Reconnect: The Honorable Denise N. Cubbon
What are some of your fondest TB memories?
Of course, my fondest TB memories revolve around the Nutcracker, especially when my daughters danced. Natalie and Jocelyn both performed in Marie's final production of The Nutcracker that she choreographed. It was great fun for me as well working back stage.
I remember Madame Velta giving me permission to begin pointe classes, followed by purchasing my first pair of pointe shoes at Distinctive Costumes.
In what ways did Madame Vogt influence you?
Madame Vogt was a woman well ahead of the times. I understood that fact as a young girl as did the other dancers. She had a college degree. She maintained her maiden name(Marie Bollinger Vogt). She was the founder and artistic director of a business, Toledo Ballet. She was an author. And, she knew very important people (e.g. Ruth Ann Koesun, George Zoritch, Ted Shawn, and many others) who had great respect for her. She trained many dancers who have been and are well-accomplished in the dance scene such as Debbie Roshe, Suzanne Farrell, Jane Rehm, and Kristen Stephens. She also trained many dancers who are well-accomplished in other areas such as business, law, education, and philanthropy.
Marie has always been able to use her passion of dance and drive to move her students to love dance as much as she does,and in that way, to motivate the dancers to work hard to do the best that each dancer can with Marie's same sense of passion and commitment. The goal was always to have your best performance whether it be class work, rehearsal, or on stage. For me, that approach spilled over into my personal and professional goals with drive, passion, and commitment.
How did your study of ballet help prepare you to have such a successful career?
The study of ballet taught me the importance of discipline, preparation, fortitude, and commitment. Team work and supporting others is essential. Doing your best work for personal satisfaction as well as for the good of the whole go hand in hand. And, self-confidence was a welcome by product.
As a dancer and a board member, you have seen TB through its various stages of growth. What words or phrases do you feel best describe today's TB?
Exciting, innovative, contagious, professional, engaging, responsive, top quality
As a juvenile judge, you see so many children in grave emotional and physical danger. What do you think dance gives youth that helps steer clear of such situations?
Dance provides an opportunity for youth to express themselves in safe ways to deal with burdens they have through no fault of their own. Many youth develop long lasting friendships which others who share their love of dance; often times, friendships that would not necessarily have formed, but for this common interest. And, it's wonderful for kids to just have some good old-fashion fun doing something they enjoy and love.
What advice would you give young dancers who are weighing the merits of pursuing a professional dancing career versus a post-secondary degree?
It's important to get as much information as possible to make this decision. It seems to me that you want to look for advisors who can give you objective information that meets your particular situation and needs. Toledo Ballet has a number of dancers who have made these types of decisions. Toledo Ballet is certainly a great resource to assist these dancers who struggle with this important decision. I have seen a number of dancers able to pursue post-secondary education which includes dance, such as education or business and dance. At the same time, there are those who have the talent and the personality to forge forward in a professional career. If that's the case, then it's important that you are surrounded by those who will protect your personal and professional interests.
As the mother of two daughters who also danced, looking back, what would you say the study of dance gave your daughters?
Dance, and Toledo Ballet in particular, gave my daughters many of the same skills that I acquired. They had the opportunity to form friendships with other dancers that will continue for a lifetime. Jocelyn is an attorney at a law firm in Cincinnati. One of her colleagues at the firm was a Toledo Ballet classmate of hers. Natalie was a biology and education major in college. She continued to dance in college as a member of the Bucknell University Dance Company and had the opportunity to perform with the company in China. Jocelyn and Natalie hold many fond memories of Toledo Ballet. They follow with enthusiasm.
Reconnect: Alumna Kristen Stevens
See Kristen's Interview
What first drew you to dance?
My mother was a dancer; from a young age I begged her for lessons. She was afraid I would get bored and so made me wait until I was eight before I could start. When I finally did start, within a few months, I was bored. Each time I complained, my mom would say I had to finish the classes she’d paid for, and by the end of each month I’d changed my mind. But by my second year, I was begging for lessons, and by age 14, my monthly colored punch cards were so full they had to start a third column up the right side.
What are some of your fondest TB memories? Friday afternoon pointe classes with Mrs. Cernonok. Mrs. Cernonok would create a dance to an orchestrated piece of music. She kept adding steps week by week, and we’d practice the dance over and over. “The music is here, here, and here,” she’d say, pointing to her tummy, elbows, and wrists. She taught us to listen to the music, and to dance with feminine elegance and with joy.
