Atlanta Festival Ballet’s primary goal is to bring quality ballet to the Southern Crescent, including Clayton, Fayette, Henry, Spalding and Rockdale counties, in order to educate our young people in the enjoyment and appreciation of the arts and to enthuse the community at large in the passion of ballet. AFB strives to create an atmosphere of acceptance and appreciation for dance performance and to further the growth of the arts through the development of a receptive audience sensitive to the importance of all artistic undertakings. A professional ballet company complimented by student apprentices, Atlanta Festival Ballet provides an opportunity for area young people to participate in a high caliber, professionally oriented ballet program with an emphasis on performance.
Atlanta Festival Ballet, began as the vision of Artistic Director Gregory Aaron and made its debut on November 4, 1989, in a full length performance of Cinderella. The Company is comprised of 12 professional dancers and student apprentices who have dedicated themselves to the discipline of dance performance. Mr. Aaron has skillfully guided the Company toward excellence through his creative, exciting and imaginative choreography. In 1994, the Company welcomed Nicolas Pacaña as co-artistic director.
Atlanta Festival Ballet now produces two full-length ballets each season, including an annual performance of The Nutcracker and other major productions such as Coppelia, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Jungle Book, Swan Lake, andBeauty and the Beast. In addition, the Company maintains a demanding repertoire which includes Paquita, Eagle’s Path, Eclipse, Woman of Crystals and Hold On, Bella Amore, Symphony in C, Tchaikovsky, andother original works and classical pas de deux.
In keeping with the Company’s dance preparation and performance goals, student apprentices are exposed to dancing and training experience with professionals as often as possible, dancing in each of the productions. Gregory Aaron holds excellent professional credentials, having studied with some of the best American choreographers while dancing in five major ballet companies. In addition, inspirational instructors lend balance to the performance schedule with strong technical training program for students.
As representatives of the Southern Crescent, Atlanta Festival Ballet has traveled throughout the region, performing at festivals and in programs which heighten public awareness for the arts. In January 1993, the Company presented an evening of ballet excerpts for Arts Clayton’s Winter Arts Series and also became a member of the Southern Regional Ballet Association (SERBA). In 1994, the Company was selected to close SERBA’s annual festival at the Gala Evening in a performance of Nicolas Pacaña’s original ballet Paginini.
Atlanta Festival Ballet continues its quest to offer the finest training and performance opportunities for young student dancers. The Company motto, Passion – Preparation – Performance, has been taken to heart by all members as they dance their dreams into reality.
We accomplish our goals during the year by mounting two full-length ballet productions and other various repertory presentations for the general public as well as for the public school children. Since 1991, we have brought area school children to in-school performances at our annual classic The Nutcracker. In February 1996, we were at last able to secure a performance date early enough in the year to be able to provide in-school performance of our production Alice in Wonderland. Portions of some in-school performances have been underwritten by Atlanta Festival Ballet or granted by area businesses or arts organizations. Our 1995 in-school performances of The Nutcracker were performed for 3900 students, including 1200 who were able to attend without charge due to a grant from Clayton County Community Foundation. The program targeted fourth grade students in Clayton County and was also available to students with special needs, such as physical disabilities, autism and other developmental disabilities. In addition, children from surrounding county schools ere included. In February, 1400 children saw our in-school performance of Alice in Wonderland, including 650 who were able to attend free of charge through a grant from Arts Clayton, as part of the Grassroots Program of the Georgia Arts Council. We feel that our in-school program has become a rewarding, exciting method to provide arts education and awareness for the young people in our area. The opportunity to experience a ballet production would probably never occur for most of this children without this program.
Since 1998 Atlanta Festival Ballet has performed The Nutcracker at the Henry County Performing Arts Center in McDonough to record audiences and a sold-out school performance sponsored in part by our partnership with the Henry County School System.
Mrs. Keila Harvey has over 30 years of dance experience in all forms of dance and 14 years of teaching various dance forms. She opened the Gift of Dance Studio doors in June of 2005, fulfilling her dream that she had since childhood: to own her own dance school. At the same time, Mrs. Harvey inherited Basic Dance Supply from her mother after an untimely passing. In 2001, Mrs. Harvey received her BA in middle school education. She served as the leader of 7th Day Evangelism Dance Ministry with the Fishers of Men Outreach Ministry at New Birth Cathedral in Lithonia. Mrs. Harvey taught public school for nine years as a Clayton County Public School teacher (middle and high schools) and also received her certification with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission to teach PS/Dance in grades K-12. She was the Co-Director of the Mt. Zion High School Dance Academy and Mt. Zion Magnet High School in Jonesboro for four years. She also danced as a professional ballerina across the nation with Atlanta Festival Ballet. Mrs. Harvey has trained at some of the most prestigious dance institutions in the country, including Boston Ballet Center for Dance Education, the Atlanta Ballet, Ballethnic Academy for Dance Education, Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Texas) and the Governor’s Honors Program.
