Albany Berkshire Ballet To Explore Rockwell, Shakespeare In 50th Anniversary Season

Josh Landes
Mid Day Magazine


“Pittsfield, Massachusetts-based Albany Berkshire Ballet is marking its 50th anniversary in 2019. Associate Artistic Director Mary Giannone Talmi tells WAMC that the half-century celebration will see ambitious new works alongside the staples the company is known for.”

Hear the full interview here:

“State of the Arts”  – WPKN 89.5FM
March 29, 2019

Radion interview with Associate Artistic Director Mary Talmi on “State of the Arts” hosted by Richard Phenegar and Peggy Nelson, WPKN


Pittsfield Gazette, March 22, 2019


Albany Berkshire Ballet Looks Ahead — And Back

— in 50th Anniversary Year

image description
By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Staff


Albany Berkshire Ballet has formed collaborations with organizations like Williams College, where ABB dancers join student dancers for performances.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The five dancers glided around the room, its purple-and-mirrored walls enclosing a faintly muggy space, either from powerful bodies working hard or a late-winter heating system still cranked up, or maybe a combination of both.

The three women and two men were rehearsing a dance for an upcoming showcase at Williams College, but on this day, their ballet slipper-clad feet pounded the dance floor in the second-floor studio of the Albany Berkshire Ballet headquarters on Fenn Street.

In the past, on a weekday afternoon, that studio might very well have been silent. That’s because it’s only recently that the ballet company — officially celebrating 50 years this year — actually hired these five adults as full-time dancers and pay them a salary to form the base of the company. That company will continue the tradition of staging “The Nutcracker” in December — but also will branch out before then with a full-length production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the fall.

In between, the dancers participate in many collaborations with local colleges likes Williams and other organizations like Norman Rockwell Museum, and touch the lives of countless local students through ABB’s educational outreach programs.

It’s all part of the grand plan — kind of.

The original plan, 65 years ago, was a “little ballet school,” according to artistic director and founder Madeline Cantarella Culpo. Cantarella’s School of Dance was housed in a downtown Pittsfield space, where passers-by could look up on a Saturday morning and see through the windows overlooking North Street the heads of children practicing their rond de jambes and pirouettes.

That was a lot of for a woman to accomplish on her own in 1955, but Culpo didn’t know the meaning of the word “no.” One year, about 45 years ago, she made a suggestion to her team: “Let’s do The Nutcracker.” This was in the fall. “The Nutcracker” is a Christmas tradition. That didn’t leave much time.

“Everybody thought I was crazy,” Culpo said during a media preview of the upcoming anniversary season in the Pittsfield studio on March 20. “I didn’t know it was not possible.”

It was possible, and the tradition of “The Nutcracker” was born, continuing through multiple generations of students now.

“Now I have children of children who are in it,” she said.

That was just the beginning of the growth of her dream to spread her passion for dance — a dream that shifted and evolved to open the Berkshire Ballet Guild in 1960. That evolved into “Berkshire Civic Ballet” and then, with expansion into the Albany, N.Y.-area 50 years ago, into Albany Berkshire Ballet, a professional company that aims to be a real force in a community of myriad cultural institutions. Through it all, the little Cantarella School of Dance has continued to flourish and is now the official dance school of the ABB, whose studio space it shares.

Culpo didn’t do it alone, of course, and as she enters this new chapter of ABB’s history, the 50th anniversary year also marks the accomplishments of associate artistic director Mary Giannone Talmi.

“I hope this year can really be a celebration of their leadership,” said Alison LaRocca, president of ABB’s board of directors.

Even before Talmi’s arrival, ABB was a cultural force, presenting not only “The Nutcracker” but also many other classical ballets. However, this year’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be the first full-length ballet staged since a 2009 “Midsummer” production had to be canceled as a result of the economic collapse, which hit performing arts companies particularly hard. Since 2009, Culpo said, she took “a little break” to re-imagine Albany Berkshire Ballet’s future after a past that included opening for national and international companies at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and performing in places like New York City.

“Now we’re back, and that’s what’s exciting,” Culpo said.