When you think of Madame Velta, what are three words that come to mind? Beautiful, pragmatic, present. I called Mrs. Cernonok on the phone occasionally when I lived in Norway. In my third year with the Norwegian National Ballet, I was having a hard time, and I cried to her that I was tired and didn’t know what to do. She said, “Darling, eat something.” I visited her in Georgia one year before she died. She gave me a hard time because I was studying and not performing. I will think of her when I perform again with the Met Opera this spring.
In what ways did Madame Vogt influence you? Growing up in an environment created, managed, and run by a woman was a huge, if subconscious, influence. As a young girl, I took it for granted, not knowing or understanding the history of Toledo Ballet and the fact that for a woman to start a business of any kind in the 1930s was a big deal—let alone an artistic endeavor in a small industrial Midwestern city. I think that seeing a woman in charge—a woman who had envisioned and realized her professional dream—established a normative model for me, later reinforced by my teachers at Notre Dame.
Which TB dancers did you emulate, and why? I remember Heather Powers dancing the Sleeping Beauty variation and the Crystal Maiden dance in the Nutcracker. She was gorgeous, dynamic, flirtatious, and joyful onstage. I also remember Evelyn Cisneros of San Francisco Ballet, who returned each year to dance Sugar Plum Fairy. She was radiant and generous onstage and off, warmly signing our pointe shoes.
Throughout your dancing career, what was a significant challenge you faced and how did you resolve it? Taking care of myself: getting proper nourishment, finding a healthy weight, coping with aches, dealing with injury, and preparing myself mentally for rehearsals and performances and constant critique. It can be hard to reveal your weaknesses in a company when you are trying to prove yourself and do your best all the time, but dancing on an injury or feeling confused about what foods your body needs of course holds you back much more in the big picture.
Would you share a dance experience that brought you great joy and fulfillment? Joining the Suzanne Farrell Ballet Company and moving to New York City when I was 24. I had always dreamed of living and dancing in New York; to finally get the opportunity under the circumstance of working for Suzanne was an amazing opportunity. She was extremely inspiring and generous in the way she taught us the ballets she had danced. The tragedy of 9/11 occurred several weeks into the contract; my memories of dancing for her are linked to that.Several years later, when I returned to the U.S. from Norway, I chose a university in New York City, where I could once again train with the teachers I love in the style I love in the city I love.
What advice would you give young TB dancers who are weighing the merits of a professional dancing career versus pursuing a degree immediately following high school? It is definitely important to take advantage of your youth; and especially now, there are many university options for non-traditional students, so returning to school later is increasingly common. If you want to dance professionally, go for it—it’s wonderful. That said, university too is a very important experience, in particular for women, I believe—so don’t ever be intimidated to return to studying, regardless of your age.
What would you like to be doing ten years from now? Living in New York and working in a meaningful second career. I also hope I’m still turning and jumping.
Reconnect: Alumna Molly McIntyre Romano
Molly danced with Toledo Ballet for about 10 years. Upon graduation from high school, she attended and graduated from Hillsdale College and earned her Masters Degree in Communication Arts from Eastern Michigan University. She went on to obtain certification in Event Planning from George Washington University in Washington D.C. Molly and her husband Eric, a vice president with Hellmuth, Obata, Kassabaum Architects, live in Webster Groves, MO, a suburb of St. Louis. They have three children: Gabriella (sixth grade), Christian (third grade), and Alexandria (Alexis) (first grade) as well as two other family members, Hershey their chocolate lab, and Max, their Australian tree frog. She is involved with her community’s annual production of “Nutcracker on Ice,” in which Gabriella performs. She says her title is still in the formative stage, but feels more comfortable on the artistic side. “Every year when I hear the Nutcracker music for the first time, I still get (happy) tears in my eyes.”
See Molly's Interview
What first drew you to dance?
I believe my mom put me in dance in my hometown of Monroe, MI at age 3 or 4 for grace, elegance and coordination. I stayed with it because it became my passion and continually challenged me.
What are some of your fondest TB memories? My first Nutcracker was in 1975 when I was 9 and a mouse. The costume completely covered us, with ears and a mask that covered our mouth and nose. You couldn’t recognize any of us! We all got to put a special color bow on our tails so that our parents could tell which one we were!
