Callaghan also trained at SAB in the ’70s, and performed with the North Carolina Dance Theatre, a small troupe headed by former NYCB stars Patricia McBride and her husband Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux. Callaghan took charge of the couple’s school in 1996, building it from a small, casual place to a serious training program with 700 students. Since the North Carolina troupe did a healthy amount of modern dance and contemporary ballet, she made sure the school’s training included those genres. “We taught them to be employable anywhere,” she says. “We wanted to create dancers amenable to anything thrown their way.”
She emphasizes that she is building on the MCB school’s considerable strengths, by increasing the intensity, number and variety of classes, beginning serious training at a younger age, and creating a formal syllabus for teachers to follow.
“We’re very grateful to the Villellas,” Callaghan says. “We wanted to define what [the students] were getting more clearly.”
For the summer intensive, Callaghan added classes in modern dance and auxiliary training such as Pilates, yoga, and weight lifting for the boys; the younger students will get musical theater and basic repetory classes. For the regular fall program, there will be additional classes for very young children as well as adults. Children will start in the ballet program a year earlier, at 5, and begin a professional track program at age 7. As they continue, they’ll be required to take more classes per week, in various aspects of ballet and in areas like modern and jazz dance. There will be additional classes and scholarships for younger boys, ages 7 to 9. Pre-professional students, who train at MCB fulltime, will add classes in choreography (with its own showcase performance) and lectures in dance history and music theory; and will perform in a new student company, the MCBS Ensemble.
The school is planning an Open House on Aug. 10 with free trial classes for adults and children, and auditions for those hoping to join the school.
New teachers this summer include Quintane and Miami-raised Maribel Modrono, both prominent former dancers with the company. But Pardina is the most prominent new hire. A longtime teacher at the Harid Conservatory in West Palm Beach, he trained at the Paris Opera Ballet and danced with regional French troupes; he has taught at the Youth America Grand Prix, a famous student ballet contest, and frequently coached students for competitions. Pardina will focus on the advanced, pre-professional students and new student company. He’ll also be tasked with developing the program for boys, still rare and sought after in ballet; the MCB school currently has just a handful in the younger levels, which Lopez hopes to change by expanding scholarships.
The summer intensive, which began June 24 and runs through Friday, is a feature at most top ballet schools. It brings potential talent from across the United States and abroad to MCB; of the 150 students this year, 33 are from Latin America, with 24 of those from Brazil, the result of a program focused on bringing talented young dancers from that country. (Another 59 Brazilians will participate in a separate two-week intensive for younger students from that country, alongside 75 younger aspirants from the United States.) Five of those Brazilian students, including principals Cerdeiro and Rebello, are now with MCB; the Esty sisters, from Maine, also came to the troupe through the summer school.