Princeton Youth Ballet (PYB), formerly DanceVision, is a not-for-profit corporation (501(c)(3)) founded in 2005 by Susan Jaffe and Artistic Director, Risa Kaplowitz. Our mission is to give talented young dancers the opportunity to perform in professional level productions and to invite the community to fall in love with classical ballet through our inspired storytelling, magical productions, and uncompromising artistry. Co-founders Susan Jaffe and Risa Kaplowitz share a wealth of performance, teaching, and outreach experience between them; both women are gifted dance educators and superb artists. Susan Jaffe is a world-renowned, former principal dancer with American Ballet Theater. Risa Kaplowitz, a former principal dancer with the Dayton Ballet and Manhattan Ballet, has also danced with Houston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and is PYB's Artistic Director.
Click here to read about Risa Kaplowitz, her role as Artistic Director of Princeton Youth Ballet, her choreography, her passionate commitment to the positive impact of high quality dance education on the lives of her students, plus see where a few of her students are now. Published in the May, 2016 edition of Real Woman magazine.
PYB currently performs two full-length ballets each year. The Company made its debut in December 2007 with a production of Susan Jaffe’s The Nutcracker, and followed in 2008 with the first of Risa Kaplowitz's original ballets, The Secret Garden, based on the beloved novel. Ms. Kaplowitz embarked on her second original ballet, The Snow Queenin 2011. This premiere played to sold out audiences at The College of New Jersey's Kendall Theater and has since become a new holiday tradition for many families, members of the community and community organizations, such as local Girl Scout troops. In May 2013, The Company debuted a new spring ballet double feature: A Midsummer Night's Dream, with original choreography by Ms. Kaplowitz set to Mendolsohn's lush score, and a bonus feature, Graduation Ball, a ballet choreographed by David Lichine and set at a 19th century girls' school dance. The Company has also performed with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, most recently in the spring of 2013 in their youth concert series, Dancing Around the World, and with Boheme Opera NJ in the spring of 2014.
For the past two summers, PYB has offered outreach programs to children from Trenton’s HomeFront. Children attended a week-long cost-free dance camp at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio with classes in various genres of dance, including ballet, tap, hip hop, and modern. This camp was made possible thanks to a generous grant from the Church & Dwight Employee Giving Fund.
In January 2011, PYB partnered with The Parkinson Alliance to bring free dance classes to patients with Parkinson's Disease and their caregivers. Over time, these classes evolved to serve patients with various physical disabilities and are currently offered at the Merwick Care and Rehabilitation Center in Plainsboro, New Jersey.
PYB, under the name DanceVision, successfully completed its first pilot program of D.A.N.C.E. (Dance As a Necessary Component of Education) in February 2006 at Montgomery Township's Lower Middle School with a two-week dance program called Water Dance based on poetry from a book of the same name. In April 2008, a similar D.A.N.C.E. program was completed at Millstone River School thanks to a generous grant from the West Windsor-Plainsboro Education Foundation. These residencies help schools meet the New Jersey Department of Education Core Curriculum Standards and introduce different learning modalities to students. To learn more about bringing the D.A.N.C.E. program to your school, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is Princeton Youth Ballet?
Princeton Youth Ballet, formerly DanceVision, is a not-for-profit corporation (501(c)(3)) founded in 2005 by Susan Jaffe and Artistic Director Risa Kaplowitz. PYB’s mission is to give talented young dancers the opportunity to perform in professional-quality performance, and to encourage the community to fall in love with classical ballet through inspired storytelling, magical productions, and uncompromising artistry. Performances include two full-length ballets each year as well as additional performances, such as collaborations with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Boheme Opera. Outreach includes free programs for children from Trenton’s HomeFront, school residencies, and dance programs for seniors.
What is the relationship between PDT and PYB?
