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Celebrating Gerald Arpino

Reflecting on a memorable performance from the perspective of one of our company dancers

When World Ballet Day arrives, the tight-knit ballet community that stretches around the world gets to connect with each other, and our audiences, on a deeper level, sharing live streams of company classes, behind-the-scenes rehearsals, interviews with dancers and directors, and even interactive dance challenges on social media platforms. In honor of this special day, I would like to reflect on our first performance of the 2023/2024 season, a weekend of celebration that wholly embodies the World Ballet Day experience. My name is Nina Nicotera, a company dancer with Eugene Ballet, and I am confident I can speak on behalf of my peers in saying that performing in Gerald Arpino’s Centennial Celebration was one of the most special and gratifying experiences of our dance careers.

On the weekend of September 23 and 24, Eugene Ballet traveled to Chicago, Illinois by invitation of the Gerald Arpino Foundation to join in celebrating the world-famous co-founder and choreographer of The Joffrey Ballet, at the 100th year anniversary of his birth. We were so fortunate to begin our season working with the Arpino Foundation’s Executive Director Charthel Arthur Estner, an esteemed former principal dancer with The Joffrey Ballet and experienced répétiteur of Arpino’s works.

Estner spent two weeks in Eugene to set and rehearse Arpino’s stunning ballet, Reflections, on ten of our company dancers. Estner’s thorough understanding of Arpino’s style and intent of his movements was steeped in every minute of our rehearsals. From teaching us how to use our backs for fuller movements, taking up space with our runs, and using Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music to make each solo our own, Estner left us feeling beyond prepared to take Reflections to Chicago’s Historic Auditorium Theatre.

A week later we arrived in Chicago and were thrilled to join major ballet companies from around the country—American Ballet Theater, San Francisco Ballet, and Ballet West, to name a few—in company classes and on stage to perform Arpino’s most impactful and revered works. To prepare for our dress rehearsal and performance we had the opportunity to take Joffrey Ballet alums Adam Sklute and Glenn Edgerton’s classes. Both had worked intimately with Arpino in their careers and were able to provide amazing advice for bringing Arpino’s works to life on stage. Dancers across the companies reconnected with old friends, met dancers that inspire them, and encouraged each other with applause and kind words from the wings.

We experienced the support of our fellow performers, and we felt the respect of more than 200 former Joffrey Ballet dancers in the audience who understood the difficulty of Arpino’s ballet and appreciated the work we put into honoring him with this performance. Tears were in everyone’s eyes as we lit a candle and bowed to Arpino’s usual box seat in the auditorium, a beautiful acknowledgement of his lasting impression on the ballet world. This truly was an experience of a lifetime and one that I will look back on with the fondest of memories.


Written by Nina Nicotera

Images by Amber Bliss- Trubliss Photography, Erin Johnson, Cheryl Mann Productions, and Katie Patrick

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