Can you recount an anecdote that still makes you smile all these years later? One of my favorite was from when I was a Snowflake. We wore a head piece with wires sticking up from it with snowflakes on the tips. While we were doing the last few steps of the number, my head piece got entangled with another dancer’s and we were stuck! I jerked my head forward and then felt an extra head piece dangling down my back. Thank goodness we were all in the process of exiting the stage!
When you think of Madame Velta Cernonok, what are three words that come to mind? Disciplined, strict, sense of humor. When we kept our knees pulled up she’d take a piece of chalk and draw a smiley face on our knee caps!
In what ways did Madame Vogt influence you? She always expected a lot from her dancers but was understanding and compassionate. Her sense of philanthropy and community involvement was exemplary. Her influence still reveals its effects on my life.
Young dancers often aspire to be like the advanced dancers. Which Toledo Ballet dancers do you remember wanting to emulate, and why? Armon Miller and Lisa Mayer! I got to “fight” Armon in the battle scene when I was a mouse and I was thrilled to be her mouse. Lisa and I are close in age but her dancing was light years ahead of mine. Lisa had the whole package; not only was she talented and pretty, she was also very nice.
What do you feel dance gave you that has lasted a lifetime? Grace, poise, discipline, body awareness, determination, good posture, a great work ethic and something I’ve appreciated more as I get older... great legs!
You went on to compete in and win a number of pageants. What drew you to them and how did your ballet training help with these competitions? I competed in my first pageant at the age of 20 and I admit I did it on a dare! I had so much fun competing that I was hooked. The scholarships I received by winning my local twice, my state pageant and competing at Miss America paid for my entire Masters Degree in Communication Arts. My ballet training was integral because the Miss America Pageant is a scholarship program based on talent.
How has your ballet training influenced your life as an adult? A dancer incorporates hard work, discipline, a good work ethic and patience, all with a smile on her face and making it all look so easy, all of which have served me well as an adult and especially when I became a parent.
Reconnect: Alumna MacKenzie Zarecki
What first drew you to dance?
My Mother saw an ad in the paper for O’Connell’s Dance Studio,
and then decided to sign me up for tap and jazz classes.
During your years with Toledo Ballet, what was your greatest artistic challenge? My biggest challenge as an artist at Toledo Ballet was managing my time between dance, school, and social life. A lot of times I wanted to just devote all of my time to my dancing, so it made focusing on school difficultespecially during rehearsals for shows. I would get home late at night often times, and have to finish homework very late or early before school started. Another difficulty was finding time to be with my friends. With class and rehearsals almost everyday I found it hard to find time to “hang out” with my friends.
If someone asks you to describe your training and overall experience with Toledo Ballet, what would you tell them? Toledo Ballet has always been a supportive and nurturing environment for me. I always felt that there was someone that I could go to that I trusted when I was having a hard time in dance or injury etc. The training I received while studying at Toledo Ballet was always of high quality and consistency.
At this point in your young career, who has been most influential in your training as a dancer, and why? Soili Arvola has probably been the biggest influence in my career thus far. I met her at age 13 when she cast me as Clara in Toledo Ballet’s NUTCRACKER. She was one of the first people to tell me that I had the potential to become a professional dancer. She encouraged me to keep going with my training and to work as hard as I can and at times harder than I think I can. Soili is such a beautiful and gifted dancer and an amazing person. She is so well rounded; not only is she an amazing dancer and choreographer, but she is also very kind hearted and intelligent, as well. I am always inspired by and strive to be like her.
You left Toledo Ballet to attend Harid Conservatory for a year. How was that training different from your training at Toledo Ballet? The training I received at The Harid Conservatory was quite a bit different than my training at Toledo Ballet. First of all, Harid is a boarding school, so students come from all over the world to study there. Secondly, the training at Harid was much more primarily focused on classical ballet, and to be specific, Vaganova technique in contrast to Toledo Ballet’s having a more mixed technique of ballet and encouraging more modern, lyrical, and musical theater dancing. The Harid Conservatory was a much stricter environment than I experienced at Toledo Ballet. There were more stringent rules on dress code, missing classes, and general class/rehearsal etiquette. Each technique class was an hour and 45 minutes followed by an hour of pointe class or pas de deux. The classes at Harid were intense; the teachers all had high demands for each of us to achieve. Not only were the classes tough and demanding, but the competition was stiff as well. All of the students were very talented, most of whom were the best dancers at their home studios.