Princeton Dance and Theater Studio and PYB are financially separate organizations that share an artistic soul. PDT provides exceptional and compassionate ballet training within a culture of high expectations. PYB provides young dancers with the professional-quality performance experiences needed to help young artists grow. PDT donates studio space to PYB for rehearsals, and Risa Kaplowitz, the owner/director of PDT, serves as the Artistic Director of Princeton Youth Ballet. Many PYB company members are students at PDT, though auditions are open to the public and appropriately trained dancers from outside schools are encouraged to audition.
How much ballet experience is needed to perform with PYB?
Younger dancers should have at least 1-2 years of ballet training before auditioning for PYB. A basic level of technical skill and knowledge of ballet vocabulary is required. Older dancers who would like to participate in our productions are expected to have had at least 2 continuous years of pointe work as part of their regular training. Serious dancers not enrolled at PDT who are interested in being considered for soloist or technically demanding corps de ballet roles are asked to take a full ballet class at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio prior to the next scheduled audition. Please email info@PrincetonYouthBallet.org to register for the class or for more information.
What productions will PYB produce in the 2016/2017 season? How does my child become involved in a PYB production?
PYB is proud to announce the premiere of its new production of The Nutcracker, an original, full-length ballet choreographed and directed by Risa Kaplowitz. Auditions are tentatively scheduled to take place on September 17, 2016 at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio. (PDT). Audition announcements are posted on the PYB website as well as in local papers and at PDT. Like Princeton Youth Ballet on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @PYBallet and Instagram @princetonyouthballet to see all of our posts and stay current with updates and information regarding auditions, events and performances.
After the overwhelming success of Risa Kaplowitz's new production of Cinderella, PYB will once again present Cinderella to audiences in May, 2017.
What are the time and financial commitments involved in participating in a PYB production?
Rehearsals take place on Saturday afternoons between 1:15PM and 6PM, and on Sundays between 10:30AM and 4PM. Dancers cast in principal and soloist roles may also be called to rehearse on Friday evenings from 6:30PM-8:30PM. A schedule of rehearsal times is posted online and at PDT by Monday of the approaching rehearsal week. To the best of our ability, rehearsals are scheduled so that no participant has to sit idle for a long time waiting to dance. Please note that once a participant commits to participating in a production, no absences are allowed. The "no-miss" policy is strictly enforced.
A participation fee is required from all dancers who audition, however checks are only deposited and credit cards are only charged if a dancer is cast in a role. Partial and full scholarships are available for those dancers whose families cannot afford to pay. No qualified dancer will be turned away based on the family's inability to pay. Participants who would like to request a scholarship should email info@PrincetonYouthBallet in advance of the next audition.
Theater rentals, costumes, props, and the hiring of production staff and technical crew are costly. In order to ensure that PYB is able to meet the expenses of staging high-quality productions, PYB families are expected to volunteer their time and effort before, during and/or immediately after the performances. Volunteer assignments include assisting with the backstage supervision of young dancers, helping with costumes, concessions, ushering, loading in and out of the performance venue, etc. PYB families are also asked to solicit business ads from local businesses, vendors or service providers to be included in the printed program, buy or make gift items to be sold at the front of house performance boutique, sell flowers or concessions in the lobby, donate items for our raffle baskets, or help craft costumes, props, or set pieces. Parents who work one performance. Every parent volunteer will be able to enjoy at least one performance from the audience. Parents who are unable to volunteer may pay an opt-out fee.
Risa Gary Kaplowitz, Artistic Director
Risa Gary Kaplowitz is a former principal dancer with Dayton Ballet and a former member of Houston Ballet and Ballet Manhattan She has also performed with Pennsylvania Ballet and Metropolitan Opera Ballet and as a guest artist with many companies nationwide. She has performed the repertoire of many choreographers including Fredrick Ashton, George Balanchine, Ben Stevenson, Stuart Sebastian, Dermot Burke, Billy Wilson, and Marjorie Mussman.
