“Gems of the Ballet” sparkles in Morristown

Risa Mochizuki stars as Paquita


The New Jersey Ballet opened its 22-week 2017-18 season at the Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) in Morristown over the weekend with a mixed repertory of four dance selections, each riveting in its own way.

As I watched the dancers move with apparent ease, I was wowed over and over by their precision, strength, and charismatic beauty.

Saturday’s selections included Design with Strings, choreographed by John Taras, music by Peter I. Tchaikovsky; Facets, choreographed by Ali Pourfarrokh set to the music of Gustav Mahler’s Fourth Symphony; Marietta’s Song, choreographed by NJ Ballet’s own George Tomal with music from Erich W. Korngold’s opera, Die Tote Stadt [The Dead City]; and Paquita, choreographed by Marius Petipa, music by Ludwig Minkus.

Ilse Kapteyn and Leonid Flegmatov star in the New Jersey Ballet’s Marietta’s Song

In Marietta’s Song, Ilse Kapteyn and Leonid Flegmatov were captivating as the romantic duo. They chatted after the performance about their history with the company.

Kapteyn grew up in Deerfield, Mass., trained with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and joined the NJ Ballet in 2012. Flegmatov is from Moscow and a graduate of Moscow State Academy of Choreography. For 13 years, he has toured with six different ballet companies across the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Flegmatov explained, “I like the challenge of performing with different companies from one year to the next.”

In Paquita, Risa Mochizuki performed a Spanish gypsy girl to multiple cries of “Bravo!” from the audience.

“Risa has a dynamic performance quality especially when she does her forté turns. People love that,” praised David Tamaki, the New Jersey Ballet’s director of advancement, and a former dancer with the company.

For nearly 60 years, the New Jersey Ballet has performed from Bergen County to Cape May, and toured the U.S. and the world. The company consists of 20 top quality, acclaimed professional dancers, many of whom trained with the New Jersey School of Ballet.

“We are excited to have the full company back this year, with one exception,” remarked Tamaki. “It brings continuity and the performers know each other.”

“The quality of the NJ Ballet is so good, and it’s happening right here in New Jersey. Remarkable. You don’t need to go to New York City,” said NJ Ballet Board Chairman Scott Tross. “And it’s affordable!”

It’s November, which means the NJ Ballet is preparing for its 45th season of the classic holiday production, The Nutcracker. This year, the company will give 22 performances in four venues statewide, 14 of them with the the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra at MPAC in Morristown.

Performances at MPAC run from Dec. 8 through Christmas Eve, 2017. Tickets are available now, and you can follow the company’s behind-the-scenes on Facebook.

“Each night, new dancers step up to the roles, a different Sugarplum every night. Everyone knows almost all of the parts,” said dancer Kapteyn.

Members of the Junior Company and students at the NJ School of Ballet (left to right): Ava Prentice, Erin Snyder, Kristina Arriaga and Nicolette Rubel danced in Paquita and will dance in the Nutcracker

New Jersey Ballet is designated a Major Arts Institution by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts in recognition of its “artistic excellence, substantial programming and broad public service.”

The company is a three-time winner of the title New Jersey’s Favorite Dance Company in the People’s Choice competition.

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