This past weekend, several FBP School Students participated in the Boston Regional division of the Youth America Grand Prix competition. We are proud of the progress they made over the last several months, dedicating their time and energy to bring these solos and group numbers to the stage. Congratulations to all the participants!
Classical – Talisman
Contemporary – Original piece by Debbi Leahy
Classical – Odalisque from Le Corsaire
Contemporary – Original piece by Debbi Leahy
Hansine Hernandez Classical – Fairy Doll
Contemporary – Original piece by Debbi Leahy
Adam Littman Davis
Classical – Satanella
Contemporary – Original piece by Derrick Davis
Classical – Swanhilda from Coppelia
Contemporary – Original piece by Debbi Leahy
Classical – Variation from Paquita
Classical – La Fille mal gardée
Contemporary – Original piece by Jaime DeRocker
Contemporary Ensemble, Original piece by Derrick Davis: Amanda Emby, Abi Evangelista, Hansine Hernandez, Emma Laquinta, Adam Littman Davis, Audrey McCarthy, Anika Toprak, Chazanna Williams
Contemporary Ensemble, Original piece by Debbi Leahy: Brianna Cotter, Madison Couto, Adam Davis, Amanda Emby, Kathleen Toland, Hannah Yelnosky
Additionally, Mia Del Sesto was scheduled to participate but had to withdraw due to injury.
Also, our thanks to the faculty for rehearsing and coaching these variations and group pieces (and for sacrificing a bunch of Sundays in the process)!
Leticia Guerrero Derrick Davis Jaime DeRocker Debbi Leahy Mary Ann Mayer
All of our students placed in the high 80-90 percentiles. Additionally, here are some of the top finishers from the FBP School:
Adam Davis, 3rd Place (Junior Category) Classical and Contemporary Vanessa Linden 3rd Place overall (Pre-competitive Category)
Contemporary Ensemble: Brianna Cotter, Madison Couto, Adam Davis, Amanda Emby, Kathleen Toland, Hannah Yelnosky invited to New York Finals
This past weekend, seven FBP School students traveled to Torrington, Connecticut to participate in the Connecticut Classic Scholarship competition. FBP Artistic Staff and FBP School faculty have been working with the students since October working to prepare the students for this competition and the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) competition that is held next weekend in Boston.
We are so very proud of each students’ accomplishments and hard work in the process. The following students each performed a classical variation and were judged by teachers from Boston Ballet, American Ballet Theater and other artists:
Madison Couto – Swanhilda Variation from Coppelia
Amanda Emby – Variation from Le Corsaire Hansine Hernandez – Fairy Doll Variation Vanessa Linden – Talisman Variation Adam Littman Davis – Variation from Satenella Kathleen Toland – Variation from Paquita Hannah Yelnosky– Variation from La fille mal gardee
There were many noteworthy schools and talented students competing from around the region. All of FBP School’s students scored in the high 80-90 percentile, with the following students placing in the top 10.
Vanessa Linden- 3rd place – Youth Division Adam Littman Davis – 5th place – Junior Division Madison Couto – 6th place – Senior Division
Congratulations to all of our young and talented dancers!
Next weekend these students will join a few other students for the YAGP regional competition in Boston. We will be sending more information regarding this event, in case you would like to livestream some of our dancers performances. If you would like to support our students come to the live event at the John Hancock Hall. Details to follow later this week!
From California to Miami, Russia, and Rhode Island (to name a few!), Alan Alberto has danced all over the world. We caught up with one of FBP’s leading men to find out how that path led to Providence, what his favorite roles are to perform, and even his best chimichurri recipe…
Hey Alan! Let’s start with a bit of your background.
My family is Argentinean, I’m first generation born American. I grew up playing soccer and was a very athletic kid. I participated in theater and musical theater in school but didn’t begin any type of formal dance lessons until high school. I started dancing at the age of 15 in Miami.
So what was your training like?
I took my first formal ballet class on Valentine’s Day of 2003 at Mencia & Pikieris School of Dance. I knew immediately that I wanted to pursue ballet professionally. I auditioned for The Harid Conservatory and was accepted. I continued my studies at Harid for my Junior and Senior year of high school. Harid’s training is Vaganova, I enjoyed the training and after graduating wanted to continue my studies. I auditioned and was accepted to the Vaganova Ballet Academy (Academy of Russia Ballet) in St. Petersburg, Russia. I completed the upper school, Class 7 & 8, graduated in 2007.
It sounds like your ballet training was pretty well-rounded! Do you think that made it a bit easier to transition in professional life? What was your experience like?
My professional career began as a guest artist with Boca Ballet Theatre as Paris in Romeo & Juliet. After this performance I began my first season with Nashville Ballet in 2007. The transition from student to professional happened rather quickly and was challenging. There were high expectations and pressure to prove myself.
