May 18, 2022

Local Youngster to Appear on Stage With New York City Ballet

DANCING IN A “DREAM”: Caia Howcroft, a student at New York’s School of American Ballet, practices in her family’s Princeton home for upcoming performances of George Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with the New York City Ballet.

By Anne Levin

As the official academy of New York City Ballet, the School of American Ballet (SAB) provides all of the children who appear with the company at Lincoln Center in ballets featuring roles for youngsters. One of those ballets is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which will be performed at Lincoln Center’s Koch Theatre May 21-29.

Among the children in the cast is 10-year-old Caia Howcroft, a fifth grader at Littlebrook School. She lives with her family in Princeton and takes classes at the ballet school in New York four times a week — six, if you count rehearsals.

“I’m kind of like a little bug,” Caia described her role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was choreographed by George Balanchine in 1967. “It’s really fun, and I like doing it. The steps in it are ones I knew, but the people teaching me really wanted to get down to the details and perfect it, and of course, have us dance all together. In class we kind of only practice what we’re doing ourselves, but in rehearsal you have to be all together — in sync.”

When we spoke on Monday, Caia and her fellow young cast members had just been fitted for costumes. On-stage rehearsals were to begin the following day. “They just have a few rehearsals, and then it’s all go,” said Caia’s father Caius Howcroft, who ferries her into New York each week. “It’s quite impressive.”

The Howcrofts are both physicists, with no background in dance. “This really came from her,” said Howcroft. “She’s kept at it, and we support it.”

The family was living in Chicago when Caia began taking lessons at the Joffrey Ballet School. They moved to Princeton for their work. “We were strongly encouraged to put Caia up for New York ballet schools,” Howcroft said. “We just missed the auditions for SAB the first year, so she went to the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School for a year. Then she auditioned the next year for SAB, and got in. We were told that would be the best school for her, and it does suit her.”

With at least four trips a week into Manhattan, Caia’s classes take up a big chunk of the family’s activities. “I take my laptop with me and work, make phone calls,” said Howcroft. “Lincoln Center has decent Wi-Fi. But other than ferrying her around, we don’t get involved. They tell us to encourage them, but don’t try and teach them; they’ll do the teaching. In the parent/teacher conferences, they just say, ‘Keep bringing her.’”

Considered among the world’s top ballet academies, SAB is extremely selective. Students have to be accepted each year. “It’s brutal. It’s pretty tough on them,” said Howcroft. “They’ll cut students. So she was very excited to get accepted for next year.”

Next summer is when Caia is scheduled to make the big step to dancing in pointe shoes. “I’m definitely looking forward to that,” she said. In the meantime, “I like being able to dance to music and have fun. Sometimes I get confused with the steps and feel like I can’t do it, but eventually I get it.”

In addition to performances May 21-29, New York City Ballet will present a special program focused on A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of its “Family Saturdays” series on May 28. The hour-long program begins at 11 a.m. Visit for tickets.