About

School of the Albany Berkshire Ballet

The School of the Albany Berkshire Ballet (Albany, NY) and Cantarella School of Dance (Pittsfield, MA) are known for their outstanding balanced dance curriculums. Madeline Cantarella Culpo, Artistic Director of the Albany Berkshire Ballet, founded the School of the Albany Berkshire Ballet in 1955, with the goal of providing personal attention and training to students and professional dancers. Graduates of the School have gone on to dance at prestigious colleges for dance, including Walnut Hill, Boston Conservatory and Indiana University, and dance with professional companies, such as the Albany Berkshire Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Jacob’s Pillow, Milwaukee Ballet, Minnesota Ballet, Ballet Memphis, and the Pennsylvania, Ohio, Portland, and Washington Ballets.

At the School, the welfare of our young dancers is paramount. The program provides inspiration and progressive physical development in a professional friendly atmosphere. Classes are offered at all levels and are held Monday through Saturday. Modern, jazz, tap, and Broadway dance complement classical ballet training. Students at the Intermediate and Advanced levels are encouraged to take a minimum of two classes per week.

Serious students are encouraged to audition for acceptance into the Academies of the School or the Junior Company of the Albany Berkshire Ballet. This comprehensive training program for advanced students is designed for those who want to commit more time to the art of dance. Classes accelerate talented students, exposing them to nationally known teachers in a pre-professional instructional setting. In addition, both the Academies and the Junior Company perform frequently in the Capital Region throughout the year. Auditions for the Academies and Junior Company are held in the spring and fall of each year. Contact the School Administrator for details.

Foundation

The School of the Albany Berkshire Ballet uses the Cecchetti methods developed by Enrico Cecchetti, the world-renowned teacher of the Ballet Russes and ballet master of Diaghilev Ballet Russes. Pavlova, Fokine and Nijinsky were all trained by Master Cecchetti under these methods. One of his protégés, the English ballerina Margaret Craske, went on to teach at Juilliard and Jacob’s Pillow. “Miss Madeline,” who as a Juilliard alum was taught by Miss Craske, continues to develop her students’ techniques through the Cecchetti method.

Our Instructors

Madeline Culpo (Miss Madeline)
Director, Ballet & Pointe

Director-Founder and Artistic Director of the Albany Berkshire Ballet, is an alumna of the Juilliard School where she studied ballet with Margaret Craske, Antony Tudor and Alfredo Corvino and modern dance with Martha Graham. She is a nationally recognized teacher of dance, having taught throughout the United States, including at Jacob’s Pillow. She was featured in the November 1996 issue of “Dance Magazine” in an article entitled “Great Starts American Teachers Series” – “A Tribute To Teachers Who Have Produced Outstanding Results.” In addition, Mrs. Culpo has received three choreography fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Christine Geren (Miss Chrissy)
School Administrator, Ballet, Pointe & Pilates

Christine Geren began her training with The Northeast Ballet Company. Supported by dance and academic scholarships, she earned a BA in Dance from Mercyhurst College while also performing lead roles with The Lake Erie Ballet in The Nutcracker, Balanchine’s Serenade, and Alice in Wonderland. Ms. Geren is currently a principal dancer with the Albany Berkshire Ballet and has been a guest artist with the Ajkun Ballet Theatre. Her repertoire includes Carmina Burana, and The Rockwell Suites, as well as principal roles in Caprice, Nocturnes, Our Town and The Nutcracker with ABB and Chiara Ajkun’s Le Corsaire and Giselle pas de deux. Ms. Geren teaches ballet, pointe, variations and Pilates mat classes.  She is certified under Romana’s Pilates with True Pilates New York for comprehensive apparatus and Pilates matwork.

Alicia Hornicek (Miss Horniceck)
Pre-Ballet, Ballet, Pointe & Modern

Alicia Hornicek is a graduate of the School of The Albany Berkshire Ballet and has performed extensively with their professional company, notably in The Nutcracker, Cinderella and Carmina Burana. Ms. Hornicek has been teaching at the School for a number of years and teaches modern dance, and ballet for the Pre-Ballet levels through Advanced and Adult. She is also ballet mistress for the Academy Program. She holds a MA degree from Russell Sage College and is a practicing Physical Therapist.

