Center Stage Comes to Life

21 Jun

I’ve probably watched the film Center Stage at least 50 times since it premiered at the turn of the millennium. They call it a cult classic for a reason: growing up as a dancer, an obsession with Center Stage was an understood requisite. From the memorization of every line, to owning and listening to the soundtrack on your Walkman on repeat, to you and your peers begging your pointe teacher to let you perform to Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” during your senior year recital, the thrill of that movie became an engrained part of my identity, as I believe it did any dancer born during the 80’s or 90’s. (For the record, our gracious teacher did let us perform “Canned Heat”—albeit somewhat to her chagrin—and we dyed our pointe shoes red, and did the part where they move downstage in the line en pointe, and it was arguably one of the most spectacular moments of my life to date. I say this only half facetiously.)

Given this context, you can imagine the intense restraint of giddiness required for me to maintain my otherwise always cucumber-cool state when I passed Ethan Stiefel (aka “Cooper Nielson”) in the hallway on my first day at ABT. I remember we made eye contact, and I thought to myself, “Could that be…?” My eyes must have given me away, because he looked back at me with a subtle, knowing smirk as though to say, “Yes. I am who you think I am.” It was equally as hard to maintain nonchalance when I started oohing and ahh-ing over a cute dog in the hallway (a typical occurrence for me… one unexpected perk of ABT is that many of the dancers and staff members have very cute dogs that they often bring in to work). I slowly began to lift my gaze up from the lil’ pup, only to discover that the dog’s owner was Julie Kent. (Side note: I have seen Julie Kent a number of times since this first meet-cute encounter, but no matter how accustom I become to passing by her in the office or the studio, it still takes a great deal of willpower to keep myself from shouting out, “I love you! You’re perfect!” Every time. Seriously.)

The final test of the indifferent New Yorker composure I’ve worked so hard to perfect was getting to sit down at our weekly Friday intern meeting with Sascha Radetsky (that’s “Charlie,” for any non-dancers out there). Sascha—(we exchanged somewhere between five to seven sentences with each other, so suffice to say we’re on a first name basis now), spoke with us about his best and worst experiences touring with the Company; what a typical rehearsal day at ABT was like; his experience spending two years away from ABT to dance as a Principal with the Dutch National Ballet; his interest in teaching and writing; and of course, a bit about how he got involved with Center Stage. Fun fact: apparently a different ABT dancer was originally cast for the role of “Carlos” in the film, but was unable to perform. The casting crew then hired Radetsky instead, and changed the character’s name to Charlie.

One of the many great things about my experience interning with ABT has been the setup of its 890 Broadway location. Sure, the offices aren’t glamorous (we are still in the nonprofit world, after all), but they are directly adjacent to the studios where the Main Company takes class and rehearses. I believe this arrangement provides an important cohesion between the art form and its administrative work. As a Performing Arts Administration graduate student, we often discuss the role of an arts administrator within an artistic organization, and the administrator’s relationship with the art form (s)he is working to promote. Anyone who is an arts administrator or is contemplating going into the field undoubtedly has an underlying love of the arts at the core of his or her professional interests, and this is an essential component of the work we do.

Nonprofit organizations—the category into which the arts typically fall—cannot offer financial incentives to compensate for the ‘less attractive’ aspects a job might involve in the way that for-profit corporations can. Instead, nonprofits offer a different kind of wealth: a kind of “human capital” obtained only from intrinsic motivation, and a sense of self-fulfillment derived from the fact that you genuinely believe in the good of the work you are doing—a belief that stems from a personal conviction towards the cause that you are directly serving.

ABT’s studio-office layout really helps to advance this concept. As much as I genuinely loved the substance of the work I did this semester, naturally there were days that writing and re-writing grant proposals could feel tedious or monotonous. During these moments, being surrounded by the art form was incredibly helpful: to hear the music of Shostakovich overflowing from the studio into my office; to pass by Misty Copeland rehearsing on my way to lunch; to recall the gasps from students in the audience as they watched one of ABT’s stars lift another effortlessly into the air during the Young People’s Ballet Workshop the week before… these are the instances that bear a significance beyond explanation. These aspects are significant to a nonprofit arts administrator because they are a constant reminder of why you do the work you do.

