JOHN MEEHAN (Director of VRDT)
John Meehan was a principal dancer with the Australian Ballet and the American Ballet Theater. He was also a frequent guest artist with the New York City Ballet and National Ballet of Canada, and toured with Stars of World Ballet. He has partnered many of the world’s great ballerinas including Dame Margot Fonteyn, Natalia Makarova, Merrill Ashley, Gelsey Kirkland, Cynthia Gregory, Karen Kain and the Australian ballet stars Marilyn Rowe and Marilyn Jones. He has choreographed ballets for The Australian Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Washington Ballet, Metropolitan Opera Company, and Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Meehan was also the artistic director of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, The American Ballet Theatre Studio Company and the Hong Kong Ballet. Before taking his current position at Vassar, Meehan was a visiting professor of dance at the college from 2005 to 2006.
KATHERINE WILDBERGER (Assistant Director of VRDT/Faculty Choreographer)
As a senior lecturer at Vassar College, Kathy shares her faculty appointment in the Dance Program and with the Drama Department—where she is Movement Sequentialist. She also teaches, performs and choreographs in New York and abroad. Her professional credits include: Directing and founding the PATH Dance Company in Baltimore for eleven years, choreographing and performing for Jeff Duncan’s IMPETUS Dance Company, and dancing as a founding member of the Toronto Dance Theatre. She has been awarded several fellowships and grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and the NEA, as well as a Jerome Foundation First Light Grant for her work with Sean Curran at Dance Theater Workshop in New York. Kathy has taught extensively at numerous venues, most notably: Goucher College, The Metropolitan Opera, the Laban Institute of Movement Studies, The José Limón Institute, The Chautauqua Institute, Peridance Center in New York, Sesce Pompeii in Brasil, and the University of Montana. Wildberger has been invited to perform at DanceNow 2007 and DanceSpace in NYC. She and Steve Rooks were selected to participate in New York’s COOL Festival in February 2007 to perform Kathy Wildberger’s Skull And Bones Club.
STEPHEN ROOKS (Resident Choreographer and Chair of Dance)
Stephen Rooks began his dance training in Washington D.C. with Jan Van Dyke and Greg Reynolds, after graduating with honors from Dartmouth College. He continued his training in New York City as a scholarship student at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. Mr. Rooks has danced and toured with the Greg Reynolds Dance Quintet, the Mary Anthony Dance Theater, Peter Sparling, Dancer’s Eye, and the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, where he performed classic works by Ailey, Donald McKayle, Talley Beatty, and Ulysses Dove. He joined the Martha Graham Dance Company in the summer of 1981, and was a Principal Dancer with the company until 1991.
Mr. Rooks was the recipient of a Vassar Research Grant for an Artist Residency in Riga, Latvia in May 2002, and a 2004 winner of the Sixth Annual National Choreographic Competition sponsored by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Two created solos, “Sanctus”, and “Sonata D’alta Gracia” were performed during the 2004 Youth America Grand Prix Ballet Competition. Since 2007, he has taught as a Guest Instructor for the International Summer School in Sydney, Australia. Mr. Rooks has performed “The Skull and Bones Club” with Kathy Wildberger at the 2006 Cool Dance Festival in New York, and danced in a presentation of “From the Horse’s Mouth” with the Graham company during their 2007 New York Season at the Joyce Theater.
Mr. Rooks is currently Resident Choreographer and Chair of Dance at Vassar College. He is also a Guest Instructor at the Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham Schools of Dance. He was a 2001 Artist-in-Residence at the North Carolina School of the Arts, and has been a member of the International Association of Blacks in Dance.
ABBY SAXON (Faculty Choreographer)
Abby Saxon has an M.A. in Dance and Dance Education from New York University. She danced professionally for many years in New York City, most notably with Jazzdance-The Danny Buraczeski Dance Company, touring the U.S. and appearing at Jacob’s Pillow, Spoleto, and the American Dance Festival. Teaching invitations have included the Jacob’s Pillow Summer Dance Program and the Joyce Theatre Dance Education Program for New York City schoolteachers. A former instructor of Dance at New York University, Abby is currently an Adjunct Faculty Artist teaching jazz dance at Vassar College. As a member of the Vassar dance faculty, Abby has choreographed and staged numerous pieces for Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre. She has the honor of being repetitore for some of Danny Buraczeski’s works, which are periodically set on the VRDT company. Abby has taken part as both dancer and choreographer working in many Choreographers’ Showcases presented at the Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck, where she also teaches. Her choreography has been solicited for the DanceFest in Ulster County and other local dance festivals. From her classes in Rhinebeck, she has cultivated a group of adult dance students who perform in numerous community events and fundraisers. Abby has recently been bestowed with the honor of being a Dance Auditor for the New York State Council On The Arts. She feels privileged to be working with her Vassar colleagues who offer such a munificence of talent, style, and teaching expertise.
