NYC MASTERS WEEK
Isabella LaFreniere is a dancer with New York City Ballet. She was born in Michigan and began her dance training at the age of seven at the Northeast Academy of Dance under Giuseppe Canale and Scott Heinrich. At 11, she began studying with Anna Reznik and Alexei Kremnev, first at the Southold Dance Theatre in South Bend, and then at the Joffrey Academy of Dance in Chicago. She began studying at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet, during the 2008 summer course, and enrolled as a full-time student during the 2010 winter term. She received additional training at the Chautauqua Institution and Pacific Northwest Ballet summer programs. Ms. LaFreniere was a recipient of the Mae L. Wein award in 2013, became an apprentice with NYCB in August 2013, and joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet in June 2014. Since joining the company she has been featured in George Balanchine’s Chaconne, Harlequinade, The Nutcracker, Jerome Robbins Fanfare, and Justin Peck’s Year of the Rabbit. She has also originated roles in Wheeldon’s American Rhapsody and Justin Peck’s Scherzo Fantastique. Isabella was the New York City Ballet Princess Grace nominee for 2018. In addition to dancing with the New York City Ballet, Isabella has been a guest teacher at Grand Rapids Ballet, Chautauqua’s School of Dance, and Rochester School of Dance.
Carlos Lopez is currently a Ballet Master with the American Ballet Theatre. He began his professional career at the Victor Ullate Ballet in his native country, Spain where he danced as Principal Dancer for 6 years. Some of his repertory included leading roles in Don Quixote, Giselle, Theme and Variations, Allegro Brillante, Paquita, Les Sylphides and ballets by Maurice Bejart, Rudi Van Dantzig or Hans Van Manen. With this company he toured to Argentina, Belgium, Cuba, England, Germany, Italy and the United States. Lopez joined American Ballet Theatre in 2001 and danced as a Soloist from 2003-2011. He has worked with Natalia Makarova, Gelsey Kirkland, Twyla Tharp, Alexei Ratmansky or William Forsythe. His repertoire with ABT includes Iago in Othello, the Bronze Idol in La Bayadère, Mercutio and Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, the Nutcracker-Prince in The Nutcracker, Birbanto in Le Corsaire, Puck in The Dream, Benno in Swan Lake, the second sailor in Fancy Free, Alain in La Fille mal gardée, Eros in Sylvia, the Lead Pontevedrian dancer in The Merry Widow, the Peasant Pas de deux in Giselle, the Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty, The Joker in Jeu de Cartes and Roles in Offenbach in the Underworld, Amazed in Burning Dreams, The Green Table, Petite Mort, Sinfonietta, Dark Elegies, In the Upper Room, Gong, Company B, Seven sonatas, Symphonic Variations, Glow Stop, Within You Without You: A Tribute to George Harrison and workwithinwork. In 1996, he won the Silver Medal at the “Paris International Ballet Competition” and in 2004 was awarded the “Les Etoiles de Ballet 2000” Prize in Cannes. As a Guest Artist, he has performed with the National Ballet of Georgia, National Ballet of Cuba, Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company among others and been invited to international ballet galas such as the “World Stars Gala” in Budapest, the“Miami International Ballet Festival”, “Stars of the 21st Century” in Toronto or the “Havana International Ballet Festival”.Lopez is an ABT® Certified Teacher in Pre-Primary through Level 7 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. Lopez joined the Faculty of ABT Studio Company in 2013 and was appointed Ballet Master in September 2014. During this time he has participated at The Royal Ballet School Exchange in London, Miami and member of the jury at the Youth America Grand Prix. In August of 2016, Lopez was appointed Ballet Master of American Ballet Theatre.
Kat Wildish grew up in Tampa, Florida, but she shot from the beach to the balletic big time at the age of 15, when she toured the southern United States as a member of Ballet Gala, on stage with such superstars as Rudolf Nureyev, Margot Fonteyn, Cynthia Gregory, and Fernando Bujones. She received further training—on a two-year full scholarship from the Ford Foundation—at the nation’s premier dance academy, the School of American Ballet.
