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This article was prepared for the April 28, 2004

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Fifty Years of Poise & Grace

Of the many thousands of children who have learned the traditional "poise and grace" offered at Princeton Ballet School, hundreds have gone on to professional careers. As Princeton Ballet School observes its 50th anniversary at McCarter Theater – and its professional company, the American Repertory Ballet, notes its 25th birthday – an event will celebrate both those who love dance for its own sake and those who have made it their career. At a grand reunion on Saturday, May 1, at McCarter Theater, doors open at 6 p.m. for displays of memorabilia and photos, and following a 7 p.m. two act performance, there will be a dessert reception. For $25 and $50 tickets, call 609-258-2787.

"I"m delighted to share our celebration with the community that we have served for the last 50 years," says Mary Pat Robertson, director of the school where she has taught since 1980. "We are proud of the tradition of excellence started by our founder Audree Estey, and we want to show the community that we are carrying on that tradition."

In that vein, Robertson will honor the Estey memory by presenting a demonstration of young dancers doing class work. Also programmed is a demonstration by children from Dance Power, the scholarship program, and an excerpt from "Don Quixote," the classic that the school’s workshop will stage on Saturday, May 8, at the Patriots Theater in Trenton. Anne Woodside, who danced with the professional company while she was still in high school, has choreographed for teenage dancers.

Three of ARB’s artistic directors – Dermot Burke, Septime Webre, and Graham Lustig – will be represented in the second act, which honors the 25th anniversary of the company that began its professional existence as Princeton Ballet. Former company member Leia Roth Cerami has set Burke’s "Still Lifes," and Erin Mahoney, now with Washington Ballet, has set a dance by Webre. Current director Lustig will present an excerpt from his new "Vista."

Created new choreography for this special evening are company alumni — Karen Russo Burke, now at the Dayton Ballet; Amy Seiwert; and Randy James (who danced at ARB using the name Randall Horvath).

To be launched this evening is a "Wall of Fame." Except for Lisa de Ravel, a former ARB dancer who now teaches at ARB’s Princeton Ballet School, all of the inductees trained at the school. They include Carol Estey (daughter of founders Audree and Bud Estey, who was a Broadway dancer); Bebe Neuwirth (Dr. Lilith Crane on "Cheers," and Tony winner for "Chicago" and "Sweet Charity"); Kraig Paterson (a Trenton native who danced with Mark Morris and Mikhail Baryshnikov; Dodie Pettit (in the original cast of "Phantom of the Opera"); Karen Russo (who is married to former ARB director Burke); Lynda Sing (who joined Dance Theater of Harlem); and Jim Vincent (now artistic director of the Hubbard Street Dance Company).

Everyone’s favorite part of the evening may well be the restaging of Estey’s choreography of the Grand March from the first act of "Nutcracker." Former child dancers of all ages will take that Grand March down memory lane.

Anniversary Performance, American Repertory Ballet, McCarter Theater, 609-258-2787. $25 and $50. Saturday, May 1, 6 p.m.

ARB Spring Repertory, George Street Playhouse, Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, $25. 732-249-1254.

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