Christine Parente –
How old were you when you started dancing?
I started dancing when I was three years old. I began by learning tap, ballet, and jazz, but fell in love especially with ballet. My first year with New Haven Ballet was when I was twelve. I was lucky also to attend several summer programs during my middle school and high school years, including Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet’s Summer Program, and Boston Ballet’s Summer Program. These programs helped me focus and develop my skills… I look back on these 5 week summer camps, and remember having grown so much as a dancer.
As a child what did you love most about dance?
I remember telling my parents as a child, we needed to be at the studio early for rehearsals. I loved going and sitting with my back to the mirror to watch all the older girls tie their pointe shoes and practice their pas de deuxs. I loved watching ballet as a young girl, and I remember being obsessed with pointe shoes, tutus, and fouette turns. I could never get enough of any of it! I also loved (and still do) the way dancing made me feel. I always felt important when I danced – it gave me so much opportunity to have pride in my work.
What were some of your favorite roles?
I absolutely loved being a part of the Nutcracker every year. My favorite roles were Snowflake, Flower, and Chinese Princess. When I was first cast into these more challenging roles, I remember feeling like I was actually a “ballerina” – on stage with pointe shoes and all! Also, I will never forget dancing as one of the four little swans in Swan Lake, with NHB. It was a difficult piece, but everyone was dedicated to making such a beautiful production.
Where did you go to college/did you dance while you were in school?
After graduating from Hopkins, I continued dancing at Skidmore College; where I minored in Dance, and majored in Spanish. I studied classical ballet, but also began to explore Modern and Contemporary dance as well. I loved being able to dance in college. Not only did I meet and work with many creative, talented young women and men – but I also really enjoyed being able to contribute something to my school in a special way.
After Skidmore, I became a Spanish teacher, and I’ve been teaching now for 7 years. In my first year, my school needed someone with a dancing background to choreograph musicals. Knowing very little about musical theater, I took a leap of faith and immediately became involved. I studied and learned, and since then, I have choreographed one or two musicals every year for my students and their peers. Currently, I am working on my school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, and just finished presenting Beauty and the Beast Jr.
Creating pieces for younger students and sharing my passion with them, is such a rewarding experience. As the choreographer, I use creativity on and off the stage, problem-solve, and I also get to dance! It’s awesome!
What advice would you give to young aspiring dancers?
I have two pieces of advice for young dancers. The first is to enjoy every moment you have dancing. Dance can have its challenges, physically, mentally, and even emotionally, but my advice is to really embrace and enjoy every moment you are performing or practicing, or even just preparing with your friends backstage. The thrill of performing is difficult to find again once you stop, so just be present and enjoy those moments. The second bit of advice is to never underestimate what you can do with a background in dance. While my profession is not directly based on dance, I was able to find a way to share my passion for dance with others. Stay close to dance if it makes you happy, and always remember you can go back to what you’ve learned no matter what you’re doing in life.
NHB Alumni Coordinator: Kelsy Paff
Kelsey danced with New Haven Ballet under the direction of Philip Otto, John Carney, and Nobel Barker from the age of ten until she graduated in 2008. During her time as a student at New Haven Ballet she attended a number of summer dance intensive programs including Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive, Summer Dance at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, and Nutmeg Conservatory’s Pre-Professional Training program. She took Master Classes with Robert Maiorano, Maria Kowroski, Ashley Bouder, Daniel Ulbricht, and Emily Coats to name a few.
Kelsey graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with a double major in World Literature and Studio Art and minored in Architectural Studies.
Kelsey currently lives outside of Princeton, New Jersey with her husband Jeremy where she continues to enjoy taking open classes with the Princeton Ballet School.
If you are an NHB alum with exciting news to share and/or interested in connecting with other alums, we would love to hear from you. Currently, we are looking for alums who might be interested in sharing their college experiences (academic, dance, etc.) with NHB students. Please contact Kelsey at: email@example.com.