Kat is one of those rare ballerinas who has appeared with both New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. She performed with NYCB in 1981, dancing works by legendary choreographer/founder George Balanchine, who hand-picked her to perform in one of his last works, Adagio Lamentoso. In ABT (1986), then under artistic director Mikhail Baryshnikov, she performed in more traditional ballets like The Sleeping Beauty (in his version for ABT, Sir Kenneth MacMillan created the role of the “knitting lady” for Kat; Julie Kent was one of her assistants!). Kat has also been a guest artist with such companies as Zurich Ballet, Metropolitan Opera Ballet, The Eglevsky Ballet (then directed by Edward Villella), Bernhard Ballet, Connecticut Ballet, Fokine Ballet, the American Dance Machine, Dances Patrelle, and Louisville Ballet. Until she retired from the stage in 2007 she danced the Sugar Plum Fairy in annual Nutcrackers in the New York area.
Kat is unusual in that she didn’t take up teaching after retirement but began giving classes while a student herself: Her first was at age 15, and in her class was future Joffrey ballerina and Tony-winning dancer Elizabeth Parkinson of Twyla Tharp’s Movin’ Out. Thus, she combines years of practical in-studio experience with decades of systematic training. She was schooled in all of ballet’s great pedagogical traditions: Vaganova technique at Milan’s La Scala under the direction of Rudolf Nureyev, and studies with her personal coach, former Kirov ballerina Kaleria Fedicheva; and Cechetti tutelage from her mentor and friend Dick Andros. Throughout her career Kat worked closely with such dance-world luminaries as SAB’s Alexandra Danilova, Suki Schorer, Stanley Williams, and Andrei Kramarevsky; choreographers Sir Kenneth MacMillan and Glen Tetley; and Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo veterans Nicholas Orloff and Anna Youskevitch, wife of danseur Igor Youskevitch. And with a repertoire ranging from Petitpa to Bournonville to modern masters like Balanchine and Cranko, she is conversant with a whole spectrum of choreographic styles.
Kat participated in American Ballet Theatre’s project of establishing uniform country-wide standards of instruction (for details see here), and she is now an ABT® Certified Teacher of Primary through Level 7 (the highest) of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. She has also trained and mentored other teachers, notably for the Dance Educators of America and as a member of the U.S. Faculty of Education of the United Kingdom’s Royal Academy of Dance (for more information, write: email@example.com).
Kat is a radiant and popular presence on the New York City studio scene: She was scholarship director and manager at Steps, a longtime teacher at the Broadway Dance Center. Her approach to teaching is both witty and rigorous, creating a noncompetitive, nonjudgmental atmosphere that is encouraging to beginners and professionals alike. At the barre Kat pays special attention to placement, injury prevention—important for adult students—and careful, anatomically sound work. Yet her classes are also eminently “danceable,” emphasizing musicality, harmony, line, and stage presence.
She not only teaches multilevel adult ballet and pointe classes—14 per week—but produces and directs several sold-out student dance showcases each year. These “Performing in NY Experience” include stagings of classical repertoire for her own students and performances by other groups in a variety of genres, from hip-hop to modern to tap. She teaches privately as well, and has coached dancers for major ballet competitions such as the Youth America Grand Prix. And while Kat is usually to be found on her home ground, she gives a number of elite workshops nationwide and around the world: in Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and, most recently, Italy.
Kat has been cited in the media as a master teacher, notably in the New York Times article, “See You at the Barre” by Daniel C. Wakin (March 23, 2007), and in issues of Dance Teacher and Pointe magazines. She has also created her own online ballet community: maintaining this web site; producing an engaging, informative monthly newsletter; and keeping in touch with students and colleagues through Facebook.
To study with Kat is to be the beneficiary of superlative technical training, a lifetime of accumulated ballet lore, and a generous, elegant spirit. She prepares her students not only to dance beautifully, but to live with grace.