After spending ten years in a successful business career, Ms. Kaplowitz returned to the dance world and founded Princeton Dance and Theater Studio and DanceVision, Inc., (now Princeton Youth Ballet), with Susan Jaffe, former ABT principal ballerina. Ms. Kaplowitz is now PDT’s Director, and the Artistic Director of Princeton Youth Ballet. She also founded D.A.N.C.E. (Dance As a Necessary Component of Education), an outreach program that brings dance to New Jersey schools.
Ms. Kaplowitz has choreographed more than twenty original pieces, and her original full-length ballets The Secret Garden, The Snow Queen, Cinderella, and The Nutcracker are performed by Princeton Youth Ballet. Additionally, she has choreographed for several New Jersey Symphony Orchestra family and school outreach concerts.
Ms. Kaplowitz is an accomplished dance educator who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through Level 7/Partnering and has successfully presented students for examinations. In 2013, Ms. Kaplowitz was asked by the Curriculum co-authors, Franco De Vita and Raymond Lukens to be an ABT® National Training Curriculum Examiner.
Leland Schwantes, Assistant Artistic Director
Mr. Schwantes received a BFA in Modern Dance from the North Carolina School of the Arts in 1969 before moving to NYC to join The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. One of the many highlights of his dance career includes performing in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass during its inaugural performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He has danced in five Broadway shows and was featured in Bob Fosse’s film, All That Jazz. For many years, Mr. Schwantes danced with Broadway’s legendary Chita Rivera in her highly acclaimed nightclub act. He has also been the dance partner to the amazing dancers, Cyd Charrise and Juliet Prowse.
As an actor, Mr. Schwantes performed in Richard Jarboe’s three-character play There Goes the Judge, both in Princeton, NJ and at the New Orleans Fringe Festival. Stephen Stahl, the director of that play, recently hired him to do a special staging for Susanne Sulby’s one-woman play Sanctuary, Off-Broadway in NYC.
Mr. Schwantes has also enjoyed a long career as a successful commercial actor on TV, and for over thirty years has been one of New York’s busiest hand models. Since moving to New Hope, PA, his passion for dance has been reignited, and for the past decade, Mr. Schwantes has been involved with Princeton Youth Ballet as a performer. He is most proud to have originated the role of Mr. Craven in The Secret Garden and the Devil in The Snow Queen.
Mr. Schwantes is pleased and honored to work with Risa Kaplowitz and the staff of PYB to direct and inspire PYB’s talented young dancers.
Talin Kenar, Executive Director
As a student, Ms. Kenar attended the Royal Ballet School in London, England on scholarship. She later studied English Literature and Psychology at the University of California, San Diego, while beginning her professional career in the ranks of San Diego Ballet. Talin was a member of Hong Kong Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Carolina Ballet, and American Repertory Ballet, and has performed extensively in the United States, Asia and Australia. She has danced soloist and principal roles in such classical ballets as Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker, and has performed works by such iconic choreographers as George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp, among others.
Ms. Kenar has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through Level 7/Partnering and has successfully presented students for examinations. She is a member of the full-time teaching faculty at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio. Ms. Kenar is also an adjunct professor at Rider University and a regular guest instructor at the University of South Carolina Department of Dance and the South Carolina Summer Dance Conservatory. In 2014, she assisted Justine DeLuccio, PTMS, OCS, FAAOMPT in the creation of a non-profit Dance Performance and Injury Prevention program to provide screening and corrective conditioning measures for dancers at the pre-professional and college level. Ms. Kenar has also been a contributor to the Positive Energy Arts Foundation outreach initiative in Central Pennsylvania. She continues to seek ways to enrich the lives of people of every age through dance in her work with PYB.
Elyse Mertz, Company Photographer
Elyse Mertz is a photographer based in NJ/NY with a BFA in Dance from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University. She applies her passionate knowledge of movement to her work behind the camera, drawing from her roots in the arts to document and create vibrant images.