Culpo hopes to have found the perfect potion for the company’s rebirth: talented and experienced artistic directors like Talmi, a strong board of director led by people like LaRocca who were dance students themselves, and a dedicated — if small — staff of people supporting the mission. They also have those five dancers to form the base of their upcoming programs: the May 3 and 4 performances with the Williams College dance team; a “Process and Performance” show May 26 in Chatham, N.Y., that celebrates the development of new repertory with partners like Williams College, SUNY Purchase and Skidmore College; the 50th anniversary gala on Aug.17; “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” from the end of August into the beginning of September at three venues; and, of course, “The Nutcracker” performed over four weeks in four cities.

“We’re going to be doing some incredible things,” said Joe Durwin, the ABB’s director of communications and partnerships, one of the small and dedicated staff Culpo credited with helping grow the mission and reputation of the ballet company. “It’s going to be a great year.”

Talmi agreed with that assessment, especially in regards to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which she said was “quite a coup and a feather” in Culpo’s cap.

“It’s time to show the Berkshires … these beautiful productions,” she said. “We’re the company to do this for this region.”

Albany Berkshire Ballet Celebrates 50 Years

Albany Berkshire Ballet Celebrates 50 Years

Albany Berkshire Ballet announced a dynamic mix of new directions, collaborations, performances and special events as part of its half century anniversary as a professional nonprofit ballet company, at a press conference at its Pittsfield, Mass. headquarters Wednesday.

ABB’s 50th anniversary season will be a blend of proud tradition and new exploration as it presents repertory on over a dozen stages in Massachusetts, New York and Vermont, ranging from beloved full length ballets to bold contemporary work that delves into some of the most challenging issues of our time.

Artistic Direction

ABB has augmented its creative potential with an expanded dual artistic directorship, bringing together the vision of both longtime Artistic Director and company Founder Madeline Cantarella Culpo with that of Associate Artistic Director Mary Giannone Talmi.

“Mary has made incredible contributions to Albany Berkshire Ballet in a variety of roles throughout its history, since she was in her teens,” said Alison LaRocca, President of ABB’s Board of Directors. “Her presence as Associate Artistic Director is a crucial part of the new chapter we are entering, in terms of both the creative possibilities and collaborative partnerships it allows us to explore.”


Process and Performance

Through Process and Performance, ABB’ evolving initiative to develop new repertory, Ms Talmi has invited choreographers Erica Dankmeyer and Janine Parker of Wiiliams College, Jonathan Riedel of SUNY Purchase and Eric Otto of Skidmore to create new works with company dancers Anna Acker, Ruslan Sprague, Marie Buser, Vincent Brewer, Lisa Iannacito. Some of the fruits of Process and Performance can be seen at a special presentation on Sunday, May 26 (3:00PM) at the PS21 Performing Arts Center in Chatham, New York, a beautiful new venue nearly equidistant to both of the primary communities we serve.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

In addition to a tri-state tour of its 45th annual production of The Nutcracker, ABB will present A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Albany, NY, Northampton, MA and Pittsfield MA Aug 23- Sep 7.

Albany Berkshire Ballet’s magical two act retelling of Shakespeare’s comedy will be staged and choreographed by Paula Weber {Bio}

“One of the things that is so rewarding about this 50th anniversary season is that we are getting to work with some of our people, extraordinary artists like Paula who have contributed to the success of the company,” said Associate Artistic Artistic Director Mary Talmi.


Performance Dates:

Aug 23 , 7:30PM – Albany, NY – The Egg
Aug 31, 7:30PM – Northampton, MA – Academy of Music
Sep 7, 7:30PM – Pittsfield, MA – Colonial Theatre

A special preview of this production will be performed on August 17, as ABB celebrates a half century with a night of dinner, dance and revelry at its 50th anniversary jubilee event, The Golden Age of Dance, in the ballroom of the newly renovated Berkshire Plaza Hotel in Pittsfield.

The Nutcracker

Later in the year, ABB will tour its acclaimed production of The Nutcracker for the 45th time, with performances in Pittsfield, Burlington, Albany and Springfield Nov 29- Dec 21.

“One of the greatest pleasures of my life has been to see this tradition grow, to see it become a legacy passed down through generations of families and become a part of these communities,” said Artistic Director Madeline Cantarella Culpo, who has helmed the production since its first debut in 1974.

