ballet and San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Zachary Hench will visit next month and focus on partnering in ballet. In April, Xiomara Reyes, a past principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre and current director of the Washington Ballet School, will lead classes.

“I wanted to expose my students, and invite students from outside the school, to experience these master teachers,” said Cabrera. “It has been very well received. The kids are excited. They see the benefit of having this kind of exposure. It’s like a refreshment for different styles, not just for the students but for our faculty as well.”

Novoa, who joined the National Ballet of Cuba in 1976 and was made a principal dancer in 1990, danced many of the classics as well as works by contemporary choreographers. She left Cuba in 1992 to join the English National Ballet, where she danced alongside fellow famous Cuban dancers Jose Manuel Carreno and Carlos Acosta. She returned to the company in Cuba and danced there for several more years before retiring and beginning her teaching career there. She has also taught at New York’s Ballet Hispanico and Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Ballet.

Cabrera, who danced with the National Ballet of Cuba, has understandably looked to her home country and company to find guest teachers. Carreno, who was a star at American Ballet Theatre for many years, will teach at the upcoming summer intensive series as well as an open master class, she said. But she is intent on bringing teachers from other backgrounds, too.

“I’m focusing on Cuban dancers this first year for obvious reasons,” she said, with a laugh. “They are my friends. But next year, we will have a little bit more variety. I want to make sure of that. We did have Sean Mahoney teach some beautiful classes here last month, and next month we have Zachary Hench, so it’s actually not all Cuban.”

But ballet in Cuba “is like baseball is here,” Cabrera said. “Now, the National Ballet School has about 3,000 students. It’s beautiful what they have been able to accomplish, even though the country itself has a lot of deterioration, which is unfortunate.”

On Sunday, Novoa will teach an intermediate level ballet class for dancers 13 to 15 years old from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., followed by an advanced level class for dancers aged 16 and up from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The cost is $35. Visit arballet.org or call (609) 921-7758 for information.