From Studio to Stage: Faculty
Laura Alonso was born in New York City; her parents Alicia and Fernando Alonso are outstanding figures of the world of dance. Laura studied with several renowned professors of the ballet world. She was principal soloist at the National Ballet of Cuba for 25 years.
After leaving the stage, Laura worked as personal trainer and maitre of Alicia Alonso for 7 years.
Some dancers trained by Laura Alonso have been awarded gold and silver medals and prizes at international contests, such as the Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris and the Jackson International Ballet Competition, an occasion in which Laura was awarded the Prize to the Best Trainer. At the Gran Latinoamericano de la Danza 2001 competition, held in Córdoba, Argentina, she was appointed Vice-president of the Latin American Dance Confederation, in representation of Cuba.
Among Laura Alonso’s students were José Manuel Carreño and Xiomara Reyes, top figures at the ABT; Marcela Goicochea, principal dancer in Chile’s National Ballet; Lorna Feijó, Aliahydé Carreño and Víctor Gilí, top figures with the National Ballet of Cuba; Arionel Vargas, top figure with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet; Edelquis Cruz, top figure with the Teatro Teresa Carreño Ballet of Caracas, among others.
Since 1984, Laura Alonso has worked as the General Director of Cuba’s Center for the Promotion of Dance, internationally known as the PRODANZACenter, where young dancers and ballerinas are trained according to the syllabus of the CubanBalletSchool.
Laura is also the main organizer and promoter of the worldwide known CUBALLET events, which are international courses that take place in different seasons of the year and in several countries.
She is a Guest Teacher at several ballet academies in Denmark, Finland, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, The Philipines, Mexico and the United States, and she has given courses as requested by prestigious ballet companies. Laura has also been part of the jury at important international ballet contests.
Her pedagogical work has been recognized in the field of dance as she has become an ambassador of Cuban and international culture.
Dance Chair, Hartt School Community Division
Before coming to Hartt in 2011, Ms. Dunster served as Assistant to the Artistic Director/Ballet Mistress of Orlando Ballet (Florida) and taught at the Orlando Ballet School.
Samantha Dunster began her professional training with Cristina Pora in Toronto, Canada. At the age of 17, she traveled to Havana, Cuba, to train with the National Ballet of Cuba. She continued dancing with the company of Centro Pro-Danza under the direction of Laura Alonso, where she also worked as regisseur. She earned her teaching diploma based on the Cuban Ballet training method.
Dunster has danced and taught in countries around the world such as Sweden, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina, as well as in the United States. In 1996, she accepted the position of artistic director and principal dancer of Bale da Ilha in Brazil, where she mounted numerous full evening ballets. By 2000, she became ballet mistress of Orlando Ballet under the direction of Fernando Bujones. Dunster re-choreographed La Fille Mal Gardee in 2001 and her invitation to set La Fille Mal Gardee on the National Ballet of Korea came two years later. In 2004, she was commissioned by Orlando Ballet to create a world premiere production of Camelot. In 2007, she accepted the role of assistant to the artistic director of Orlando Ballet under the direction of Bruce Marks. The following year, the pair staged the full-length Don Quixote together. Dunster also has staged several of Bruce Marks' works, including Lark Ascending, for Louisville Ballet. In 2010, Dunster served as the Canadian judge for the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi.
Hartt Community Division Dance Faculty, Composition
Prior to moving to the USA in 1992, Jill Henderson lived and worked in the UK where she was a pioneer in the world of dance in public education. During her UK career, she taught, choreographed, and advised in a wide variety of educational contexts, including K-12 dance programs; teacher preparation and in-service; arts curriculum development and adult and community education. From 1989 to 1992, she was director of the education program for the Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet (which became The Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1990).
In the US, from 1993 to 1996, Jill was the Arts Coordinator for the creation and writing of Connecticut State Department of Education’s Guide to Program Development in the Arts K-12, including the Arts Standards for CT. 1996-2004, Jill was the Administrative Director for MetaArts, Inc. and the Judy Dworin Performance Ensemble.
As a dance educator in CT, Jill has taught at Central Connecticut State University; Trinity College, Hartford; University of Hartford and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. She currently teaches dance composition in the Hartt School Community Division Dance Department. She is a founder member of the Connecticut Dance Alliance and has just completed three years as its President.
As a teacher of dance composition, Jill nurtures her students as creative artists in the firm belief that all children are choreographers. In her classes creativity and imagination are encouraged with a strong emphasis on purposeful collaboration and thoughtful discussion.
Jill is also a mixed media collage artist exhibiting in local and regional galleries.
Founder of Preparacion Fisica for the Cuban National Ballet School, Vicente Hernandez was born in Villa Clara, Cuba. As a child, he studied gymnastics and later became a member of the Cuban National Gymnastics Team. After retirement from gymnastics, Mr. Hernandez studied and received his Masters in Sports Training with the Physical Cultural Superior Institute in Cuba, and in 1984 founded the Physical Preparation Curriculum for the Cuban National Ballet School. During this time, he trained students in the school including currently world renowned artists: Carlos Acosta, Jose Manuel Carreño and Xiomara Reyes. Due to the amazing results of his curriculum, Principal Dancers of the National Ballet of Cuba began to work privately with him as a trainer. Prima Ballerina Absolute, Alicia Alonso worked with him for two months to increase her strength. In 1989, he collaborated with the Cuballets of Centro Pro-Danza and traveled to Brazil and Sweden. During this time, he worked with Principal Dancers of the Royal Swedish Ballet Company. In 1987, working directly with Ramona De Saa, the director of the Cuban National Ballet School, he created and coordinated the Physical Preparation Methodology for dancers. This enhanced his program so that others could study his methods. In 1991, he participated in the Pan American Games Sports Medicine Congress where he collaborated with ballet schools from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela and Peru. That year, he also presented his work in the 3rd International Artistic Teaching Congress. In 1993, he worked for two months with the City Ballet Company of Sao Paolo, Brazil as well as working as the Physical Preparation Trainer for the Paula Castro School of Ballet. In 1994, he launched his book, The Physical Conditioning for Dancers and Athletes in Vitoria, ES, Brazil. During his time in Brazil he rehabilitated and trained Renata Pavan, a member of American Ballet Theatre and also prepared dancers for International Ballet Competitions including principal dancer, Eddy Tovar formerly with Texas Ballet Theater and Amilcar Moret, a member of Hamburg Ballet. In 2008, he trained dancers of Orlando Ballet and Orlando Ballet 2 and worked with the students of the Milwaukee Ballet School. Mr. Hernandez also holds licenses for Quiro Acupuncture, Japanese Chiropractor, Electrical Therapy, Fitoterapia and Aikido.