Wow, that must have been intimidating.
I had only been dancing for 4 years before I started working, I was very green but worked really hard. In 2008 I moved to NYC to expand my horizons and continue to grow as an artist.
You’ve had the experience of dancing in quite a few different environments. How do you feel these differing cultures have affected you as an artist?
I’ve been fortunate to have lived and danced in Russia, Florida, Tennessee, New York, Pennsylvania, Croatia, and Rhode Island. These experiences have been wonderful, I’ve met some really beautiful and talented individuals along the way. The differing cultures have broadened my perspective on life, understanding, worth, value, and has taught me gratitude.
Lovely! This is your fifth season with the company. What do you like best about Festival Ballet Providence?
I’m grateful for my work at FBP and the opportunities I’ve been given. I appreciate that we’re a small company and we get to dance a lot.
Speaking of opportunities, you’ve had the pleasure of dancing several principal roles with the company. Do you have any favorites so far?
Romeo, which I just performed last month, is my favorite so far. It’s a role that feels very natural to me and allows me to be genuine with my emotions.
I’ve enjoyed the process of working with such a positive and inspiring choreographer like Ilya Kozadayev. It’s great to work with an artist with such good energy, vision, and passion.
The story is moving, the music is beautiful, the collaboration with Gamm Theatre is exciting, and the choreography is organic.
When you’re not dancing, you are pursuing your business degree at Johnson and Whales. Tell us a bit about why education is so important to you.
Education is extremely important to me. I really enjoy learning and strive to continue to grow every day of my life. I always knew I would get a degree in business, it just had to be the right place and the right time. After settling into my job at FBP, I knew the time was right. JWU is a great fit for me because of the adult program they offer in the evening, I can make it work with the FBP schedule. The business school offers a very well rounded business degree, my concentration is in Operations. I really enjoy business. I hope to translate the knowledge and network I’m building into my future career.
That’s so inspiring. And as if a full time ballet career and school weren’t enough, you’ve also started your own business, Mesa Fresca. Can you tell us a bit about that and what the experience has been like?
Mesa Fresca, the Fresh Table, is a food business my sister and I launched in 2014. We craft premium Hispanic cuisine with all natural & fresh ingredients, currently offering an authentic Argentine chimichurri sauce. Founded on family and community, Mesa Fresca aims to address the gap in the marketplace for authentic, fresh packaged Hispanic food. This summer we will be launching two new products. It’s exciting to see our business grow and expand.
The experience has been wonderful. It’s been fun meeting people in a different community (outside of ballet), getting more involved with individuals working on food policy in RI, and learning from successful & passionate entrepreneurs.
How do you juggle all of that?
I’m able to juggle all of it by keeping very organized and having a supportive family. I have a calendar where I make notes and plan my ballet, school, and Mesa Fresca schedule. My family and friends provide support which allows me to be successful.
Beautiful. So I have a jar of your chimichurri in my fridge and it is super yummy! But I was wondering, what’s your favorite dish to make using the Mesa Fresca chimichurri?
Chimichurri is traditional served over grilled meats. It’s great as a seasoning or marinade for steak, chicken, fish, or veggies. My favorite way to eat it is over sausages.
Grill Italian Sausages (Chorizo)
Lightly toast a French Baguette on grill (when the sausages are almost done)
When you’re an actor, there are many, many great plays and then there is Shakespeare. The rich, poetic verse, the twisting plots, the masterful characterization and fathomless psychological depth makes the Bard’s work stand out in the wonderfully diverse history of the theater.
That’s why the last few months have been such an adventure for me, both as an artist and a lover of Shakespeare. I have been working alongside choreographer Ilya Kozadayev and the dancers of Festival Ballet to bring to life a brand new adaptation of Romeo & Juliet which pays homage to both the spirit and the text of Shakespeare’s most famous story.
The idea came from Misha Djuric, who wanted to bring actors into the production, speaking live on stage, to become part of the story. The result is a multisensory experience blending movement, music, and words. It is truly remarkable.
I enlisted two wonderful actors Jeanine Kane and Richard Noble, both experienced Shakespeareans and familiar faces in the local theater scene. Throughout the course of the ballet each of them play multiple roles, from the Chorus (narrators) to Friar Laurence and Juliet’s Nurse. Weaving in and out of the action for much of the ballet, they bring the music of Shakespeare’s verse to bear on Prokofiev’s gorgeous, powerful score. In one powerful tableau, Jeanine delivers Lady Capulet’s impassioned plea for vengeance as the raw agony of a kinsman’s death consumes her. It is a stunning, breathtaking, synthesis of three languages, Shakespeare’s words, Prokofiev’s music, and Kozadayev’s transcendent choreography.