Performance Dates:

November 29 (3PM & 7PM), 30 1PM) Flynn Center, Burlington, VT


December 7 2:30PM & 6:30PM) 8 (1:30PM & 6:00PM) – —Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA

December 14 (1:30 & 5:30) & 15 (1:00PM) – The Egg, Albany, NY

December 21 1PM & 4:30PM -Symphony Hall

For more information about Albany Berkshire Ballet and its programs, go to,568115

Albany Berkshire Ballet saying ‘happy 50th birthday’ with new ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’

New ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ points the way to tomorrow


PITTSFIELD — Forty-five years ago, Madeline Cantarella Culpo announced to the Albany Berkshire Ballet’s board of directors the then five-year-old classical dance company would undertake a full-length production of “The Nutcracker.”

The announcement, made in October 1974, could have been disastrous.

“No costumes. No sets. No choreography. Thank goodness I was married to a musician, that helped a little bit,” Cantarella Culpo, artistic director and founder, said Wednesday during the dance company’s season announcement. “Everyone thought I was crazy. The only reason I was able to do this ‘Nutcraker’ is because I didn’t know that it was not possible. To me that’s an important thing. People can do anything as long as someone doesn’t tell them they can’t. So we did our first ‘Nutcracker’ and it’s gone on forever. I know have children of children of children who were in the ‘Nutcracker.'”

As the Albany Berkshire Ballet is poised to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the company is preparing itself for a future full of new partnerships, collaborations and expansions.

“We’re very excited to be mounting ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ the first full-length production, other than ‘The Nutcracker,’ that the ballet has done. In its history, the ballet was famous for its full-length productions, really receiving critical acclaim form the New York Times, the Boston Globe and throughout New England for the level of training that was on display,” said Mary Giannone Talmi, newly announced associate artistic director. “I think that because we have beautiful full-length productions, beautiful sets and costumes that it’s time to show the Berkshires, Eastern New York, Southern Vermont and Connecticut these productions.”

Talmi, who is overseeing the company’s Process and Performance series, said she this will not only allow the company to showcase its talent, but it will also allow them to gain support of an audience, that she believes, would love to see the company’s dancers in productions of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Swan Lake,” in addition to “The Nutcracker.”

“When everyone can see the future, they invest in that. That’s what we’re doing today,” she said.

While the “Midsummer” production will utilize the company’s original sets and costumes, a new version of the two-act play is being staged and choreographed by Paula Weber, professor of ballet and chairwoman of dance for the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance.

“One of the things that is so rewarding about this 50th anniversary season is that we are getting to work with some of our people, extraordinary artists like Paula, who have contributed to the past success of the company” Talmi said.

Tami is one of several new additions to the dance company’s staff. Other additions to the company include five professional dancers, Anna Acker, Ruslan Sprague, Marie Buser, Vincent Brewer and Lisa Iannacito, who will teach students as well as perform.

The company dancers are part of a larger initiative to develop a new repertory that includes collaborations with choreographers Erica Dankmeyer and Janine Parker of Williams College, Jonathan Riedel of SUNY Purchase and Eric Otto of Skidmore College. Those collaborations can be seen this spring during the CoDA spring performance at Williams College, where an excerpt from “Rockwell in Our Times” will be performed and on May 26 at PS21 in Chatham, N.Y. This work is in addition to the company’s education program, which brings dance performances to local schools.

“Mary is a prolific artist. I’ve experienced her work from the audience. I’ve experienced her work as a dancer as it’s being built. I think she has a talent and just a voice in dance that we want to be heard,” said Alison LaRocca, president of the dance company’s board of directors. “Last year, we did not have these professional dancers on staff. We’re planning as best as we can for the future … We say it’s all new this year, but it’s really been a few years in the making.”

The season also will include a 50th anniversary gala at the Berkshire Plaza Hotel on Aug. 17. The evening will include a full sit-down dinner, performances, an award honoring Cantarella Culpo and an “all-out dance party” with music by DJ BFG.

For more information, visit






Albany Berkshire Ballet Offers Master Class With Eric Otto

Leader Herald (NY)



ALBANY — The School of the Albany Berkshire Ballet will offer a master class with Eric Otto on Saturday, open to area dancers at an intermediate or advanced level.

The 90-minute class begins at 1:30 p.m. at the school, 25 Monroe St., Suite 210, at a cost of $25. Preregistration is due on Wednesday.

