Noble Barker Scholarship

 

Meet New Haven Ballet 2018-2019 Noble Barker Scholarship Winner, Gillian Penna

Gillian is 17 years old and a senior in high school.

Here are 10 things you may not know about Gillian in her own words!

    1. I started dancing when I was three years old and am a Level 8 student at New Haven Ballet where I train and rehearse nearly every day.
    2. My favorite performance is, and always has been, New Haven Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.
    3. I still feel butterflies in my stomach before I perform. Yet when I step onto the stage I feel a rush of pure bliss, which is something I experienced from my very first role as a little lamb and continue to feel today. The feeling is indescribable.
    4. Something special I do before each performance is put my right pointe shoe on, then my left, then tie my right, and then tie my left. As silly as it sounds it has become an essential part of my routine, as though something is “off” if I do not do it like that. My favorite little secret is that before I perform a solo role I put “good luck pixie dust” on, because a little sparkle makes all the difference.
    5. Something that most people do not know about studying ballet is the amount of commitment it takes. By commitment I not only refer to the endless hours of classes and rehearsals, but also the commitment to better yourself. At the end of the day the only competition you have is yourself. Like anything there are off days. Days where your leg isn’t super high like the girl in front of you, or you couldn’t get that extra rotation in your turn like the girl beside you, and even days where you simply just fall down. But you cannot let that stop you. By studying ballet you commit to bettering yourself. You must use your off days as motivation to make the next day better. If you want your leg higher, stretch. If you want to do more rotations in a pirouette, practice balancing. Not everything is always as put together or perfect as the pink tutus you watch leap across the stage. That perfect leap takes years of failing. It is not about how many times you failed, though; it is about how many times you got back up and told yourself, “I am going to get this.”
    6. I have injured my Achilles tendon, fractured my ankle, broken toes, dislocated my knee — you name it, I have probably injured it in someway. With each injury I learned new ways to improve my warm up before class, something that is essential. I also learned how to strengthen not only the injured body part, but the muscles around it to prevent further injury. Similarly, I also learned how to listen to myself. When I feel pain I no longer tell myself to push through it as this may only make it worse. Recovering from a lengthy injury helped me realize there is pure truth in the saying that we do not know how much we love something until we no longer have it. Not being able to do what I love with my friends destroyed me. In that same period of time I faced a lot of doubt. I wondered if I would ever return to dance the same again. To a 14 year old aspiring ballerina that thought was petrifying. However, I remembered that I made a commitment to this art and I was going to take each day at a time to get myself back where I wanted to be. As a moral to this brief story always listen to your body. Had I listened to those early signs of pain my injury may not have been as severe as it was. By the time I took action the pain was unbearable.
    7. My favorite steps to perform are are big jumps, or a grand allegro. I love soaring across the stage and as an audience member I always admire dancers who can give the illusion that they may never come down from that jump. I think it is beautiful. I also love to perform fouette turn sequences, although they may not always go as planned. Still I always try to rise to the challenge. I love the satisfactory feeling of landing a sequence and knowing you are leaving the audience with a good impression.
    8. My advice to younger students is to recognize that there are going to be times when it is not easy. There are going to be times when you are sore and exhausted. There are even going to be times when you feel defeated. That is just part of the journey. However, you have the option of accepting that defeat and walking away, or confronting it and telling yourself that it is not the end. I promise you it is never the end. In ballet there is always room for improvement and there is always room to make yourself better. The most important thing to do is to stay humble in both your failures and success. There is always going to be a dancer who is stronger than you, and always a dancer who is weaker than you. Take that realization as a learning experience. Use it as your inspiration to always push yourself a little bit harder. Moreover, do not make it a competition between you and your peers, make it competition between yourself, you are only as good as your last performance. Listen to the song within your heart and let the music guide you to your own greatness. The only thing in the way of your success is yourself, so take some risks, and put up a good fight and you will find your artistic self along the way. Always remember why you’re doing what you do and let that spark your flame… and of course, always stretch before class.
    9. After I graduate high school I hope to continue dancing in some way for as long as possible. My goal is to pursue my Masters in Physical Therapy. I would love to be able to give back in a sense. The people who have worked with me have helped make me a stronger dancer, despite being injured, and I would like to make that possible for another dancer or athlete somewhere down the road.
    10. My younger sister, Charlene, is my biggest inspiration. From the time she started to dance at age two years old, she has always looked up to me, as both a dancer and a person. Knowing that with every plie and tendu her little eyes are watching me closely always inspires me to do my best. She has encouraged me to push myself both onstage and in the studio. Whenever I want to give up, or I feel as though I have had enough, I remember that she’s there, taking in everything I do and wanting to be just like me. Naturally, I want her to excel and know that if I give up, I am only teaching her that it is okay to quit. I am so fortunate that I get to spend my final year at New Haven Ballet with her in the same classroom. I know that this year I am going to push myself to be even better because I am hopeful the Charlie will do the same.