You recently joined North Caroline Dance Theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina. What is your position there, and what are you currently rehearsing? I am currently an apprentice with North Carolina Dance Theater. Right now we have begun rehearsing “The Waltz of The Flowers” for NUTCRACKER. We just finished an original ballet production a few weeks ago called “Once Upon A Time,” choreographed by the director of our 2nd Company, Mark Diamond. The ballet was designed as a child’s comedy.
You are training under renowned Artistic Director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux. What is it like to work with such a highly regarde director? Mr. Bonnefoux is a very kind man! He is a wonderful teacher, who is very passionate about passing on what he knows from his teachers and experiences. Sometimes it can be intimidating though! He’s had such an impressive career working with Mr. Balanchine in NYC Ballet at such a young age, and studying at the Paris Opera Ballet, as well. I find working with Mr. Bonnefoux to be inspiring! I always find myself wanting to improve not just my technique, but my work as an artist, too.
Since you left Toledo Ballet, in what ways do you feel you have grown the most as an artist? Since I left Toledo Ballet, I feel like I have gained confidence in my dancing and in myself, as well. I have improved my dancing a lot technically, but more importantly, I am learning how to express my feelings through dance and turning dance more into an art form rather than just another sport or gymnastics. I’ve learned that the difference in performing at a professional level compared to a student level, is not really all about ballet technique, but more about the dancer’s emotional expression. What the dancer brings to the exercise from inside is just as crucial as how well it is performed.
At 17 years old, what is the hardest part about living on your own at such a young age? What is the most exciting part of being on your own? I think the hardest part for me living on my own at 17 is having to take up the responsibilities of an adult: For example, getting public transportation to get around the city on my own, making doctor and other important appointments for myself. Also, sometimes it can be a bit lonely, even having a roommate. On the other hand, it is really exciting being on my own too! I love having an apartment that I can call my own, and the freedom to come and go as I please.
Reconnect: Alumnus Bradley Parquette
For the past several summers, our dancers cheer with delight when TB alum Brad Parquette returns home to give back to the studio in which he grew up. His calm, gentle demeanor, his statuesque presence, and his sparkling eyes and smile make many a heart skip a beat as he conducts his summer intensive.
See Brad's Interview
What first drew you to dance?
I spent a great deal of time as a child drawing, painting and creating all sorts of visual art, so
when I saw my first ballet performance there was this recognition of “Oh, you can make art with
your body moving through space, too”. I had to try.
What are so me of your fondest memories of your years at TB? I have wonderful memories of the old Toledo Ballet studios on Central Ave. at Cricket West. At -time, the entire cast would come for rehearsals. I have no idea how we all fit, or, how Mrs. Vogt kept her sanity with all of those people present.
If we were to ask Madame Vogt to use three words to describe you as a young dancer, what would they be? Passionate, rebellious and hard-headed.
What did you take with you from your training with Madame Vogt and Madame Velta that remains with you today? An appreciation for “line”, as in, how to best present my body on the stage and in the classroom, how to make beautiful lines with it. When I went out into the world of dance it was a revelation to me that not many men in ballet at the time had a grasp of that concept.
You left TB for an opportunity to study at the Joffrey. Describe your experience withthe Joffrey. The Joffrey was where I learned where I really fit into the dance world. I was star struck at first. I would find myself standing at the barre with people I’d seen on the stage and on television. I thought to myself, “I’d better buckle down, and get to work!”
Eventually, you left performing to teach at the university level. What are the differences between teaching at a studio and at a university? The dance department at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where I taught, was primarily focused on contemporary dance. The dancers were encouraged to “think” dance as well as “do” dance. University dance opened up a broader path for them while at the same time asking them to explore specifics. Teaching dancers who are learning to flex their minds as well as their muscles is quite invigorating.
From a male dancing perspective, what influence do you think televised dance programs will influence males’ interest in exploring dance in our culture? Televised dance is certainly exposing more and more men to dance. I do think it a bit sad that these dance “contest” programs are adopting the framework of competitive sports. Do we have to compete for a prize? Does one of the artists have to “win”? I’d like to think that we all win, are all enriched, by simply getting to view those beautiful, articulate bodies moving across the stage.
What advice would you give to our TB dancers who aspire to a dance career? Listen, and watch. Your instructors will offer you their knowledge; what you do with it is up to you. Take what they give you and continue to teach yourselves. And, maybe most importantly, never doubt yourself. You really can do anything you set your mind to, but you really have to focus, don’t waver.