Otto was born and raised in Westchester. He began dancing at the age of seven with the School of American Ballet in New York City. He has danced professionally with the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and BalletX. He was an original cast member of Twyla Tharp’s “Come Fly Away,” performing the leading role of Sid. Otto was invited to join the cast of Tharp’s Movin’ Out where he starred in the Broadway and First National Tour companies as James. He has appeared on Broadway in “The Phantom of the Opera” and toured with Tharp for her 50th Anniversary. Otto will also be choreographing new work for Albany Berkshire Ballet for its 2019-20 season.

Preregister by contacting the school at (518) 426-0660 or



The John Krol Show

Friday, November 30, 2018

Albany Berkshire Ballet performs on the show and then we talk with Artistic Director, Madeline Culpo and dancers Kaila Feldpausch & Vincent Brewer.

Albany Berkshire Ballet's 'The Nutcracker'

Albany Berkshire Ballet performs on the show and then we talk with Artistic Director, Madeline Culpo and dancers Kaila Feldpausch & Vincent Brewer. Don't miss The Nutcracker running from 12/1-12/15 in Pittsfield, Albany & Springfield!

Posted by The John Krol Show on Friday, November 30, 2018

WWLP Mass Appeal: The Nutcracker Ballet comes to Springfield Symphony Hall this weekend

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Area student dancers will be performing alongside professional dancers as the Albany Berkshire Ballet presents their 44th year of the Nutcracker. These performances include a familiar face in Springfield! Here to tell us more are performers Richard Hiam, Alexis Conway, and Kaila Feldpausch.

The Nutcracker Albany Berkshire Ballet will take place on December 15th at 1 PM and 4 :30 PM. For more information, visit their website at

MASSLIVE: Albany Berkshire Ballet bringing ‘The Nutcracker’ to Springfield Symphony Hall

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

It never gets old.

A perennial holiday classic that was first performed in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892, “The Nutcracker” returns to Springfield’s Symphony Hall on Saturday, Dec. 15, when the Albany Berkshire Ballet presents its 44th annual production of the beloved favorite.

A holiday tradition for many families, “The Nutcracker” focuses on Clara, her strange uncle, and her dreamy imagination as she battles the Rat King to save the Nutcracker Prince, and then travels to the enchanted Snow Forest and beautiful Kingdom of Sweets.

Choreographed by ABB’s Artistic Director Madeline Culpo, “The Nutcracker” will be performed at 1 and 4:30 p.m. with a professional mix of premiere U.S. and international dancers, award-winning costumes and set work.

The popular ballet is also staged in conjunction with talented young dance students from area communities. Among them will be Nicholas Sobon, 12, of South Hadley, who will be dancing the role of Fritz at the 1 p.m. performance.

“I saw ‘The Nutcracker’ when I was a little boy. My mom loves it and I loved it, too. Now it’s such an amazing experience to be performing in the show. It is such an amazing experience. Being onstage is so much fun that you forget about the crowd,” said Sobon about not having stage fright.

“It is a big role and I am so happy to be given the opportunity,” he added.

Sobon attends Nutmeg’s Dance & Theatre Co. in Southwick and also Daggett Gymnastics in Agawam.

“I think it is fun to play someone else and get out of comfort zone be someone your not,” he said.

Last year, Sobon performed as one of the party boys in the ABB production, a role which his mom said, “He kind of fell into.”

“Ethan Stack, who goes to gymnastics with me, told me they were looking for more boys to dance in ‘The Nutcracker,'” Sobon said.

“I just want to say that the people at Albany Berkshire Ballet are so amazing….especially Miss Nancy (Nancy Ropelewski King), who is the ballet mistress, and artistic direct Madeline Culpo, as well as Susan Gilbert, who is vice president of their board of directors,” he added.

Nicholas’ mom, Laurie Dunn, has already seen his performance in “The Nutcracker” during their show in Pittsfield.

“I was just so amazed and so proud of what a great job he did,” she said.

There will also be another “star” dancing alongside Sobon.

Longtime arts supporter Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno will make his Albany Berkshire Ballet debut as “Mother Ginger” in their 1 p.m. performance.

“It’s my pleasure to play a small role for a great holiday tradition and cause. And by the way, it’s always good to be able to laugh at myself, too,” said Sarno in an ABB press release.

A total of 770 student dancers are performing in dates in Burlington, Vermont; Albany, New York; and in Pittsfield and Springfield this season.

“This level of participation is a testament to the continuing, and even rekindled interest in this form,” said Culpo. “It’s wonderful to see generation after generation of children growing and benefiting, and forming lifelong ‘Nutcracker’ memories.” 