 

Meet New Haven Ballet 2017-2018 Noble Barker Scholarship Winner, Abigail Miller

Abigail is 17 years old and a senior in high school.

Here are 10 things you may not know about Abigail:

    1. I started dancing recreationally in 8th grade and came to New Haven Ballet in 9th grade when I wanted to become more serious about dance.
    2. I am a Level 5 student at New Haven Ballet where I take classes four days per week.
    3. Some of my favorite dance classes have included those where we learn lessons that can be applied outside of the studio. I remember a teacher telling our class to dance as if we meant it and wanted to be there. This stayed with me because it truly is important to do everything to the best of your ability; it is better to know that even if something doesn’t go well, you tried your best.
    4. I pray when I get nervous.
    5. I have never suffered an injury that rendered me me unfit to dance.
    6. I used to play the clarinet. I had been on stage in orchestras but never as a dancer. As an instrumentalist the only thing I had to focus on was playing the correct notes. As a dancer I must perform through my movements and my face. It is important that the audience be entertained by your performance, and a blank face does not do that. While I wouldn’t say it is frustrating, it is something that I have to remember.
    7. During my first Nutcracker, I enjoyed learning the step “pas de basques” as a member of the Spanish Hot Chocolate Corps.
    8. I am interested in medicine. I plan to study pre-med in college and go on to med school.
    1. I am a bit on the quiet side and spend more time internally processing than speaking. Because of this I gain more from serene environments with small groups of people. To connect this to dance, I enjoy the tranquility of a slower combination at barre. With pliés, for example, I am able to focus on each individual movement.
    2. When you learn dance techniques, such as lifting up our chin in épaulement, you are building confidence in your dance movements — and learning to lift up your chin in life!

Meet New Haven Ballet 2016-2017 Noble Barker Scholarship Winner, Stephanie Persiani.

Stephanie is 17 years old and a senior in high school.

Here are 10 things you may not know about Stephanie:

  1. I love everything about ballet! I love the structure, the discipline, the fluidity, and how I feel doing it.
  2. I have been dancing for 12 years; I started when I was 5. I have been studying ballet for the last two years and before that tap, jazz, and hip hop.
  3. I dance at NHB 6 days a week.
  4. My favorite dance experiences include the first time I put on pointe shoes, participating in NHB’s summer program, and Saturday morning classes!
  5. Before performances I listen to the music nonstop and mark my parts.
  6. To me ballet is the art of making something difficult look effortless. A lot of people think that it is simple but it’s a very complex art form.
  7. Last year I suffered a concussion that put me out of dance for 5 months. While I was unable to dance I sat on the couch and wore my pointe shoes all the time, while forcing my brother to do glissades and cabrioles so I could keep dance with me even when I wasn’t able to do it myself.
  8. The most frustrating thing about ballet is working to come back from any time off and get back to where you were before.
  9. After I graduate from high school I plan to attend college. Hopefully in 10 years I will have finished all my schooling and be a doctor and still be dancing!
  10. At NHB I am surrounded by people I perceive to be better than me — they inspire me to strive to better myself. The best advice I wish to impart to younger students is to remind yourself a bad dance day isn’t the end of the world. Keep working hard, nothing as amazing as ballet is going to be easy!

