Faculty

JOHN MEEHAN (Director of VRDT)

Australian born, John Meehan has been a member of the international dance world as performer, teacher, choreographer, adjudicator and artistic director for the past 45 years.

Meehan studied at The Australian Ballet School, joined The Australian Ballet in 1970 and was promoted to Principal Dancer in 1974. He joined American Ballet Theatre as Principal Dancer in 1977 where he danced leading roles in all of the classics as well as contemporary works by many of the world’s leading choreographers. He was also a frequent guest artist with the New York City Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada. John 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. John began choreographing early in his career. His ballets entered the repertoire of The Australian Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Washington Ballet, Metropolitan Opera Company and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. He was Artistic Director of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet from 1990 to 1993, and of The American Ballet Theatre Studio Company from 1997 to 2006. Meehan’s former ABT Studio Company students include principal dancers in the following companies: ABT, New York City Ballet, The Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, the Bolshoi Ballet, The Dutch National Ballet, The Boston Ballet, Miami City Ballet and the Houston Ballet.

Meehan has twice served as President of the Jury at the Prix de Lausanne and has been a juror at the Youth America Grand Prix as well as the past two Jackson International Ballet Competition. In 2015 he was named to succeed Edward Villella as President of the Jury of the Jackson IBC.

In 2005-06 John was invited to teach at Vassar College as Professor of Dance before traveling to Hong Kong where he was appointed Artistic Director of the Hong Kong Ballet in July 2006. He returned to Vassar in 2009 to join the faculty of the Department of Dance as Professor of Dance and Director of Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre. In 2013 Meehan was named to the Frances Daly Fergusson Chair in the Humanities at Vassar College.

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/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.

MIRIAM MAHDAVIANI (Faculty Choreographer)

Miriam Mahdaviani danced for the New York City Ballet after being invited by George Balanchine to join his company.  During her dancing career, she performed in over 40 Balanchine ballets, and worked with other notable choreographers including Jerome Robbins, Lar Lubovitch, Twyla Tharp,  Jacques d’Amboise, and Peter Martins.  She has performed as a guest Principal dancer in regional productions of The Nutcracker, and was invited to dance overseas as a featured guest artist at the Kremlin in Moscow and in cities throughout Italy.  On screen, she has appeared in the Dance in America series on PBS, and in NYCB’s movie of Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Ms. Mahdaviani has choreographed over 20 ballets for dance companies across the country, and her work has been seen internationally at dance festivals in Florence, Italy and Edinburgh, Scotland.  Additionally, Ms. Mahdaviani has staged Balanchine ballets for the Israel Ballet in Tel Aviv.  Since 2004, Ms. Mahdaviani has been a visiting professor of dance at Vassar College, teaching ballet technique and pointe classes at the beginner through advanced levels.  Her choreography for Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre includes Between The Lines, Mishpacha, A Musical Offering, and I Feel Pretty.

 LESLIE PARTRIDGE SACHS (Faculty Choreographer)

Born and raised on Manhattan’s upper west side now a resident of
New Paltz, NY, Leslie has spent the majority of her life as a dance artist, teacher, performer and choreographer in New York City. Leslie’s training and performance began with New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater. With her foundations in classical movement she entered the contemporary dance world through study of a wide variety of modern dance techniques; Cunningham, Horton, Graham, Lewitzky, etc. She is an alumna of the High School of Performing Arts, Bard College and the University of Washington, the latter from where she received her MFA in dance. Leslie has held positions at Purchase College Conservatory for Dance, Balettakademien in Stockholm, University of Massachusetts, Neuchåtel Switzerland summer festivals, Dance Space Center & Dance New Amsterdam in NYC, to name a few. Her work has been presented in venues across the US and in Europe.

 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.


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