To contribute to and be involved with a company that I have idolized and revered from a young age—and to know that my work will help sustain this art form so that future audiences can be similarly inspired—has been a privilege. And of course, brushing shoulders with the ever-beloved stars of Center Stage hasn’t hurt, either.😉


2016 Spring Interns with former ABT Soloist Sascha Radetsky

Elizabeth Henderson

Institutional Support Intern

Spring 2016

Project Plíe Bridge Class

21 Jun


As an intern with the Project Plié initiative I have had the opportunity to experience a lot of different aspects of the education department. One experience that I would like to talk more about is my interaction with the Bridge Class.

The JKO School Children’s Division Bridge Class is an important component of Project Plié. Around 20 boys and girls from all over NYC auditioned at the start of the school year to become part of the inaugural class. They come to ABT every Monday evening to take class, in addition to the classes they take at their existing studios or schools. I think the Bridge Class is a huge component of the Project Plié initiative because these children are the future of ballet in America.

Knowing that the work I was able to do was helpful and supportive was really rewarding because it is so clear how much these kids enjoy ballet. I was able to work on information handouts about the class and help with events for them a lot this semester and that was really a treat. I wish all the best to the children of the Bridge Class because I know they will go far!

Trecia Smith
Training Programs Intern
Spring 2016

So What’s Your Favorite M&M Color?

15 Jun


Going up the elevator on my first day of my internship, I was extremely nervous. ABT is one of the most prestigious dance companies in the world, and I felt more pressure than ever to live up to its expectations. So when the first question posed to me was “What’s your favorite M&M Color”, you have to understand that I was a little bit confused. I do not know if you are aware, but M&Ms all taste exactly the same. I thought long and hard before I hesitantly answered the intern coordinator Dennis. While this was a silly icebreaker so the interns could get to know one another, this question was the first of many very stimulating and engaging questions posed in our weekly intern meetings.


Every Friday, all of the interns gathered around the conference room to discuss a new topic relating to ABT or career professionalism. What I loved most about these meetings was the fact that they gave us a very holistic overview on the ABT operations even though our internship honed in on a single department. For instance, my internship was with ticketing and membership. This was very time consuming so I did not have many opportunities to engage with other staff members about their positions. However, with the intern meetings, I was able to speak to board members, company managers, intern alumni, and even the dancers themselves. We actually had the opportunity to talk with Sascha Radetsky. He shared his experiences about dancing in the company as well as filming Center Stage. I also really enjoyed hearing more about the administrative side of the organization. We learned about the roles of institutional development and company management within American Ballet Theatre. It is incredible to see how much work is put into organizing these efforts.


Lastly, it has been great getting to know my fellow interns. We are all here because we are passionate about the mission ABT promotes. I noticed this from the first day we all went around sharing which artificial coloring we like best. Additionally, I’ve used my peers as resources when thinking about my future career. As a sophomore, I find it very useful hearing other’s career paths and experiences. My fellow interns gave me great suggestions as to where I might want to look for graduate schools. Even though I wasn’t directly working with most of the interns, I still felt very comfortable with them. The intern meetings definitely fostered this sense of unity.

And just to answer the question you’ve been dying to know, I chose the color green. However, any color besides yellow would have been correct.

Christina Michalski

Ticketing and Membership Intern

Spring 2016

Working with Donors

15 Jun
Each day for the first 2 months was definitely an adjustment.  I dealt with speaking to Major donors on the phone and these major donors usually have very specific requests such as seats they would like to sit in, and these requests would vary for each performance.  Often donors would call to have their memberships renewed and immediately following our phone call, I was required to begin the process of their membership renewal gifts, generate acknowledgement letters and update membership records accordingly.  In each case, the goal was to make each donor feel special so they would continue their donations.   American Ballet Theatre targets specifics donor groups and wants to ensure effective work flow within the department. Being able to pay very keen attention to detail while entering donor information was one of the most important factors of my position with this internship.  I was responsible for maintaining the integrity of the donor database as well as analyzing and editing data, while also ensuring accuracy.  Anytime I happen to overlook something relating to a donor it was definitely brought to my attention and addressed expeditiously.  This was imperative because, the smallest mistake could create a lot of confusion and unnecessary issues, not to mention the loss of a donor contribution.