JEANNE PERIOLAT CZULA (Artistic Advisor)
Jeanne Periolat Czula joined the Vassar faculty in 1975, introduced ballet into the curriculum in 1978 and has directed the Dance program since 1981. She has danced with the Radio City Music Hall Ballet, The New York City Ballet’s Educational Division, The Poughkeepsie Ballet Theater and the Indiana University Ballet, as well as having been a guest artist with regional companies in the tri-state area. Her repertoire included leading roles in Firebird, Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Sleeping Beauty, and a variety of Balanchine works. She has also created roles in original pieces by Peter Genarro, Gilbert Reed, Kent Stowell and Ron Lewis, among others. She began teaching and coaching as an undergraduate at Indiana University in 1967 where she received her degree in Music. She retired from the stage in 1983 and has since gone on to choreograph and to stage classical ballet repertoire. Most recently (in July, 2000) her ballet, Study Break, was performed by the Kansas City Contemporary Dance Company in their summer season.
DANIEL PRESSLER (Musical Director)
Daniel Pressler has worked in dance accompanying for the past 20 years. He has played for a wide variety of dance styles and in both professional and educational settings. He was company and rehearsal pianist for American Ballet Theater, The Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Ballet Chicago. He has worked in the dance departments of Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, Barnard College, Bard College, S.U.N.Y. Purchase and is presently Adjunct Artists in Ballet Accompaniment at Vassar College as well as Musical Director for the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre. He is also freelancing with the Mark Morris Dance Group accompanying their company classes.
DAVID FERRI (Lighting Designer)
David Ferri, Lighting Designer and Technical Director, has worked with prominent choreographers such as Pina Bausch, Shen Wei, Doug Varone, Jane Comfort, Eiko and Koma, David Rousseve and Ballet Preljocaj. He has been the Production Manager for the prestigious American Dance Festival since 1996 training upcoming designers in America. Recipient of 1987-1988 Bessie Award for his design of Doug Varone’s “Straits”, and 2000-2001 Bessie Award for Sustained Achievement in Lighting Design, Mr. Ferri was also resident lighting designer and technical director at PS 122 in NYC from 1985-1991. Mr. Ferri lives in New York between his travels and projects.
ZVI GOTHEINER (Guest Choreographer)
Born and raised in Israel, ZVI GOTHEINER began his artistic career as a gifted violinist with the Young Kibbutzim Orchestra, where he attained the rank of soloist and Concertmaster at age 15. He began dancing at 17, and soon after formed his first performance group. He first came to New York in 1978 on a dance scholarship from the American-Israeli Cultural Foundation, and went on to dance with the Joyce Trisler Dance Company, Feld Ballets/NY, and the Bat-Sheva Dance Company. After directing Tamar Ramle and the Jerusalem Tamar Dance Companies in Israel and the Israeli Chamber Dance Company in New York, he founded ZviDance in 1989.
In addition to directing and choreographing for his own company, Mr. Gotheiner is much in demand as a guest choreographer for both professional and student companies, and is a frequent adjudicator for the National College Dance Festival.
His daily ballet technique class at City Center Studios in New York is one of the city’s most popular.
BRIAN REEDER (Guest Choreographer)
Brian Reeder was born in Sunbury, PA, USA, Brian Reeder began his dance training with Marcia Dale Weary at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. He had the privilege of a dance career that saw him mainly at three widely respected dance companies: New York City Ballet (1986–1990), William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt (1990–1993) and American Ballet Theatre (1994–2003). During his time with these companies, questing gigs and international dance festivals, he danced numerous ballets and featured roles in the works of past and present dance masters.
As a choreographer, beginning in 2002, he has created or re-staged his ballets on American Ballet Theatre, ABT Studio Co., Washington Ballet, Washington Ballet Studio Co., Pacific Northwest Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, Ballet Grandiva and Ballet Next, as well as other regional and civic dance companies across the nation. His work has been produced three times for the “Works and Process” series at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC and he also has created two full-length versions of “The Nutcracker” for Ballet Pacifica and the Black Hills Dance Theatre.
Brian has been the proud recipient of several grants and fellowships, including The New York Choreographic Fellowship, The Jerome Robbins Foundation for New Works and The Boomerang Foundation.
Mr. Reeder has taught and choreographed at multiple ballet academies, regional dance schools and prestigious universities such as Brown University, Emory University, Goucher College, Barnard College and The Columbia Ballet Collaborative.
He has been involved with ABT’s Summer Intensives for several years, teaching for its college program and five-week NYC program; and he acted as the coordinating director for Dance Bermuda, ABT’s International Summer Intensive. Brian is also on faculty as a teacher and the current resident choreographer for The Manhattan Youth Ballet at MMAC. He has been a guest or substitute teacher at several dance companies and institutions: The Alvin Ailey School, NYU, The School at Steps, The Peridance Capezio Center, Newark Arts High School, Orange County School of the Arts, The Icelandic National Dance Company, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and the international tour of Matthew Bourne’s “Swan Lake.”
Outside the ballet world, Mr. Reeder has had the pleasure of creating choreographic sequences for the independent film “American Primitive” and the music video “Brit Slap.” He was also the focus of an unconventional and unique, 18-hour documentary project by filmmaker Elliot Caplan called “15 Days Of Dance: The Making of Ghost Light,” which was screened at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, at Lincoln Center in NYC and at The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.