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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the February 12, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
A Love for Four Seasons
A romantic holiday can take on an exceptional meaning
when your lover is also your spouse, your artistic partner, and your
business partner. And Mark and Melissa Roxey, co-founders of the Roxey
Ballet Company and the Mill Ballet School in Lambertville, have come
up with an exceptional solution.
The couple will dance together on the Roxey Ballet Company’s Valentine’s
weekend program, "An Evening of Romantic Dance," at the Villa
Victoria Theater in Ewing on Saturday, February 15.
"We haven’t danced on stage in many years," says Roxey Ballet’s
executive director, Mark. "The program theme is all about love
and romance and they’ll be classical, contemporary, and modern works."
The evening’s featured work is a new suite of dances created by Mark
Roxey and called "Four Seasons of Romance." "It’s humorous
and it explores four different types of relationships."
"Melissa and I will dance a section that’s about the first time
you ever see the person you love, and how that is," says Mark.
And it’s no secret why he has chosen this particular blush of young
love. The couple has known each other since they were young teen-aged
classmates together at the Joffrey Ballet School. Today their company
has eight professional dancers featuring principal dancers Elena Martinez
and Andre Ustinov, formerly of the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballet respectively,
working this year on a substantial 29-week contract.
"Four Seasons of Romance" progresses from the duet of first
love to subsequent seasons danced by members of the company. "The
next stage is a piece about what happens on the day you get married.
There’s the wedding day when you surrounded by people who are so important
to that day, but who you may never see again," says Roxey. "The
final stage is what happens after you get married."
Although he doesn’t want to give away too much, Roxey says the work’s
final section — what happens after the wedding — pokes fun
at today’s married mates. "Get ready for a Lazy-boy recliner and
the battle of the remotes," he hints.
For the music, too, he has some surprises. The score features original
and pop sections — "Music that you might not ordinarily expect
to hear at the ballet," he says.
"An Evening of Romantic Dance" also features several other
romantic pas de deux, both classical and modern.These include the
duet from Fokine’s ethereal "Les Sylphides," the dramatically
romantic "White Swan" pas de deux from "Swan Lake,"
and the romantic duet from Roxey’s own choreographed version of "Cinderella."
Roxey Ballet’s "evening of romance" begins with a 6 p.m. pre-performance
reception. Wine and hors d’oeuvres accompanied by an open discussion
about dance led by Mark Roxey and members of the ballet company.
Next comes the performance. Then there’s a final "Dine
Around Town" option that includes dinner reservations at a choice
of area restaurants that include No. 9 Restaurant in Lambertville
and Havana’s in New Hope. Participating restaurants will offer a special
prix fixe Roxey Ballet Valentine’s menu.
The Roxey Ballet Company, official company of the Mill Ballet School
in Lambertville, is a non-profit organization incorporated in New
Jersey in 1995. Since founding his own company, Roxey has choreographed
an astonishing 30 works. He set the company’s full length "Nutcracker"
and "Cinderella" and a host of others. These include "La
Baliene Blanche," "Women and Children to the Left," "Write
Between the Lines," "Palace of Mirrors," "Temptation,"
"Appreciation," "Inside the Out," "In Excess of
Four," "MLK," and "Artillery Man."
"It was a natural progression for us, teaching and dancing, and
doing what we love to do," says Mark. "Melissa’s vocation
is as a teacher — she loves children." The professional couple
are the parents of three-and-a-half-year-old Benjamin.
"I’m city mouse, from Brooklyn, New York, and she’s a country
mouse from Ringoes in Hunterdon County," says Mark. Melissa commuted
to her ballet classes from Ringoes, where her father was in the grocery
business. At age 14 she moved into New York City to pursue professional
career at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet.
Mark’s mother, who raised him in Brooklyn, is a retired multi-tasker.
While he was growing up, she operated her own hair salon and did make-up
and hair for New York shows. Now she designs and helps create many
of the costumes for Roxey Ballet productions.