Ms. Mertz was a participant in “The Art of Photographing Dance" workshop at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in 2017 and 2019, where she studied with Rose Eichenbaum, Whitney Browne, and Christopher Duggan, and photographed renowned dance companies, dancers, and choreographers. She has worked with Williamsburg Art Nexus and numerous dancers from NYC, and is excited to continue her work with Princeton Youth Ballet as Company Photographer.
In addition to her work as a photographer, Ms. Mertz is also a preschool teacher's assistant, a certified yoga instructor, and an instructor at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio certified in the ABT® National Training Curriculum Pre-primary through Level 3.
Ms. Mertz is an alumna of Princeton Dance and Theater Studio and Princeton Youth Ballet.
BOARD of TRUSTEES
John E. MacDonald, President is the Office Head of the Princeton office of Constangy Brooks & Smith LLP, a national labor and employment law firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. John concentrates his practice in the areas of employment contract litigation, discrimination litigation, employment counseling, restrictive covenant litigation (non-competition, non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreement litigation) and FINRA securities-industry arbitration. John has extensive trial experience in both state and federal courts in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New York. He has argued cases before the New Jersey Appellate Division, the New Jersey Supreme Court, and before the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals. John’s wife Beverly regularly assists in Princeton Youth Ballet productions and their daughter performs in PYB shows.
Martha Easton PhD, Vice President is an Assistant Professor of Art History and Museum Studies at St. Joseph's University, specializing in medieval art history, with a secondary specialty in Japanese art, cultivated during the six years she spent living and working in Japan upon her graduation from college. She received her B.A. from Carleton College, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Before her position at St. Joseph's, she taught at The Cooper Union, New York University, and Bryn Mawr College, and Seton Hall University; she was also a long-term Lecturer for The Met Cloisters. Her research and publications focus on gender, sanctity, and the body. Her daughter is a student at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio and has participated in PYB productions since 2010.
Stacey Murray, Secretary is a former Human Resources Professional with JPMorgan Chase responsible for Payroll/Benefits and New Employee Orientation/Training Director for Embassy Suites Hotels.
Stacey's most recent accomplishments include her work as a teacher at Raritan Vally Montessori School in Bridgewater NJ for students ages 3-6. She has also served as President of the Women’s Missionary Society in New Brunswick. Currently, Stacey serves as Co-President of the Parent Association at Rutgers Preparatory School in Somerset NJ and has enjoyed organizing and coordinating special events and outreach for PYB since 2016.
Kiran Borra, Treasurer, is Vice President, Investment Banking and Markets at The Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ. She received her Bachelors of Sciences from Mumbai University, and went to graduate school for Computer Applications at the Computer Management Corporation in India. She also has a Professional Certificate in Financial Risk Management from New York University. She is the current leader of Employee Resource Groups –Working Families Network and a Diversity and Inclusion Council Committee member. She has spearheaded many leadership and employee engagement initiatives at the bank. Her daughter is a student at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio and has participated in PYB Productions since 2009.
Esther Sun, Trustee, earned an MS and PhD from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and an MBA from the Roth School of Business at the University of Michigan. She is currently employed as an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley, managing technology implementation supporting finance, financial fraud prevention, and risk control. She has been an active member of the Princeton and West Windsor communities, acting as the Director of Public Relations for the Princeton Football Club's Board of Directors and as a volunteer on the West Windsor Arts Council Finance Committee. Dr. Sun has been a life-long supporter of dance, and currently dances with Princeton Contra Dancer and Princeton Improv, as well as in several Princeton Youth Ballet performances. Her daughter was a student at Princeton Dance & Theater Studio between 2006 and 2017, and began dancing in DanceVision/PYB performances in 2008. She is now an undergraduate at Princeton University.