Nancy Ropelewski King (Miss Nancy)
Ballet

Nancy Ropelewski King is a graduate of the Cantarella School. Mrs. King was a principal dancer and ballet mistress with the Albany Berkshire Ballet for many years. At Jacob’s Pillow she taught classes and also performed in Coppelia with the ABB. Her choreography “Peter and the Wolf” has been performed extensively throughout the Northeast. Mrs. King along with Artistic Director Madeline Cantarella Culpo choreographed the popular “Cinderella” and “Mother Goose” ballets.

Lisa Iannacito McBride (Miss Lisa)
Director; Ballet, Pointe, Modern, Pilates, Junior Company Repertory

Lisa Iannacito McBride graduated from the School of the Albany Berkshire Ballet, with additional training from the Boston Ballet School and The Juilliard School. She received her BFA from the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY Purchase where she performed works by Paul Taylor, Jose Limon and Mark Morris, in addition to many roles in The Nutcracker.  Upon graduation, she toured Spain with Ballet Contemporaneo de Burgos under the direction of Kazuko Hirabayashi. Lisa went on to  perform with a number of New York City-based companies. She was a member and Associate Artistic Director of Riedel Dance Theater from 2006-2012. Jonathan Riedel created several solos for Ms. McBride who went on to stage his work for NYSSSA, Pace University, and the Albany Berkshire Ballet. From 2007-2012, she was a member of Lydia Johnson Dance, returning in 2017 for a guest appearance. During her time with LJD, she was a teacher for their school and company residencies at Peridance, as well as a   rehearsal director. With Dances Patrelle, she served as Managing Director before performing and ballet mistressing for The Yorkville Nutcracker. Ms. McBride expanded upon her knowledge of movement by receiving her Pilates certification from the Kane School of Core Integration and her 200 Hour Vinayasa Yoga certification from mang'Oh Yoga. She was Studio Manager for mang'Oh Yoga from 2010-2015 and was invited to join their Teacher Training faculty in 2012. Miss Lisa has been on the faculty at Logrea Dance Academy, Ballet Academy East, the Mark Morris Dance Center,  NYSSSA, Pace University, CK Dance, and Saratoga Springs Youth Ballet. Upon moving back to the Albany area, she rejoined the Albany Berkshire Ballet, performing in and serving as ballet mistress for their Nutcracker, Rockwell Suites, Midsummer Night's Dream, and repertory seasons.

Olivia Moran (Miss Olivia)
Pre-Ballet, Modern, Lyrical

Olivia Moran holds a BFA in Dance from Marymount Manhattan College in N.Y.C. with a minor in Arts Administration and has been instructing Dance Education for 20 years in Berkshire County. After graduating college in 2002, she began to focus on Dance Education and spent 15 years as a Lead Instructor at Berkshire Dance Theatre. She also founded “move with me” a program to increase coordination skills in young children and taught in area preschools as a guest teacher for their enrichment programs. In 2013 she founded Freedom Dance where she was the Artistic Director and Lead Educator. She also began the areas first “Youth Drum Group” exposing young children to African Inspired music, instruments, and Dance. Olivia’s training began at the age of 10 with the Berkshire Dance Theatre and she eventually went on to study with some of the best instructors in the country while residing in New York City including Classical Ballet with Virginia Johnson, Edward Ellison and Finis Jhung. She has performed original works choreographed by Jose Limon and worked with Chet Walker on a Broadway inspired Jazz piece. Olivia studied Classical Modern with teachers from the Graham school, Alvin Ailey and the Limon Institute including Milton Myers, Joyce Herring, Elena Comendador and Maxine Steinman. She is also a certified Yoga Instructor and Massage Therapist and is trained in Thai Yoga Massage. Her students have gone on to participate in some of the most prestigious programs in the country and work as professionals in the dance world as teachers, performers, movement therapists and professional dancers.

Kerry Piaggione (Miss Kerry)
Ballet & Pointe

Kerry Piaggione is a graduate of the School of The Albany Berkshire Ballet and has performed extensively with their professional company in The Nutcracker, Les Sylphides, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mother Goose, and Madeline Cantarella Culpo’s Girl at the Mirror. She recently performed the role of Juliet for SPAC’s Classical Kids program, promoting classical dance in local schools. Ms. Piaggione minored in Dance at Hofstra University and holds an MA in Teaching from Union College. Ms. Piaggione teaches at the school and assists in rehearsals for both The Nutcracker and the school’s annual recital.