The greatest gift of Shakespeare is, of course, the poetic verse that flows through his tangled stories, showing us the true power and beauty of the English language. When performed live, Shakespeare is a delicious combination of phrasing and melody; his words do not just sing, they also dance.
I can’t wait for you to experience this beautiful new work of dance and theater. It truly is a remarkable accomplishment and I feel humbled and privileged to have helped bring it to life. Don’t miss it!
Romeo & Juliet! One of the great ballets of our time and one of the most iconic stories in all of literature.
When you’re a dancer there’s something special about performing Romeo & Juliet. The sword fighting, the passion and romance, and, yes, the death and despair, combine to tell a story that is unlike anything else in the canon of classical ballet. I performed this ballet many times and every time you step on stage, a fresh sense of energy washes over you.
With my performing career (mostly) behind me, I have the privilege to approach this ballet as a choreographer and director, bringing this complex and tragic story to life with a new perspective. Misha Djuric approached me almost a year ago with a creative vision for a new, collaborative production of Romeo & Juliet. He wanted to bring actors into the production to be part of the story and to perform Shakespeare’s magnificent text live.
I was immediately intrigued.
Misha connected me with a lion in the local theater scene: Tony Estrella, artistic director of the Gamm Theatre, whose experience with Shakespeare is downright impressive. It has been a fascinating process for both of us working on this project, learning from each other, and bringing this story to life.
This ballet is hard. The pas de deux scenes are long and passionate, overflowing with power and romance. The fight scenes are a complex balance of swordsmanship and showmanship. But ultimately storytelling and characterization are the most important challenges and I enjoy tackling them. The characters are complex and deep, each flawed in their own ways. Bringing that out in the dancers in an authentic way has been one of the great privileges of working on this new ballet.
I hope you will join us Valentine’s Day Weekend February 10-12 for an evening of passion, romance, and Shakespeare! I am sure you will agree this ballet is a powerful retelling of a truly iconic story.
See you at the theater!
P.S. Check out my interview for the FBP Series “Locker Room Talk” below!
With more than 25 seasons at Festival Ballet Providence under her belt, Jennifer Ricci is the company’s most tenured dancer. She will be dancing the role of Juliet in one cast of Romeo & Juliet at The Vets, Feb. 10-12, but first we’re finding out where she started, how things have changed, and how the iconic Arabian costume in The Nutcracker got its signature shimmer and sparkle.
Hi Jennifer! Tell us a bit about your background. You have lived in Rhode Island your entire life. When did you start dancing?
I have been involved with FBP for 38 years. I started taking lessons with the founders, Christine Hennessey and Winthrop Corey, when I was 4 years old. I had this problem with my elbow – the joint kept dislocating – and my doctor suggested I try ballet to strengthen the muscles around it. My mother had always wanted to dance as a child, so she signed me up, and I loved it from the beginning!
Your sister Jaclyn followed quickly after, right? What was it like growing up dancing alongside each other?
Jaclyn was three years younger than me. She started taking lessons at FBP as soon as she turned 4, but she progressed even more quickly than I did. Soon we were both in the advanced level, taking class together.
You both joined the company at a young age as well. What was that like? Were you ever competitive?
Dancing with Jaclyn was an all around awesome experience. We are so different style-wise; I am more dramatic and mellow, and she was the dynamic jumper and turner. Because of our different strengths, we were rarely cast in the same roles. Our work relationship was much more supportive than competitive.
That’s so lovely. Are there any experiences in particular that you treasure from the time when your careers overlapped?
I think the highlight for both of us was sharing lead roles in Christine Hennessey’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was the only time we were both cast as principals in the same ballet- as Puck and Titania- so that was a really pivotal moment for us.
So cool that you were able to learn from the founders of FBP. What was working with Christine Hennessy like?
Awesome! She was the most inspirational person, director, and mother figure. Every aspect of her class was fantastic, you never wanted it to be over. She was very upbeat and constantly leading you in a new direction. Her criticism was constructive and positive- nothing to ever make you feel bad about yourself as an artist.
What was the actual transition from student to company dancer like for you?
Since I had already been taking class with the company, the transition into company life felt very smooth. When I graduated from high school, I immediately joined the company. I was given an entry contract, meaning my shoes and costumes were paid for. I was 17 at the time, and since then I’ve kept every contract FBP has ever given me. That’s 27 years of contracts!
Your Arabian in The Nutcracker is exquisite. Can you tell us a bit about what this role means to you?
Arabian was always my dream role as a child. I would watch the company dancers perform it with my jaw wide open. Tall dancers were always chosen for the role and being petite, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be given the chance to do it. When I was 16, I decided to start learning it myself in the back of the studio, using the barre as a partner.