Jennifer Gazzara, Trustee, has a BS in Nursing from Thomas Jefferson University and an MBA and Master's in Environmental Science from Temple University. She cureently works as a Registered Nurse for Wills Eye Surgical Center in Cherry Hill, NJ. Jennifer participates in the Pink Roses Teal Magnolias organization in support of The Cooper Foundation at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, which advocates for the research, care, and support of survivors, and to find a cure for women's cancer. Her younger daughter is a student at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio and has participated in PYB productions since 2014.
Jane Griesinger, Trustee, is the Director of Curriculum & Instruction and Supervisor of Academies at Hunterdon County Vocational School District. She earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and an MA in Education Policy from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her daughter is a student at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio and has participated in PYB productions since 2016.
Margie Hinsdale, Trustee, has a BS in Mathematics from Muhlenberg College and a Master’s degree in Physical therapy from New York Medical College. She is employed as a physical therapist by Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital with a concentration in aqua therapy. Her son studies ballet at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio and has been performing with PYB for 3 years.
Alicia Kinsler, Trustee, is currently employed as a Flight Attendant with United Airlines. She attended Rutgers University Newark with a BA in Marketing. She maintained a three-year post as a PTO Board member at Franklin Park Elementary School and served on the Franklin Park Township Parent Committee interviewing candidates for the High School Principal position. As a parishioner of Abundant Life Family Worship Church, she serves as a Youth Leader and works with the Media Ministry creating CDs and DVDs after each service. She’s a proud mother of three children. Her daughter, Kennedy, studies ballet at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio and has been performing with PYB since 2017.
Monika Laskowski, Trustee, is a Digital Marketing Manager within the Diabetes & Obesity Marketing Department at Novo Nordisk, an international Healthcare company based in Plainsboro, NJ. She received her M.A. English and Public Relations from University of Maria Sklodowska-Curie, Lublin (Poland). Before her move to the USA, she taught ESL at a Polish Air Force Academy in Deblin, Poland. Monika has volunteered with numerous organizations in the area and is a parent volunteer with Princeton Youth Ballet. Her daughter and two sons are students at Princeton Dance and Theatre Studio and have participated in PYB productions since 2014.
Beverly MacDonald, Trustee, is a musician with extensive experience as a pianist and accompanist. She received her Master of Ats degree from The College of New Jersey and her undergraduate degree from the University of Richmond. Beverly is a certified music teacher in New Jersey. Currently, she is the concert choir accompanist for Ewing Township schools. Beverly is a supporter and active participant in arts education. Her youngest daughter began dancing at PDT and performing with the company in 2012. Beverly is an active volunteer as a church liturgist, and as an officer at the chapter and state level for the Daughters of the American Revolution. She is a parent volunteer with Princeton Youth Ballet.
Lila Marchese, Trustee, works as a studio manager at Princeton Dance & Theater Studio and is a consultant with travel provider, Cruise One. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Early Childhood Education from Rutgers University and prior to joining the staff at PDT, worked as a teacher in the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district. Lila has volunteered with numerous organizations in the area, including Neph-Hope and The Princeton Senior Resource Center and is a parent volunteer with Princeton Youth Ballet. Her daughter is a student at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio and has participated in PYB productions since 2007.
PYB Dancer Wins Prestigious Award
PYB is very proud to announce that one of its youngest dancers, Jonathan Ronen age 8, has won the National Reflections Award of Excellence for a video he acted in and created. He is one of just three award recipients in his division. (See the list of winners here.)
His video, "The Math Dream" was inspired by his involvement with PYB. His mom writes, "thank you for inspiring Jonathan through the Snow Queen rehearsals and ballet class! I have no doubt that Jonathan's inspiration is directly related to his experience in PYB."
See Jonathan's video here.
PYB's Artistic Director, Risa Kaplowitz, Featured in Real Woman Magazine
Click here to read about Princeton Youth Ballet's Artistic Director, Risa Kaplowitz, her passion for dance and dance education, her inspiration as a choreographer, and the achievements of some of her former students/PYB alums.