The Berkshire Edge: Albany Berkshire Ballet to present ‘The Nutcracker’

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 

Pittsfield — Albany Berkshire Ballet will present “The Nutcracker” at the Colonial Theatre, 111 South St., Saturday, Dec. 1, at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 2, at 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.Choreographed by artistic director Madeline Culpo, and set to Tchaikovsky’s timeless music, the story of “The Nutcracker” follows the adventures of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince as they conquer the Mouse King and embark on a magical journey to the Land of Sweets. Sets and scenery were created by theater and movie set designer Carl Sprague, and costumes were designed by Rita Watson and Victile Donahue. ABB’s 2018 annual production of “The Nutcracker” will visit four cities throughout the Northeast. The 2018 tour includes a record-breaking 770 student dancers, 17 of whom will have the opportunity to portray the role of Clara, dancing alongside the company’s 15 professional dancers.Tickets are $20–$44.50. For tickets and more information, see the Berkshire Edge calendar or call the Colonial ticket office at (413) 997-4444.

Berkshire On Stage: Albany Berkshire’s Nutcracker Sees Record-Breaking Student Participation

Monday, November 26, 2018

Pittsfield, MASS- Nearly 800 youths from around the region will take part in the unique experience of bringing the beloved Nutcracker to life on stage with Albany Berkshire Ballet‘s professional company of dancers, surpassing all past records in its 44thseason.

770 student dancers from the communities ABB serves are performing in dates in Burlinton, Vermont, Albany, New York, Pittsfield and Springfield, Massachusetts this season.

“This level of participation is a testament to the continuing, and even rekindled interest in this form,” said Artistic Director and company founder Madeline Culpo. “It’s wonderful to see generation after generation of children growing and benefiting, and forming lifelong Nutcracker memories.”

With over 225 young dancers in Albany, and just under 200 in Pittsfield, Springfield and Burlington, these numbers represent a dramatic 30% increase in participation in the past year alone. 17 students will have the opportunity to portray the beloved role of Clara, as the children dance alongside the company’s 15 professional dancers.

“ABB has worked very hard to be relevant in a changing world while always remaining true to its roots, and I think we are seeing the results of that in the response from students and audience members of all ages,” states Board of Directors President Alison LaRocca.

Since 1974, Albany Berkshire Ballet’s professional mix of premiere U.S. and international dancers, award-winning costumes and set work- in conjunction with talented young dance students from across the communities its serves- has captivated audiences for many years, and inspired generations in the pursuit of dance. Sets and scenery were created by theater and movie set designer Carl Sprague, a Stockbridge native, and costumes were designed by Rita Watson and Victile Donahue.

The Nutcracker will be appearing in Pittsfield for four performances: Saturday Dec 1 at 2:30PM & 6:30PM and Sunday, Dec 2, at 1:30PM & 6:00PM.

For more information, please call the ABB at 413-445-5382, or visit for tour, ticketing and box office information. 

The Berkshire Eagle: ‘Nutcracker’ ballet performances slated

Monday, November 26, 2018

Pittsfield: Albany Berkshire Ballet will present its 44th annual production of “The Nutcracker” on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 1 and 2, at the Colonial Theatre.

Performance times are 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call the ABB at 413-445-5382, or visit for ticket information.,557340

All Over Albany: Capitol Region Holiday Events 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018

December 8-9: Albany Berkshire Ballet performance of The Nutcracker at The Egg
42nd year year. December 8 at 1:30 pm and 5:30 pm, December 9 at 1 pm — $41 / $26 kids

WWLP: Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno to Perform in the Nutcracker at Symphony Hall 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno will be performing in the Nutcracker Ballet at Symphony Hall next month.

On Sunday, Mayor Sarno took part in rehearsal with members on the Albany Berkshire Ballet. He will play the part of Mother Ginger.

Mayor Sarno told 22News his favorite part of participating in The Nutcracker, saying, “I think the interaction with the kids. I love being with the kids and being able to have a good holiday season, a joyous holiday season, and the Nutcracker is so beloved.”

Mayor Sarno will be in the 1 p.m. show at Symphony Hall on Saturday, December 15th. Tickets are on sale at the Symphony Hall box office.

