PRACTICAL EDUCATION: Risa Kaplowitz, in purple, will be leaving the school and the company she co-founded at the end of the summer. But the Princeton Dance Theater, shown here, and the Princeton Youth Ballet will continue under the direction of Talin Kenar. (Photo by Ashley Concannon)
By Anne Levin
After 18 years of teaching, choreographing, coaching and directing the Princeton Dance Theater (PDT) and Princeton Youth Ballet (PYB), Risa Kaplowitz moves on.
Kaplowitz, who co-founded the Forrestal Village studio with former American Ballet Theater (ABT) principal dancer Susan Jaffe, recently announced that she will be moving to Sarasota, Florida, where she will join faculty at the Margaret Barbieri Conservatory. of the Sarasota Ballet.
PDT and PYB will continue under the leadership of Talin Kenar, currently Executive Director of PYB. “Talin is perfectly able to continue what I started and will go beyond,” Kaplowitz said this week. “I wouldn’t have left if I hadn’t been sure of this.
While PDT focuses on training; PYB is performance driven. Executing them both ultimately had dire consequences. “It was seven days a week for 18 years,” Kaplowitz said. “As rewarding as it was, I was starting to feel my age. My husband always wanted to live in Florida, but I never wanted to – until we discovered Sarasota. There is so much culture there, it is just amazing.
The Sarasota Ballet Company is known for its ballet performances by Sir Frederick Ashton, a choreographer whose Kaplowitz style is known through his own performing career. She danced with the Dayton Ballet, Houston Ballet and other companies before making the transition to a business career and having two children.
When the family moved to West Windsor, Kaplowitz began researching a ballet school for her daughter, Adrienne. “I couldn’t find one that gave me the same level of comfort as I did in the Maryland Youth Ballet, where I was trained,” she said. “It was a serious study, but very warm, and we were like family. That’s what I wanted.
Kaplowitz and Jaffe had been classmates at the Maryland Youth Ballet. Jaffe was about to retire after a successful career with ABT. The two former colleagues co-founded PDT, with Jaffe commuting from New York. She eventually moved, but returned frequently to teach and coach. She is currently artistic director of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater.
“Susan’s departure was a scary moment,” Kaplowitz said. “It took a lot of courage to say, ‘What we started was strong and it’s only fitting that only one of us is here now.’ And a good part of the reasons I knew it was going to be okay was the national ABT training program, which we follow. There are so many strong and versatile dancers that it doesn’t matter who is at the helm.
The ABT program
incorporates elements from the French, Italian and Russian ballet schools. “Susan was in the first class they offered, and she came back to me and said, ‘This is a game changer because we can put all of our teachers on the same page,'” said Kaplowitz. “It can be very confusing for young dancers when different teachers tell them different ways of doing things. Finally, all of our teachers have been certified. The level of consistency was something that manifested itself very quickly. “
Among the dancers that Kaplowitz has trained for professional careers are Max Azaro, with Ballet Austin; Jillian Davis, with Complexions Contemporary Ballet; and Frances Forcella, with Ballet X. “The other thing that makes me proud is that we had seven at Princeton University,” she said. “They submitted their dance videos, based on their work with PYB.”
Over the years, Kaplowitz has choreographed The secret garden, Sleeping Beauty, a midsummer night’s dream, and other ballets, which are performed at the Princeton High Schools Performing Arts Center. They will continue to be presented twice a year. “I plan to get back to any performance that I can,” Kaplowitz said.
She will stay during the annual summer intensive and leave for Sarasota at the end of August. “The most important thing for me is to know that PDT and PYB are left in good hands and will continue to grow,” she said. “He’s my baby, and he needs to move on.”