Princeton Youth Ballet is a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) organization.
Like Princeton Youth Ballet on Facebook, follow us on Instagram @princetonyouthballet and Twitter @PYBallet for up to date information about auditions, performances, and events.
Alumni of Princeton Youth Ballet (formerly DanceVision) pursue various paths once they graduate from our studio. Some of our students are working as professional dancers, others have gone to college and are pursuing careers in other fields. For all of our dancers, their time at PYB has provided them with the skills necessary to succeed in life: discipline, personal responsibility, and grace under pressure. We at PYB expect a lot from our dancers, and they, in turn, learn to expect the best from themselves.
Jillian Davis After graduating from Princeton Dance and Theater Studio (PDT) and PYB, Ms. Davis studied on full scholarship at Pacific Northwest Ballet in their Professional Division, and at Alonzo King LINES Ballet. In 2014 Ms. Davis was offered a contract with prestigious Complexions Contemporary Ballet Company.
Drew Nelson was offered a full scholarship at Orlando Ballet School after leaving Princeton Youth Ballet (then DanceVision) and Princeton Dance and Theater. He has studied with Peter Stark at Next Generation Ballet and received a scholarship for summer study at the Royal Ballet School in the UK. He recently signed a contract with the Royal Danish Ballet.
Francesca Forcella After training with PDT and PYB under Risa Kaplowitz and Susan Jaffe, Francesca joined Houston Ballet II and continued training with Claudio Munoz and Sabrina Lenzi. Last year, Francesca signed a contract as a full company member with BalletX in Philadelphia.
Phoebe Sandford is a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. She currently dances with Red Currant Collective and Mishi Dance.
Kayla Green is currently a company member at Ballet Magnificat!
Tricia Koch is dancing with Ballet Fleming.
Adam Rogers has danced in several Broadway shows and is currently working on world premiere of the revival of An American in Paris.
Emily Wohl is a student at Princeton University and is dancing with the Princeton University Ballet Company.
Debra Bona graduated from SUNY Purchase and is now dancing with Mishi Dance.
Elizabeth Williams is performing with Cirque du Soleil.
Connor Schwantes has performed in numerous musicals and on cruise ships. His most recent engagement includes A Trip of Love.
William Tomaskovic graduated cum laude in May 2013 from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. He has worked with MishiDance alongside fellow PDT/PYB alumnae Phoebe Sandford and Debra Bona , and with Megan Woods and Company. In January he will be doing a contemporary work in Istanbul with Julia Ritter Performance Group.
Our Alumni have danced with or are currently dancing with the following professional ballet/dance schools, ballet/dance companies or are working on Broadway or in film/television
Starz TV Series “Flesh and Bone” (Lead Character, Claire)
Alonzo King LINES
American Ballet Theatre
Cirque du Soleil
Complexions Contemporary Dance Company
Dresden Semperoper Ballet
Houston Ballet (3)
North Carolina Dance Theatre
Orlando Ballet (4)
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Princess Cruise Line
Royal Danish Ballet
San Francisco Ballet
So You Think You Can Dance
Trip of Love (Off Broadway)
PDT Alumni have attended or are currently attending the following colleges and universities:
Butler Dance Program, Butler University
College of Fine Arts, The University of Utah
Department of Performing Arts, Elon University
Alvin Ailey/Fordham University
Dance Department, Goucher College
Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University
Department of Dance, Ohio State University
Ann Lacey School of Dance & Entertainment, Oklahoma City University
Princeton University (3)
Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts (NYC)
Ballet Department at Jacobs School of Music, University of Indiana
Conservatory of Dance, SUNY Purchase
Department of Dance, Texas Christian University
Tisch School of the Arts, New York University
School of Dance, University of Arizona
School of Theatre and Dance at College of the Arts, University of South Florida
Classical Ballet Program, Mercyhurst University