As a membership intern, I was also a part of coordinating studio visits for donors, a time when donors were able to come and observe dancers in rehearsal and speak with dancers personally following their practice session.  Donors love to come and watch rehearsal, as this is for the very privileged few.  I was asked to help set up the chairs in the studio before rehearsal began as well as show donors to the restrooms and other various locations in the studio.

There are 5 different studios available for visits and it was my responsibility to ensure donors were in the right place at the appropriate times.  I assisted a lot with all logistics of studio visits, member events, and some receptions.  After donors watched rehearsal, I would then escort them back to the lounge to get their personal items showing as much courtesy and appreciation as possible, while also thanking them as I would proceed to escort them to the exit doors.  I was able to create some quite interesting relationships with the donors and realized the value on the initial phone conversation with each donor.  They are always sure to show their appreciation when visiting the studio, and it’s nice to know that someone feels as if their needs have been met and that I was able assist in an enjoyable experience which also made me feel great inside.

It was my pleasure to be able to thank them for previous donations and their continued support.  The reward in knowing that many dreams will be kept alive has been an overwhelmingly amazing and eye opening experience, giving to others is what makes this world a better place and with the American Ballet Theatre, giving is at the heart of the organization which is why I truly enjoyed this experience.

Destiny Hill

Development Intern

Spring 2016

One of my favorite visitors…….

26 May
This Spring at ABT I’ve had the pleasure of working as the Summer Intensives intern in the Education Department, helping prepare for the exciting summer season where young dancers travel far & wide to learn from ABT’s amazing faculty at their various intensives. ABT’s educational programs are all so incredible & prestigious, all helping to train the future dancers of America. Working in the office alongside the people who make that magic happen has been such a rewarding experience, and has solidified how excited I am to work in arts education in the future.
Although I am pretty confident in the path I plan to pursue, one of my favorite aspects of my ABT internship was our weekly intern meetings on Friday. We got to meet so many people with different relationships to ABT; former dancers, board members, employees, intern alums & more! It was so exciting to meet these different people & hear their ABT stories, and learn about different aspects of the arts from them.
One of my favorite visitors was ABT’s Associate Company Manager, Ashley K. Baer. The company management team takes care of all the administrative needs of the dancers; contracts, comp tickets, benefits, travel & lodging logistics, etc. I loved hearing Ashley’s stories from the road about what it was like on tour with the company and having such a huge responsibility taking care of well over 100 people who aren’t just traveling for fun, but are there to put on a show and make incredible art each night! Ashley spoke a lot about how the ABT dancers are treated like celebrities abroad, and how appreciated dancers are in other cultures, which is something I found so interesting in comparison to America. I really didn’t know a lot about company management before meeting with Ashley, but I absolutely loved getting to hear about this exciting job, and learning about this different area of life at ABT. All of our intern meetings gave us important glimpses into different areas of arts administration, and although I love education, I feel so lucky to have interned at a company that gave us a well rounded experience & helped us learn so much.
Meeting Ashley was so informative & inspiring that if I wasn’t terrified of planes, I’d definitely be wrapping my head around pursuing company management! Luckily, my experience at ABT working alongside my wonderful mentors has helped me learn so much about arts education & I could not be more excited to pursue it in the future after this incredible semester at ABT comes to a close.
Meg Haase
Summer Intensives Intern
Spring 2016

Almost as Impressive as the Gala

26 May



My semester as the Special Events Intern was centered around ABT’s annual Spring Gala. I worked on numerous projects, preparing thank you notes, recording RSVPs, and creating a Face Book so we could easily recognize VIPs, all in preparation for the Gala. A highly anticipated event, I expected it to be the best part of my internship.


I was correct, the Gala was an incredible night, and something that I couldn’t believe I was actually experiencing. From the glamorous red carpet arrivals to the dinner reception filled with flowers and sparkling chandeliers, the entire event was spectacular. It was the perfect way to conclude everything I learned, experienced, and worked on during the course of my internship.


Without a doubt, the Gala was the highlight of my time at ABT, but there was a close second. The next best part of my internship – almost as impressive as experiencing the Gala come to fruition – were the dogs of ABT. The Company’s fluffy, well-behaved mascots were a constant presence in the studios and around the office; an instant morale boost for everyone they came across. Whether sitting patiently under the barre while their owners rehearsed or following their noses down the hallway and peeking into offices, the ABT dogs made my day everyday with their perfect manners and complete lovability.