One day, Christine said to me, “I see you, little one, keep up the good work, you keep practicing!” One of the company men volunteered to learn it with me, and we actually ended up performing in one of the Discover Dance performance! It went extremely well, and that’s how I became the Arabian dancer.
What an amazing story! So how do you keep the role fresh, doing it year after year?
Well, I’ve danced the piece with 17 partners now, so I try to make it different for each person based on their personality. That way it’s never boring. It’s such a different dynamic with everyone!
Can you tell us a bit about that iconic costume?
Well, the first costume was made for me when I was 16 and it never fit very well. A few years later, my sister Jaclyn remade the costume with a smaller cut out on the top and used a few pieces of my grandmother’s costume jewelry to decorate it. There’s her brooch on the top and a few necklaces on the pants. The costume is very special to me.
So you’ve lent your sparkle to Arabian in more ways than one! Speaking of that sparkle, you are known for your acting skills. You have even had to do a few death scenes in ballets such as Scheherazade and Lady of the Camellias. How do you prepare for a character role that involves a great deal of acting?
I find you need to know a little more about the character to take it to the next level. Every character is different. For example, as Juliet, I’m supposed to be a young girl. She’s not very experienced and has not yet been exposed to the pitfalls of life. What it really comes down to is experiencing a wide range of different roles, and really learning about the character before you begin.
You’ve been with the company for quite some time. How has the company changed over the years?
It’s changed drastically! When I joined, we were a much smaller company, primarily focused on classical ballets. I like the fact that these days we work with more modern and contemporary choreographers. It makes things a little more edgy and real. Sexy, sassy, you name it, bring it on! It’s a new age, and this kind of choreography is what the audience wants: something raw that they can relate to.
What are some of your favorite roles to dance? What would you love do again?
Scheherazade, I love Scheherazade! Oh, and I love Carmen! I can’t wait to perform that again in a few months.
Jennifer will alternate with Vilia Putrius as Juliet in Ilya Kozadayev’s Romeo and Juliet, February 10-12 at The Vets. Casting is subject to change without notice.
Article by Ruth Davis. Video by Ty Parmenter. Photos by Jonathan D’Amico and Mary Ann Mayer.
There’s been a lot written about the how music, dance and theater have a powerful and therapeutic impact on people with disabilities. If there was ever a great example of this it was during a recent performance of an adaption of Mozart’s The Magic Flute performed on the stage of Trinity Repertory Company. This production included children with Down Syndrome who are part of FBP’s Adaptive Dance program together with children and adults from the Rhode Island chapter of Seven Hills Foundation. The production was written by Seven Hills’ Jonathan D’Amico with choreography by Mary Ann Mayer, FBP’s School Director. It was directed Trinity Rep’s education director Jordan Butterfield.
Both FBP’s Adaptive Dance Program and Seven Hills RI have been recipients of grants by the John E. Fogarty Foundation. The Foundation, founded by Congressman Fogarty in 1964, grants organizations which improve the quality of life for Rhode Islanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Mary Ann and Jonathan met at the Fogarty awards presentation last spring, and began discussing the possibility of collaborating.
FBP’s Adaptive Dance Program was established 10 years ago in partnership with Meeting Street. “The primary goal is for the children to experience the joy of dance and music,” said Mary Ann Mayer, the program’s director, adding, “but it also offers other important benefits. We see children who have improved their coordination, overall fitness, balance, self-esteem, self-expression, teamwork, rhythm, and musicality.” The success of the program is demonstrated by these children every Saturday morning during their weekly classes, and some have even been mainstreamed into other FBP School classes and even into the children’s cast of The Nutcracker and other FPB productions.
Seven Hills Rhode Island is an organization that supports more than 1,000 infants, children and their families, adults, and seniors with various disabilities and life challenges throughout the state. Jonathan began writing theater pieces for Seven Hills about five years ago. He said, “Most of our participants have significant challenges–social, developmental, intellectual or psychological–and we find that this program definitely helps them build social skills, self advocacy, self esteem, and interpersonal skills.” The program challenges the participants to do things they don’t necessarily know how to do or out of their comfort zone.
In The Magic Flute, the younger Adaptive Dance students played young birds of the forest and the older ones played temple guards. They charmed the audiences with their composure and precision. On stage, some participants are accompanied by other student “helpers,” their peers, who coach them and provide them with a sense of confidence. During one of the scenes in the show, one of the children faltered. Her helper entered the stage and gently knelt down next to her, reassured her, and brought her to join the other dancers during the curtain call. They got a resounding round of applause.
Jonathan D’Amico said, “I hope we can continue this wonderful collaboration. The level of preparation, the exquisite choreography and the final execution of by the dancers was extraordinary.” He added, “Our parents and staff were so impressed. I hope they are inspired to see some of FBP’s performances–our goal has been to expose them to the arts.”