Stowe Today: “The Nutcracker”

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Local dancers Makayla Courtemanche, Colleen Clark and Ryder Wise, from left, will perform the dream role of Clara in the Albany Berkshire Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” ballet at the Flynn Theater in Burlington Nov. 24 and 25. Makayla and Ryder are Stowe Dance Academy dancers; Colleen is from Fairfax.

Stowe Today: Local dancers land lead role in ‘Nutcracker’

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Three local dancers will play the pivotal role of Clara in the Albany Berkshire Ballet’s 45th annual presentation of “The Nutcracker” at the Flynn Center for Performing Arts in Burlington Nov. 24 and 25.

Ryder Wise will be Clara in the show Nov. 24 at 3 p.m. and Makayla Courtemanche will play the role Nov. 25 at 1 p.m. Both are with Stowe Dance Academy.

In addition, Colleen Clark of Fairfax will be Clara in the show Nov. 24 at 7 p.m.

“The Nutcracker,” Set to Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music, celebrates the magic of the holiday season.

Ryder and Makayla have studied at Stowe Dance Academy since they were very young and currently take classes six days a week at the studio. Ryder and Makayla are also members of the Stowe Dance competitive dance company TRIP.

“I am so proud of my students for their endless energy,” said Helena Sullivan, owner of Stowe Dance Academy. “These girls work very hard, constantly improving and sharing their love of dance with those around them. It is very exciting to see them perform as Clara — something they have dreamed of for a long time.”

This year, the Albany Berkshire Ballet’s company of 15 dancers includes international performers and professionals from New York and Massachusetts. The three performances at the Flynn will also include more than 100 young dancers from this region, ranging in age from 4 to 16, taking on the roles of reindeer, mini-mice, clowns, party children, maids, soldiers and more.

Tickets range from $19 to $43 at Dance brings book to life at Hamagrael Elementary

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

DELMAR — Children’s author David Ira Rottenberg wasn’t much older than the school kids before him when he started writing.

“On my fourth-grade report card my teacher wrote how I enjoyed writing stories to my friends,” said Rottenberg, shortly after reading from “Gwendolyn, the Graceful Pig” to students at Hamegrael Elementary.

The reading was part of a joint performance between the author and a troupe of ballet dancers from the Albany Berkshire Ballet. As Rottenberg read the story of Gwendolyn, a pig, working her way towards becoming a ballerina, the Berkshire Ballet brought the story to life.

“Gwendolyn, the Graceful Pig” is the first book in the popular Gwendolyn series. It tells the tale of Gwendolyn and Omar, two best friends who dream to dance and join the football team, respectively. The plot shares what happens when perseverance and support from friends can help one overcome perceived obstacles.

Rottenberg has authored several books, including two novels and three business books.

The Columbia University graduate has written for publications such as Boston Magazine and the Boston Globe. His poems have appeared in poetry magazines throughout the United States. “Gwendolyn, the Graceful Pig” is not his first attempt at writing about ballet. He’s also penned “Soldiers of Beauty,” a collection of poems about the ballet, too.

Rottenberg has teamed with the Albany Berkshire Ballet for the past several years, an idea conceived through fear no one would show at one of his readings for the book. He invited a ballet dancer to a Barnes and Noble reading, and he said nearly 100 visitors appeared. The pairing was reminiscent of this story’s plotline, too.

Rottenberg’s visit to Hamagrael Elementary School on Thursday, Oct. 18 was the first stop in a tour through each of Bethlehem Central’s elementary schools. Similar tours take the Boston resident throughout New England in both the fall and spring.

A self-proclaimed fan of audiobooks, Rottenberg admits he is not a fan of authors reading from their own work. On his website, he describes it as a “bane” to his audiobook experience to hear an author attempt to read from his or her own work. He said the task requires more than just reading the words, but to be able to adapt the reader’s spoken voice to the book’s voice.

Rottenberg said he won’t ever do an audiobook of his own, but reading in front of children is a “fantastic” experience from which he won’t rob himself.

“The first time I did it, you hear all the children laughing,” he recalled, “and the dancers are like pixie dust — they just make the whole thing come alive.” The Nutcracker Production Leads Weekend Onsale Listings

Friday, October 5, 2018

With the holiday season just around the corner, regional productions of “The Nutcracker” are beginning to infiltrate the ticketing market. There are several ballet companies releasing tickets for upcoming performances of the holiday classic, which bolster both Saturday and Monday’s onsale listings. Ballet Hawaii has a handful of shows with tickets up for grabs tomorrow, while the Lafayette Ballet Theatre, Albany Berkshire Ballet, Inland Dance Theatre and Long Beach Ballet dominate Monday’s listings.

