Nationally Known Dancers, Choreographers Conducting Master Classes For SJA students


Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, at left, a principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company for 10 years, works with St. Johnsbury Academy Dance student Hannah Sourbeer during an Oct. 23 class.

Nationally acclaimed professional dancers and choreographers are guest teaching St. Johnsbury Academy Dance students during a series of Master Classes that began recently.

Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, a recent guest instructor, was a principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company for 10 years, performing leading roles such as Jocasta in "Night Journey," Helen of Troy in "Clytemnestra," Lamentation, Pioneering Woman in "Appalachian Spring," and several other timeless Graham works.

She has also worked with other prominent artists and collaborators, including Aszure Barton, Larry Kegwin, Josie Mosely, and Lar Lubovitch in the "Lamentation Variations," Martha Clarke in "Sueno", Pascal Rioult, Philadanco, Siti Company in collaboration with the Martha Graham Dance Company in "American Document," Robert Wilson's"Snow on The Mesa," Lou Diamond Phillips, Guy Stroman, and Susan Kikuchi in "The King and I."

Nationally recognized ballet choreographer, teacher, and costume designer Angela Whitehill will conduct Dance and Fashion Design classes Wednesday, Oct. 31.

The founding artistic director of the Burklyn Ballet Theatre summer program, Whitehill danced professionally with the Ballet Paris, and Jack Emile Litler Productions in England and Europe, and was founder and director of the London School of Ballet in the U.S. Virgin Islands and New Jersey's Shore Ballet Company. She served as a costume designer for the Atlanta Ballet Company, Scottish American Ballet, New Jersey Ballet, Burklyn Ballet Designs, and international ballet competitions.

Author of five dance-related books, most directed at young people considering careers in professional dance, Whitehill has worked as artist-in-residence at Castleton State College, in Castleton, Vt. and Colby-Sawyer College in New London, N.H.

Honored by Dance Magazine in July for her development of a dance studio and conservatory, she is also the founder and artistic director of both Dance Counsel, an advice and counseling service for parents, young dancers, and companies, and Burklyn Designs, a costume design and seminar program.

John Gardner and Amanda McKerrow, two of the nation's foremost ballet dancers, will lead Dance classes Dec. 3-14.

Gardner, who also has won international acclaim as a choreographer, has worked with choreographers Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille and George Balanchine, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, Lar Lubovitch and Martha Graham, as well as Mikail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project.

He received a scholarship to the American Ballet Theatre's school at age 16, joined the Theatre's second company three months later, advanced to the main company in a year, and was later promoted to soloist. He returned to the American Ballet Theatre in 1995 and danced a wide variety of roles with the company until 2002.

McKerrow, who is Gardner's wife, is the first American to receive a gold medal at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow, in 1981. Since then, she has received several other awards, including the Princess Grace Foundation Dance Fellowship.

She joined the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) under the direction of Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1982, was appointed to soloist in 1983, and became a principal dancer in 1987.

Her repertoire includes: the leading roles in "Cinderella," "Don Quixote," "The Sleeping Beauty," "Swan Lake," "La Sylphide," and "The Nutcracker." She has been acclaimed for performances of shorter works by George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Sir Frederick Ashton, Jerome Robbins, and Juri Kilian. McKerrow has created roles in ballets by choreographers such as Twyla Tharp, Clark Tippet, James Kudelka, Agnes De Mille, Choo San Goh, and Mark Morris. She has also appeared as a guest artist throughout the world.

In 2000, McKerrow and Gardner began working for the Antony Tudor Trust, staging and coaching his ballet "The Leaves are Fading" throughout the United States. She has also staged numerous other ballets for professional companies and schools across the United States.

During her last 10 years performing as a principal ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre, McKerrow worked extensively with students and young dancers. Since retiring from ABT in 2005, she has devoted the majority of her time to teaching and coaching ballet.

"The Academy Dance program is committed to providing top-tier professional training to its students," teacher Marianne Handy Hraibi said. "We want our students to be knowledgeably disciplined in dance, and we also want them to be knowledgeable and astute audience members.

Both goals come from exposure to expert training, especially exposure to the nuances that make good dancing great. It is not enough to provide professional training. Our students need to be exposed to the fine subtleties that distinguish great performing artists."

"Training is not just about good technique," she continued. "It is about instilling an awareness of the qualities that make dance more than an activity. Dance is only an art form when attention is made to quality, not simply activity.

Our master teachers, who are all from the top-tiers of professional dance, provide this exposure. Through them, our students gain a sensibility that cannot be taught -- a sensibility that is absorbed through non-verbal exposure, through osmosis. Something in the way a dancer holds a moment, finesses a stretch, touches space with a dynamic that speaks of an eloquence that is timeless.

This is what the master teachers bring. Our mission is that, if we cannot get our students to the top studios in New York City, we will bring the best of New York to the Academy. We do this through the generous donations to the Ned and Sarah Handy Fund for Dance at St. Johnsbury Academy."

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