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 Meet New Haven Ballet’s First Noble Barker Scholarship Winner, Kelsey Blount. Kelsey was 16 years old and a senior in High School when she was awarded the Noble Barker Scholarship.

Here are 10 things you may not know about Kelsey:

1. I have been dancing for 11 years. I started at the age of 5.

2. I dance at my high school 5 days a week and at New Haven Ballet 4 days a week.

3. My first performance in The Nutcracker was the most memorable time in my dance experience. Being a part of such a great production at such a young age had me captivated with ballet. The older dancers who would have the leads inspired me and I would say to myself, “I want that to be me when I get older.” Now that I am a senior, just like the girls I was inspired by, the experience is that much more surreal

4. Before a performance I like to pray.

5. What people do not know about ballet is the amount of commitment and dedication it takes in class, to practice and perform. Being a ballet dancer is more than just a twirl; it has structure, technique, and discipline.

6. My favorite step to perform is grande allegro, especially, sissone faille assemble.

7. With ballet there is a lot of pressure to do your best and not meeting your personal expectations can be frustrating. I would advise younger students to work hard in class and to never give up. Dedication and commitment will help you to improve yourself not only physically but also mentally.

8. I enjoy the beauty of ballet. Ballet conveys so much through movement, your posture and facial expression. Ballet allows you to perform and communicate to the audience.

9. The fact that there are not numerous African-American ballet dancers inspires me to continue to practice classical ballet. I want to be a figure or role model for younger girls who think that they cannot practice ballet because of stereotypes.

10. After high school I plan to go to college to receive a nurse practitioner degree and a minor degree in dance. In 10 years I see myself in the medical field while dancing and teaching younger children.

photo: Thomas Giroir (c) 2016.

 

About Noble Barker:

photo 2-4Noble Barker

New Haven Ballet Founder

(1949-2010)

Noble Barker founded New Haven Ballet in 1985, serving as its Artistic Director until 2000. In 2001, Barker became the Artistic Director of the Pioneer Valley Ballet in Northampton, Massachusetts, and in 2003 founded East Street Ballet in Hadley, Massachusetts. In 2006, after spending nearly six years in the Pioneer Valley region of Massachusetts, Barker returned to the position of Artistic Director of New Haven Ballet. Barker originally trained at the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet while attending the University of Pennsylvania and went on to dance with Cincinnati Ballet, Concert Dance Company of Boston, Hartford Ballet, and Connecticut Ballet in New Haven. He danced soloist and principal roles in works by master choreographers, including George Balanchine, Paul Taylor, August Bournonville, Jennifer Muller, Ana Sokolov, Bruce Wells and Michael Uthoff, and he taught at schools and companies throughout the region including Yale University, UMASS Amherst, Mt. Holyoke College, Nutmeg Ballet, and Portland Ballet in Maine. As a choreographer, he created over 50 repertory works for student and professional companies ranging in style from classical to modern to musical theater, including full-length versions of The Nutcracker, Coppélia, and Cinderella. From 1981-85, Barker served as resident choreographer for Connecticut Ballet and from 1985-2000 choreographed for the New Haven Ballet Company, Omaha Ballet, Ballet Lubbock, Yale Opera, New Haven Symphony, Orchestra New England, and Chancel Opera Company.In September of 2008, he received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Connecticut Dance Alliance, where he served on the Board of Directors for several years.

In August 2014, New Haven Ballet announced the creation of the Noble Barker Scholarship. This full tuition scholarship may be awarded to a deserving high school Senior, who demonstrates tremendous dedication to studying classical ballet at New Haven Ballet, exhibits the highest moral and ethical standards, is kind, courteous and gracious inside and outside the classroom, and displays significant improvement over the course of the prior year at New Haven Ballet. All New Haven Ballet students who: 1.) are entering their senior year in high school in the fall of the award year; 2.) have timely registered for classes or submitted financial aid/scholarship applications; and 3.) have completed a full year of classical ballet training at New Haven Ballet during the year prior to the award year are eligible and will be considered for this scholarship.

 

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