This internship has given me many new skills and a heart full of memories that I will take away with me. I will remember the first time I completed a project and distributed it to the Development department and I will remember the feeling of accomplishment when I observed little aspects of my work in play at the Gala. But one of the most delightful memories will be the surprise I felt the first time a furry little dog with its floppy ears and wet nose accidentally found its way to my desk before scampering off down the hallway; simply happy to be there, just like me.


Piper Joy

Special Events Intern

Spring 2016

I never thought I would have to work with Baby Dragons…

23 May

Having to write a blog post has to be the hardest thing on earth for me. It makes me wonder if I can fit all the amazing experiences I have had at ABT fit in one post. My internship with ABT has really showed me the ins and outs of the non-profit organization. I interned with the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and helped my mentor Rebecca Schwartz and the rest of the JKO Staff with projects, spring performances, and anything else they needed help with.

Coming to 890 Broadway for the first time I was a nervous wreck. I did not know what to expect, how the office would look, how many people I would be working with, I came in blind-sided because I wasn’t from the area. I had just simply applied through my University back in Laredo, TX and had a phone interview with my mentor Rebecca. Next, I knew I was packing my bags and on my way to live in New York. I honestly did not think I would enjoy my internship as much as I did. I knew it was going to be a learning experience for me but I did not think it would be a career starter.

During my internship I really got the full experience working at ABT I was told. I helped out the JKO School Pre-Professional division and Children’s division. I helped with other educational outreach programs, including Make a Ballet, Ballet for the New Audience, and Young People’s Ballet Workshop. I helped sell Boutique items for the education department. I was also hired as the receptionist two days out of the week during the night. For my internship hours I would work during the day three days out of the week, work Monday nights for the school, and work on Saturday’s as well. Working Monday and Saturday were the best days out of the internship program because that was when I was able to talk to the students more and hear about their experiences at ABT. I would be able to walk to the 9 different studios ABT has and talk to the students about their rehearsals they were having for the performances.  Sometimes on my way back to the fourth floor I would even be able to peep my eye into the studios to watch the main company dancers rehearse right before the Met Season. I was also able to talk to the parents and assist them with information when needed. It was a great experience all together.

During the week I would work on many small projects for the spring semester but by far I would have to say it is the craziest time for the school. During my internship I worked on mid-year evaluations, end-year evaluation templates, two spring performances, daily student ballet buns, and Baby Dragons. You might think “Baby Dragons?” but it might not be exactly what you are thinking. There are many, many projects I can write about but I will just let you know about the Pre-Professional Division Spring Performance. I had the chance to work with former ABT Principal Dancer Ethan Stiefel as he was choreographing Knight Life for the JKO School Level 7. He had a vision of what he wanted his piece to look like and along side my mentor we were able to make it possible. He envisioned having a Dragon and two baby dragons for the piece and that was my job for about a month and a half. I researched online for hours a day on how to make his vision for the costumes come to life and it happened. It was crazy at the beginning but it all worked out. Now you might be thinking where do baby dragons take place? Well Mr. Stiefel for his piece wanted two of the JKO Children’s Division Students to come out as baby dragons. And as creative as Mr. Stiefel is, he wanted the costumes to be unique and not just a Halloween costume you can buy online. It took forever and a lifetime, as it may seem to get the perfect image in our hands. I sat in the office four days prior to the performance getting the small details of the costume correct, this meant that I sat in the office painting ballet shoes, socks, and even bobby pins, yes I said it bobby pins, green. All the stress I was under was all worth it in the end because the school had a successful performance at the Joyce Theatre and Mr. Stiefel’s piece had amazing reviews. And of course, the baby dragons looked adorable.


Interning at American Ballet Theatre has been the greatest experience of a lifetime. Not only because it is America’s National Ballet Company but also because all the workers are humble and kind. It makes you feel like you are wanted and the environment on the fourth floor is just incredible. If you truly enjoy the Arts and the administrative side you will enjoy working at ABT and who knows you may even become a new employee for them like I have. I am now the 19th intern to get hired and my new position is Summer Intensive Assistant.

Sheridan K. Clark
Training Programs Intern
Spring 2016

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