Hartt Community Division Dance Faculty, Ballet
Born and raised in New York, Susannah Marchese began her ballet training with Leda and Andre Eglevsky. She apprenticed with the Eglevsky Ballet and returned later as a principal dancer. After spending several years with Ballet Omaha, Susannah returned to the East Coast to join Hartford Ballet in 1990 under the directorship of Michael Uthoff. She followed that with a few years on the road with Phantom Of The Opera, she performed on Broadway, at Radio City Music Hall, New York City Opera, and with James Sewell Ballet. Susannah spent last year teaching ballet at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and is currently owner and instructor at PHIT Pilates Studio. Susannah lives in Hartford and is mother to Ava and Nola and is very excited to be on faculty at The Hartt School community division.
Debra Collins Ryder
Associate Professor of Dance, The Hartt School
Debra Collins Ryder joined the Hartt Dance faculty in January 2006. She has been a principal ballet teacher for both the Hartt Community and College Dance Divisions, where she also teaches Dance History and supervises student teaching internships. Prior to teaching at the Hartt School, she co-directed and helped develop the Eastern Connecticut Ballet, where she choreographed several works of critical acclaim. She was a principal dancer with the Hartford Ballet for many years, where she performed and was featured in many full length ballets. A versatile dancer, she was also featured in numerous modern and neo-classical works by Balanchine, Pilobolus, and many others. While in the company, she also acted as ballet mistress. She graduated with honors from Virginia Intermont College with a degree in Ballet and Ballet Teaching, and was on full scholarship at the Joffrey Ballet. A native of Philadelphia, she presently makes her home in Farmington with her husband and son.
Associate Professor of Dance, The Hartt School
Katie Stevinson-Nollet is the Artistic Director of Full Force Dance Theatre, the resident Dance Company at The Hartt School of the University of Hartford. She is also an associate professor in The Hartt School Dance Division teaching all levels of modern technique, composition, and dance history. Her professional experiences as a performer and choreographer have taken her across the US and abroad. As a dancer Katie performed with San Diego Dance Theatre, Isaacs McCaleb and Dancers, Carolyn Dorfman and Dancers, multiple independent choreographers, and her own work in Full Force. As a choreographer Ms. Stevinson-Nollet focuses her interests in collaboration and the exploration of the human condition. Her work has been presented at numerous venues and festivals including Sushi Performance Gallery in San Diego, The Florida Dance Festival, the International Arts Festival in New Haven, Trinity College in Hartford, the Kaleidoscope Festival in Los Angeles, and various sites throughout New York City. In June 2007, Katie returned to New York with Full Force Dance Theatre for three performances at the Joyce SoHo. Katie holds a B.A. degree in dance from San Diego State University, an M.F.A. degree in dance from the University of Michigan, and a certificate from the London Contemporary School of Dance.
Sarah Wagner Surber
Hartt Community Division Dance Faculty, Contemporary
Sarah Wagner Surber was a featured dancer with Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company, touring extensively for five years and continuing today as a guest performer. Additionally, she has had the pleasure of performing with Isabel Gotzkowsky and Friends, Randy James Dance Works, Dodge Dance Company and Alan Danielson Dance, among others. She was on faculty at the Limón Institute at Peridance Capezio Center, NYC, and as a visiting professor at Bucknell University, and is an ABT Certified Teacher in Primary through Level 7 of the ABT National Training Curriculum. Ms. Surber holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Teaching from Purchase College, SUNY, where she performed works by Doris Humphrey, Anna Sokolow, José Limón, Ruth Currier, Stephen Petronio, Mark Morris, Janis Brenner, Jonathan Riedel and Robert Battle.
Hartt Community Division Dance Faculty, Ballet
A native of Cuba, Eddy Tovar began his dance training at the National Ballet School in Havana. Prior to joining The Hartt Community Division, Mr. Tovar was a Principal Dancer with Texas Ballet Theater for three years and Orlando Ballet for nine. He has also been resident guest artist with the Los Angeles Ballet and made guest appearances with several other ballet companies throughout the United States. Internationally, Mr. Tovar has performed in ballet galas in Japan, Canada, Argentina and Latvia. He was the recipient of several gold medals for dance competitions in Argentina, Brazil and Cuba. In 2008, he appeared on the television program “So You Think You Can Dance” performing the principal role in George Balanchine’s Who Cares? Some of Mr. Tovar's favorite classical roles have included Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, and the Prince in The Sleeping Beauty. He has also enjoyed performing works by George Balanchine, Val Caniporoli and Twyla Tharpe. Mr. Tovar is married and is the proud father of a beautiful little girl.
For more information, contact the Hartt Community Division office at (860) 768-6000 or email@example.com.