Ruslan Sprague (Mr. Sprague)
Ballet, Partnering

Ruslan Sprague has been dancing with the ABB since he was three, cast as the changeling in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in ’93 all the way up to the Snow Prince in their annual production of The Nutcracker. Ruslan also studied with Darrell Puciarello from the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and attended several dance programs with Boston Ballet, as well as their choreographic workshop under the teachings of Helen Pickett and Jorma Elo. After dancing with Ballet West in Salt Lake City Utah, Ruslan has returned to the Berkshires.

Deirdre Duffin-Swindlehurst (Miss Dede)
Ballet, Pointe & Variations

Deirdre Duffin-Swindlehurst started dancing at age five under Madeline Cantarella Culpo and went on to be a principal dancer with Albany Berkshire Ballet. She joined the Pennsylvania Ballet in 1980, and rose to soloist in The Nutcracker, Coppelia, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Les Sylphides, and The Four Temperaments. Deirdre has appeared as a guest artist at Jacob’s Pillow and has toured the United States with Leonid and Valentina Kaslov and with Cynthia Gregory and her “Celebration Tour.” Miss Dede teaches advanced levels of ballet and is Ballet Mistress to the Junior Company in Albany.

Madeline Culpo (Miss Madeline)
Director, Ballet & Pointe

Director-Founder and Artistic Director of the Albany Berkshire Ballet, is an alumna of the Juilliard School where she studied ballet with Margaret Craske, Antony Tudor and Alfredo Corvino and modern dance with Martha Graham. She is a nationally recognized teacher of dance, having taught throughout the United States, including at Jacob’s Pillow. She was featured in the November 1996 issue of “Dance Magazine” in an article entitled “Great Starts American Teachers Series” – “A Tribute To Teachers Who Have Produced Outstanding Results.” In addition, Mrs. Culpo has received three choreography fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Christine Geren (Miss Chrissy)
School Administrator, Ballet, Pointe & Pilates

Christine Geren began her training with The Northeast Ballet Company. Supported by dance and academic scholarships, she earned a BA in Dance from Mercyhurst College while also performing lead roles with The Lake Erie Ballet in The Nutcracker, Balanchine’s Serenade, and Alice in Wonderland. Ms. Geren is currently a principal dancer with the Albany Berkshire Ballet and has been a guest artist with the Ajkun Ballet Theatre. Her repertoire includes Carmina Burana, and The Rockwell Suites, as well as principal roles in Caprice, Nocturnes, Our Town and The Nutcracker with ABB and Chiara Ajkun’s Le Corsaire and Giselle pas de deux. Ms. Geren teaches ballet, pointe, variations and Pilates mat classes.  She is certified under Romana’s Pilates with True Pilates New York for comprehensive apparatus and Pilates matwork.

Alicia Hornicek (Miss Horniceck)
Pre-Ballet, Ballet, Pointe & Modern

Alicia Hornicek is a graduate of the School of The Albany Berkshire Ballet and has performed extensively with their professional company, notably in The Nutcracker, Cinderella and Carmina Burana. Ms. Hornicek has been teaching at the School for a number of years and teaches modern dance, and ballet for the Pre-Ballet levels through Advanced and Adult. She is also ballet mistress for the Academy Program. She holds a MA degree from Russell Sage College and is a practicing Physical Therapist.

Nancy Ropelewski King (Miss Nancy)
Ballet

Nancy Ropelewski King is a graduate of the Cantarella School. Mrs. King was a principal dancer and ballet mistress with the Albany Berkshire Ballet for many years. At Jacob’s Pillow she taught classes and also performed in Coppelia with the ABB. Her choreography “Peter and the Wolf” has been performed extensively throughout the Northeast. Mrs. King along with Artistic Director Madeline Cantarella Culpo choreographed the popular “Cinderella” and “Mother Goose” ballets.

Lisa Iannacito McBride (Miss Lisa)
Director; Ballet, Pointe, Modern, Pilates, Junior Company Repertory

