Four-Day Winter Intensive Features All-Star Faculty
CLASS AND CONVERSATION: Students at Princeton Ballet School’s upcoming Winter Intensive will not only take class with past and present ballet stars; they will hear them interviewed and have a chance to ask them questions.
By Anne Levin
A focused series of classes in ballet and musical theater will bring a roster of well-known artists to the studios of Princeton Ballet School next month. From January 3-6, experienced dance students ages 12-22 can study technique with such notables as Stella Abrera, Gillian Murphy, Ethan Stiefel, Aydmara Cabrera, Da’ Von Doane, and Michael Mindlin.
Each session will end with an interview and discussion period, where students are encouraged to ask questions about the high points and hurdles involved in a professional dance career. Called “Dance Anew in 2022,” the series was organized by Murphy, who balances her work as a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre (ABT) with artistic associate at American Repertory Ballet (ARB), the company with which Princeton Ballet School is affiliated. She and her husband, ARB artistic director Stiefel, are the parents of a toddler son.
“I reached out to some friends and professional peers of mine who I knew would inspire the dancers,” Murphy said. “Stella (Abrera) was one of the first people I contacted. She’s not only my best friend, but she was a gorgeous artist with ABT. She is very versatile. I knew that in addition to teaching wonderful classes, she’d also be chatting with the students, sharing her insights about how to show up and make the most of every opportunity.”
Murphy has been a member of ABT since 1996, and became a principal dancer in 2002. Abrera joined the company the same year as Murphy, and was the company’s first Filipina principal dancer. She retired in 2020 and is now the artistic director of Kaatsbaan, the cultural park in upstate New York.
Stiefel danced with the New York City Ballet before joining ABT, where he was a principal dancer from 1997 until his retirement in 2012. He is currently principal guest instructor at ABT. Stiefel has been artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and served as dean of the School of Dance at the North Carolina School of the Arts.
Cabrera, who is director of Princeton Ballet School, was a principal dancer at the National Ballet of Cuba. She teaches at many schools across the globe and is developing a training curriculum incorporating much of her Cuban roots. Doane is a member of Dance Theatre of Harlem. He has performed with several other companies and has created choreography of his own. Mindlin, an alumnus of Princeton Ballet School, is currently the dance supervisor for the Broadway show Hamilton and the national touring company of Aladdin.
Advanced students and trainees from Princeton Ballet School and ARB are enrolling in the program, but there is also interest among dancers from further afield, Murphy said. Participants will take two classes, from 4-5:30 p.m. and 7:15-8 p.m. each day, ending each evening with the interview and question-and-answer sessions.
Classes are in person, with safety protocols observed. “I think it will be an inspiring four days that sets them up for the year,” said Murphy. “The dancers will get a lot out of working with these teachers, something positive each day. We want them to feel free to ask questions, so they’ll feel inspired and absolutely ready to have a good year.”
Two dancers, Melinda Wang and Ava Ramirez, won scholarships to the program. The cost to participate is $350. Visit arballet.org for more information.