The couple were married in Lambertville in 1993 while both were members
of the American Repertory Ballet and the whole company was at the
wedding, Roxey recalls. This was when ARB had just become a fully
professional under Dermot Burke. The wedding guests included Burke,
dancer and choreographer Septime Webre (now director of the Washington
Ballet), and Judith Leviton (formerly director of Princeton Ballet
and now president of board of Roxey Ballet).
As principal dancers Melissa and Mark Roxey have been affiliated with
professional ballet companies that include American Repertory Ballet,
the Dayton Ballet, and the Joffrey Ballet. They have also appeared
together as guest artists with Eglevski Ballet, Septime Webre Dance,
and the North Star Dance Theater, among others.
Mark began his training at the Joffrey Ballet in New York on full
scholarship and went on to dance professionally with the Joffrey.
He then joined the American Repertory Ballet Company and Dayton Ballet
Company as a principal dancer, where he danced in works choreographed
by George Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Jose Limon, Alvin Ailey, Maurice
Petipa, and others. He has served on the faculty of schools that
include Princeton Ballet, Dayton Ballet, and Wright State University.
Melissa began her dance studies at age five following
the syllabus of Britain’s Royal Academy of Dancing. Before turning
professional at age 17, she studied at School of American Ballet and
the Joffrey School; she also trained with renowned New York teacher
Maggie Black. Melissa danced with the American Repertory Ballet as
a soloist, then as a principal with the Dayton Ballet Company. Her
roles include the well-loved Sugar Plum Fairy in "Nutcracker"
and Odile in "Swan Lake."
"When we were dancing professionally and touring all over we’d
come back every year and every year we agreed that this was where
we wanted to come back to. We’re both close to our families and I’m
close to Melissa’s family. And we wanted to move back home," says
"To be an artist you have to be really fulfilled in your life
— you can’t be fulfilled living in a vacuum. So to us, part of
the equation is having a full family life and having a family support
system as part of our lives."
Many professional colleagues were shocked when the couple, both principal
dancers, gave up their stage careers to come back to New Jersey to
try to start their own company and school. "We made an intense
decision at the height of our careers — clear to us, but complex
to other people — to exit the professional arena and start again
from scratch," he says. "We decided to build something that
would last — something that did not exist before."
The couple founded the Mill Ballet School in 1996 and it has grown
by leaps and bounds. After spending its first years housed in a humble
one-room studio in Stockton, the school moved in 1999 to a spacious,
state-of-the-art facility in Lambertville. Its mission is to provide
every student with a world class educational opportunity while studying
with the highest caliber faculty in both a positive and creative environment.
"The focus of the school is to provide every student with an equal
opportunity where they can train and develop whether or not they’re
going to be a professional artist or a lifelong supporter of the arts,"
says Mark. He stresses that the school’s dance instruction must serve
the pre-professional dancer as well as the dance-interested youngster.
"We’ve both filled and created a demand for dance instruction
in this area. Before this there was never an approach to developing
artists right here," says Mark. "We all know that basically
dance chooses you."
"Melissa had to leave at 14 to dance and we feel very strongly
that people no longer have to do that. Our training is just as good
and focused and clear as any professional organization in the world."
With the security of the couple’s marriage as a measure, Mark Roxey
calls his company’s "Evening of Romantic Dance" "a very
practical evening of romance."
"It’s a great idea, an experiment, but we’ve never tried this
before," he says. "You’ve got a reception and discussion with
the artists about the program. Then the ballet. Then you go out and
get some eats."
"Now the males have to take the initiative," he concludes
with the flair of a cheerleader. "They’ve got to do the right
thing and get out and get the tickets. Valentine’s is a big day. They’ve
got to get out there and do it. They can make one phone call and have
the whole evening taken care of."
— Nicole Plett
Victoria Theater, 376 West Upper Ferry Road at Route 29, Ewing, 609-397-7616,
ext. 807. Website: www.roxeyballet.com Concert only $25; pre-performance
reception and concert $55; concert followed by dinner $60; and $85
for the reception, performance and dinner. Saturday, February 15,
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