Other popular theatrical productions to appear for sale throughout the weekend include performances of Jersey Boys, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical in theaters across the country.

Eric Church represents the top concerts, while acclaimed magic from Michael Carbonaro and The Illusionists also appear. Berkshires Beat: Albany Berkshire Ballet Receives Grant For ‘Rockwell in Our Time’

Monday, October 01, 2018

The Albany Berkshire Ballet has been awarded a project grant of $2,500 from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Investment Portfolio for the continued development of the new work “Rockwell in Our Time” by choreographer Mary Giannone Talmi. Talmi is collaborating with playwright Kevin McGerigle and composer Christopher Culpo with additional choreography by Andres Ramirez and music by Ben Talmi. The ballet is a multidisciplinary work inspired by Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” that moves forward and backward in time reflecting World War II America and our current national reality.

“The individuals that work together to produce a work of this magnitude are our greatest expense, but also our most critical resource. Our choreographer, dancers, rehearsal mistress, composer, musicians, playwright, costume designer, set designer, production crew, community participants, and administrators devote their time and talent to successfully creating and showcasing this collaboration,” said Madeline Culpo, artistic director and founder of Albany Berkshire Ballet. “Our next greatest expense is the physical production of the materials necessary to frame the movement and artistic vision. These elements include sets, costumes, sound, lighting, educational materials, printed programs, insurance, fire safety, and promotional materials.”

“Rockwell in Our Time” is an ambitious initiative that will require Albany Berkshire Ballet to leverage funding from multiple sources including private donations, corporate sponsors, and philanthropy. The Albany Berkshire Ballet has begun to raise funds from members and other supporters throughout the community. The funding will be used for the further development of this new work – its creation and premiere.

The Albany Berkshire Ballet is nationally recognized for its versatility in performing both classical and contemporary dance works. It will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2019.  It is highly acclaimed for its support of newly emerging artists while working with esteemed contemporary choreographers such as Phillip Jerry, Francis Patrelle, Gus Solomons Jr., Mary Giannone Talmi, Bill T. Jones, and Paula Weber.

The Berkshire Eagle: The arts have their say this weekend in Dalton as 413Heart takes over The Stationery Factory

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

DALTON — When Albany Berkshire Ballet choreographer Mary Talmi first set eyes on the sculptures in Michael Boroniec’s “Spatial Spirals” series, she saw dance.

“I was really struck by how much movement he incorporated into the sculpture,” Talmi said during a phone interview.

Inspired by Boroniec’s work, Talmi created a duet, “Spindown,” that The Stationery Factory will host (along with two of Boroniec’s sculptures) on Thursday evening to help kick off the four-day 413Heart Music & Arts Festival, a project spearheaded by nonprofit Grow Dalton. Dance is new to the third annual event that has broadened from a music-focused gathering to an homage to different art forms. In addition to a Johnny Irion concert, the festival will include a documentary screening, a staged reading and juried art shows.

“It encompasses all the arts. We really want to highlight what a rich cultural community we have here in the Berkshires,” said Pittsfield artist Diane Firtell, one of the chairs of the 413Heart committee.

Firtell has a studio in The Stationery Factory, where all of this year’s events will be held. Talmi feels that the Flansburg Avenue building is an excellent venue for dance, among other art forms.

“The Stationery Factory is just a fabulous space,” she said.

Albany Berkshire Ballet’s Anna Acker and Vincent Brewer will perform “Spindown” before they’re joined by Lisa Iannacito McBride and Ruslan Sprague for two excerpts from “Verdant Fire,” a piece by ABB guest choreographer Jonathan Riedel. A music-and-dance show by tap artist Stefanie Lynx Weber and musician Sam Rosen (both unaffiliated with ABB) will follow.

The night will close with a screening of “Moving Stories,” a documentary about Battery Dance Company members’ experiences teaching dance to youths abroad, and a Q&A session with director Rob Fruchtman……..


The Berkshire Eagle: ‘Process and Performance’: Albany Berkshire Ballet and Williams College to present new works of collaboration

Friday, March 2, 2018

Dance exists in a constant state of renewal. Recreating classic choreography can bring past performances to present day audiences, but new creation propels dance into the future and keeps it alive and kicking.

