Princeton Youth Ballet (PYB), formerly DanceVision, is a not-for-profit corporation (501(c)(3)) founded in 2005 by Susan Jaffe and Risa Kaplowitz. PYB's 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.
Click here to read about Artistic Director Emerita Risa Kaplowitz, her choreography, and her passionate commitment to the positive impact of high quality dance education on the lives of her students. Published in the May, 2016 edition of Real Woman magazine.
PYB 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 Queen, in 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 Mendelssohn'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 also performed with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in the spring of 2013 in their youth concert series, Dancing Around the World, and with Boheme Opera NJ in 2014.
In summers past, 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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
How does my child become involved in a PYB production?
Auditions take place every September. Audition information is 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.
What are the time and financial commitments involved in participating in a PYB production?
Rehearsals take place on Saturday afternoons between 2:00 PM and 6:30 PM, and on Sundays between 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Dancers cast in principal and soloist roles may also be called to rehearse on Friday evenings. 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. Need-based partial and full scholarships are available. No qualified dancer will be turned away. Participants who would like to request a scholarship should email info@PrincetonYouthBallet in advance of the next audition.
In order to ensure that PYB is able to meet the expenses of staging high-quality productions, PYB families are asked to volunteer. 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.
Talin Kenar, Artistic Director
As a student, Ms. Kenar began her training in Solana Beach, CA and later attended the Royal Ballet School in London, England on scholarship. She studied English Literature and Psychology at the University of California, San Diego, while beginning her professional career in the ranks of City Ballet of San Diego and San Diego Ballet. Talin become a member of Hong Kong Ballet in 2001, and went on to join Colorado Ballet, Carolina Ballet, and American Repertory Ballet, performing 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 completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through Level 7/Partnering and has successfully presented students for examinations. She is the owner and director of 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 the 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.
Risa Gary Kaplowitz, Artistic Director Emerita
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 (PDT) and DanceVision, Inc., (now Princeton Youth Ballet), with Susan Jaffe, a former principal ballerina with American Ballet Theatre. During her period of leadership, she 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 become an ABT® National Training Curriculum Examiner. She continues to work for ABT adjudicating student examinations.
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 Talin Kenar and the staff of PYB to direct and inspire PYB’s talented young dancers.
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
Catherine Piontek, MD, President, is a graduate of Smith College and SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine, with postgraduate training in obstetrics/gynecology and psychiatry. After practicing psychiatry in academia for 14 years, she brought her passion for science and human behavior to the field of pharmaceutical marketing and communications, where her areas of expertise include neuroscience and women’s health. She has been an adult student at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio since 2007.
Chen Ai, Treasurer, is a Managing Director at BlackRock's Risk & Quantitative Analysis Group. She is the Lead Risk Manager responsible for investment risk management of BlackRock’s High Net Worth Separately Managed Accounts business and Municipal Bond business. Chen received her B.A. from Beijing Technology and Business University, and her MBA from Zicklin School of Business, the graduate school of Baruch College. She is a MD Sponsor of Blackrock’s Asian and Middle Eastern Professional Network, and a long lasting committee member of the Princeton Chapter of BlackRock’s Women’s Initiative & Allies Network. Prior to her position at BlackRock, Chen worked in the Investment Risk Group covering quantitative fixed income hedge funds at Barclays Global Investors (BGI). Prior to joining BGI, she worked in the Market Risk group at JP Morgan investment bank. Her younger daughter studies ballet at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio and has been performing with PYB since 2016.
Kam Burki, Trustee, is the Global Head of Hedge Fund and Private Equity Accounting for Leucadia Asset Management. He received his B.S. in Accounting and M.S. in Accounting from Rutgers University. Kam is also a Certified Public Accountant in the states of New Jersey and New York. His daughter has been studying ballet at Princeton Dance and Theater since 2017 and has performed in PYB productions since 2019.
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.
Priya Mehta, Trustee, is the Head Teacher at Little Scholars Montessori Academy in North Brunswick, NJ. She is a certified Montessori Teacher and also holds a Master’s Degree in Commerce. Before her current position, she taught early childhood students in India for over five years. She is a passionate educator and has also taught English As A Second Language to immigrant adults in New Jersey. Her two daughters are students at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio and have participated in PYB productions since 2013.
Katie Mintzker, Trustee, graduated from the University of California at Davis in Anthropology. She worked for three years as a field archeologist before taking a position as Manager of the Overseas Resource Center at Stanford University for seven years. This office was responsible for advising undergrads and graduate students applying for extended study or research abroad with scholarships such as the Fulbright, Rhodes, and Marshall.
Since moving to Princeton she received a Masters Degree in Higher Education Administration from the University of Pennsylvania. Katie is the mother of two daughters who love, love to dance. She was delighted by how much she enjoyed the excitement, creativity, and camaraderie of being part of the costume crew, and helping backstage for The Nutcracker and Cinderella at PYB.
Adora Murphy, Trustee (Bio coming soon)
Vishva Ravat, Trustee (Bio coming soon)
Kirsten Sharett, Trustee, is a college counselor. She worked in undergraduate admissions for Princeton University for several years, assessing thousands of applications through Princeton’s lens of “in the nation’s service and in service to humanity”, a mission statement she wholeheartedly believes is at the heart of every extraordinary applicant, regardless of where they attend college. At Princeton, she evaluated both domestic and international students, giving her a unique window into how students around the world are shaping their communities and what it means to be a global citizen and an outstanding member of society.
Kirsten brings this insight and more than 20+ years of experience as a journalist, brand builder, and communications professional. Kirsten earned her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College at Columbia University, with a double major in Economics and Political Science and a minor in East Asian Studies. She studied International Relations at the London School of Economics & Political Science and obtained her graduate degree from Columbia Journalism School. In her free time, she enjoys reading, exploring anything mystical and spiritual, and the science behind fantastic fungi and plant-based foods. As a resident of Princeton, N.J., she often strolls through Princeton’s beautiful campus with a coffee from Small World Coffeehouse.
Namrata Wadhawan, Trustee, is a lead SAP eCommerce developer at Colgate Palmolive. She did her Masters in Computer Applications from Indore, India and has worked on several large enterprise application implementations in the course of her career. She is a proud mom of two hardworking teenagers. Her older daughter has been dancing various dance forms since she was 4 and joined ballet at Princeton Dance and Theatre in 2020. Her younger daughter is into acting in theatrical productions, school choir and competition dancing.
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