Lisa Iannacito McBride graduated from the School of the Albany Berkshire Ballet, with additional training from the Boston Ballet School and The Juilliard School. She received her BFA from the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY Purchase where she performed works by Paul Taylor, Jose Limon and Mark Morris, in addition to many roles in The Nutcracker.  Upon graduation, she toured Spain with Ballet Contemporaneo de Burgos under the direction of Kazuko Hirabayashi. Lisa went on to  perform with a number of New York City-based companies. She was a member and Associate Artistic Director of Riedel Dance Theater from 2006-2012. Jonathan Riedel created several solos for Ms. McBride who went on to stage his work for NYSSSA, Pace University, and the Albany Berkshire Ballet. From 2007-2012, she was a member of Lydia Johnson Dance, returning in 2017 for a guest appearance. During her time with LJD, she was a teacher for their school and company residencies at Peridance, as well as a   rehearsal director. With Dances Patrelle, she served as Managing Director before performing and ballet mistressing for The Yorkville Nutcracker. Ms. McBride expanded upon her knowledge of movement by receiving her Pilates certification from the Kane School of Core Integration and her 200 Hour Vinayasa Yoga certification from mang'Oh Yoga. She was Studio Manager for mang'Oh Yoga from 2010-2015 and was invited to join their Teacher Training faculty in 2012. Miss Lisa has been on the faculty at Logrea Dance Academy, Ballet Academy East, the Mark Morris Dance Center,  NYSSSA, Pace University, CK Dance, and Saratoga Springs Youth Ballet. Upon moving back to the Albany area, she rejoined the Albany Berkshire Ballet, performing in and serving as ballet mistress for their Nutcracker, Rockwell Suites, Midsummer Night's Dream, and repertory seasons.

Olivia Moran (Miss Olivia)
Pre-Ballet, Modern, Lyrical

Olivia Moran holds a BFA in Dance from Marymount Manhattan College in N.Y.C. with a minor in Arts Administration and has been instructing Dance Education for 20 years in Berkshire County. After graduating college in 2002, she began to focus on Dance Education and spent 15 years as a Lead Instructor at Berkshire Dance Theatre. She also founded “move with me” a program to increase coordination skills in young children and taught in area preschools as a guest teacher for their enrichment programs. In 2013 she founded Freedom Dance where she was the Artistic Director and Lead Educator. She also began the areas first “Youth Drum Group” exposing young children to African Inspired music, instruments, and Dance. Olivia’s training began at the age of 10 with the Berkshire Dance Theatre and she eventually went on to study with some of the best instructors in the country while residing in New York City including Classical Ballet with Virginia Johnson, Edward Ellison and Finis Jhung. She has performed original works choreographed by Jose Limon and worked with Chet Walker on a Broadway inspired Jazz piece. Olivia studied Classical Modern with teachers from the Graham school, Alvin Ailey and the Limon Institute including Milton Myers, Joyce Herring, Elena Comendador and Maxine Steinman. She is also a certified Yoga Instructor and Massage Therapist and is trained in Thai Yoga Massage. Her students have gone on to participate in some of the most prestigious programs in the country and work as professionals in the dance world as teachers, performers, movement therapists and professional dancers.

Kerry Piaggione (Miss Kerry)
Ballet & Pointe

Kerry Piaggione is a graduate of the School of The Albany Berkshire Ballet and has performed extensively with their professional company in The Nutcracker, Les Sylphides, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mother Goose, and Madeline Cantarella Culpo’s Girl at the Mirror. She recently performed the role of Juliet for SPAC’s Classical Kids program, promoting classical dance in local schools. Ms. Piaggione minored in Dance at Hofstra University and holds an MA in Teaching from Union College. Ms. Piaggione teaches at the school and assists in rehearsals for both The Nutcracker and the school’s annual recital.

Ruslan Sprague (Mr. Sprague)
Ballet, Partnering

Ruslan Sprague has been dancing with the ABB since he was three, cast as the changeling in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in ’93 all the way up to the Snow Prince in their annual production of The Nutcracker. Ruslan also studied with Darrell Puciarello from the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and attended several dance programs with Boston Ballet, as well as their choreographic workshop under the teachings of Helen Pickett and Jorma Elo. After dancing with Ballet West in Salt Lake City Utah, Ruslan has returned to the Berkshires.

Deirdre Duffin-Swindlehurst (Miss Dede)
Ballet, Pointe & Variations

Deirdre Duffin-Swindlehurst started dancing at age five under Madeline Cantarella Culpo and went on to be a principal dancer with Albany Berkshire Ballet. She joined the Pennsylvania Ballet in 1980, and rose to soloist in The Nutcracker, Coppelia, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Les Sylphides, and The Four Temperaments. Deirdre has appeared as a guest artist at Jacob’s Pillow and has toured the United States with Leonid and Valentina Kaslov and with Cynthia Gregory and her “Celebration Tour.” Miss Dede teaches advanced levels of ballet and is Ballet Mistress to the Junior Company in Albany.