In an upstairs Pittsfield studio, under the watchful eye of choreographer Mary Talmi, four dancers — two adults and two children — move fluidly across the resilient dance floor, youngsters alternately hoisted onto shoulders and stretched out on the ground.

On Saturday, this dance and six others form “Process and Performance,” Albany Berkshire Ballet’s new works will be showcased at The Stationery Factory in Dalton. The initiative, which launched last year to create new repertory and foster collaboration between the ballet company and Williams College, includes some 20 dancers drawn from Albany and the Berkshires.

Works spanning ballet, modern and folk dance styles include Alexia Barandiaran’s “Aromas” inspired by Latin American dance and music; “Unsquare Dance” by Chuck Paquette with jazzy rhythms by Dave Brubeck; and two romantic, sensual pieces by Jonathan Riedel danced to Bach and Mozart.

Talmi’s “Rockwell In Our Time” draws on the artist’s famed “Freedom From Fear” painting. Excerpted from a larger multidisciplinary piece slated for fall, “it’s really what `Process and Performance’ is about,” Talmi said; “a choreographer and composer getting together on a theme.”

The music by Christopher Culpo, son of Albany Berkshire Ballet founder Madeline Cantarella Culpo, is challenging, Talmi said, pushing her to think about what she can do with the four-dancer family tableau. Working now with the children for the first time helps verify she’s “going in the right direction,” she noted.

Over the course of four decades, the company has partnered with noted choreographers including Laura Dean and Bill T. Jones, creating new works supported by sets, lights and costumes.

“It was time for ABB to get back to that part of its history and be a platform for choreographers both established and emerging, a resource for creation and collaboration,” Talmi said.

A Pittsfield native, Talmi grew up with Cantarella School and the Albany Berkshire Ballet. “From the time I was small sitting on the studio floor watching Madeline, I knew I wanted to choreograph,” she recalled. She began creating dances even before attending The Juilliard School in New York, and has continued ever since.

Another longtime company member, Ruslan Sprague — he debuted as the Changeling at age 3 — will choreograph and perform a pas de deux with Lisa Iannacito McBride to music by Chopin.

When creating new work, music always comes first, he said: “It dictates how I want to move, what I want it to look like, how I want it to feel.” He surfs iTunes, “looking for music that speaks to me.”

Sprague initially choreographs his dance in his head, “then I play with it in the studio.”

Working collaboratively “lets you build on each other,” he observed. To date he has solely worked on short pieces he also dances in, but he has ideas for more substantial projects. “I would need more people,” he noted.

His dance photography will also be displayed, his third Berkshire exhibit this month.

The Williams College collaboration was facilitated by ballet company board President Alison LaRocca, who attended the noted liberal arts school. Under director Sandra Burton the dance department has expanded, and includes several student- and faculty-run ensembles serving both experienced dancers and those new to the art form.

“CoDa” contemporary dance ensemble co-director (and Berkshire Eagle dance reviewer) Janine Parker set “Preludes for Another Time,” on Hannah Antonellis, Eva Leick and Joelle Troiano, with music by Chopin. Fellow CoDa members Aayushi Pramanik, Dew Maskati, Claudia Portugal and Claudia Rodriguez perform in Barandiaran’s “Aromas.”

Creating new work takes time, Parker noted. While dance steps can be learned in a few hours, dancers have to build the stamina to perform them with full-out dance quality, both artistically and physically.

“We’re always happy to work with other artistic organizations as often as we can,” she added. “It’s good for students to get out and see what other dancers are doing.”

Some collaborations go beyond the world of dance. Singer songwriter Grace Ida Marks and guitarist Vlad Zeleny will perform between dances on Saturday. The ballet company has issued a “call to artists” offering access to trained dancers and production support to potential collaborators from filmmakers to poets.

Ultimately, the showcases highlights both new dances and the ballet itself, with its history of presenting programs Talmi described as “diverse choreographically and representing the strong talents of ABB dancers.”

Since performing in different locations attracts new audiences, the goal is to let people all over Berkshire County see the company as something other than The Nutcracker.

“Our intent is to bring ballet to the community,” Talmi said.

She pointed out the evening also includes hors d’oeuvre’s, dessert, a post-show discussion and a cash bar.

“Beer and ballet,” Talmi noted; “how much fun is that?!”,533609