As director of Gift of Dance Studio, Mrs. Harvey, her staff, and summer camp students were featured on MTV’s Made program. Under her tutelage, her trainees have achieved many honors, such as local talent shows, regional and national competition winners, Governor’s Honors Program nominees and attendees, and impressive accomplishments on the hit TV show: So You Think You Can Dance. Mrs. Harvey continues to teach and choreograph classes at Gift of Dance along with the competition team also. In fact, in the fall of 2012, she and her competition team were selected to compete and perform at the 2012 Scream Tour.
Gregory Aaron is Artistic Director of Atlanta Festival Ballet Company and Atlanta Festival Ballet School. Since 1990, Mr. Aaron has guided the nonprofit company to its present status, budgeting for two major productions a year. His primary focus is choreography and artistic involvement. The company is made up of professional dancers, complemented by serious student apprentices, who gain valuable experience and superior training in this endeavor. Many of Mr Aaron’s students have been accepted to or received scholarships from major ballet programs and schools across the country.
Mr. Aaron began his training under one of the Southwest’s leading choreographers Susan Francis. He then went on to study under the founding director of Ballet El Paso at The University of Texas at El Paso, Ingeborg Heuser. Both teachers had immense influence on his early training and inspired him to excel in the study of ballet and to become a professional dancer. He was awarded a stipend scholarship to study at the Houston Ballet Academy, where he studied under Ben Stevenson, Clara Cravey, Eve Pettinger and Frederick Stroebel. In 1979, Mr. Aaron joined The Hartford Ballet as an apprentice and soon became a company member. In 1982, E. Virginia Williams invited him to join The Boston Ballet. Mr. Aaron began guest dancing and teaching in 1984. As a principal with the Ruth Mitchell Dance Company, he performed Sal Aiela’sNocturno at the Riverside Church Theatre. In 1986 he was asked to become a member of the Pacific Ballet Theatre (now known as Oregon Ballet Theatre) and was featured as the Nutcracker Prince in James Canfield’s production of The Nutcracker. While there he also danced inJust For Fun, Peasant Pas de Deux, Cabacon and world premiere of Mr. Canfield’s The Third Stage.
Highlights of Mr. Aaron career include: Romeo and Juliet with The Hartford Ballet, Nutcracker Prince and Chinese in The Nutcracker, man at the table in the world famous ballet The Green Table, touring France, Milan, Rome, Venice, Naples and Reggio Calabria, Italy, Taormina and Palermo, Sicily, and Broadway’s Uris Theatre, dancing with Rudolph Nureyev and The Boston Ballet in Don Quixote, Swan Lake and Giselle.
In 2001, Mr. Aaron was invited to dance, teach, and choreograph for Ballet Center of Cebu Philippines under the director of Madame Fe Sala Villarica. Subsequently he choreographed the children’s fairy tale The Little Mermaid which toured to Dumaguete and performed at the prestigious Silliman University. In 2003, he was invited by Girlie Royeca to stage and perform The Little Mermaid on the island of Mindanao, touring to Davao City, General Santos, and Cagayan de Oro. Additionally he was invited to teach at the Cultural Center of the Philippines for Ballet Philippines. In 2005 Mr. Aaron returned to the Philippines to stage his latest ballet, The Jungle Book. In the fall of that year, he staged The Nutcracker (which has delighted audiences in the Southern Crescent of Atlanta for 19 years) which was performed in Davao City, Tagum City, and General Santos City.
In July 2006, Mr. Aaron was named co-artistic director of Balletcenter Cebu, along with Nicolas Pacaña. Initial productions included the Philippine premiers of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, as well as the introduction of The International Summer Series which attracted students from all over the Philippines. Mr. Aaron divides his time between directing Balletcenter Cebu and Atlanta Festival Ballet.
Gregory Aaron continues to perform, teach, produce, and choreograph a variety of works across the globe. He has developed not only his distinctive artistic style but also his exceptional ability to prepare and produce outstanding ballet performances.
Ms. Buchanan is Co-Artistic Director of Atlanta Festival Ballet School and Atlanta Festival Balelt Company. She has been an advisor to the directors and has initiated many wonderful programs available throughout the school and company. Her responsibilities include student placement, evaluations and directing rehearsals.
Ms. Buchanan received her training from Pamelia Meadows in Arizona and Maria Vegh of Marin Ballet in California. She worked closely with Sally Streets from Berkley Ballet Theatre, and the noted ballerina Marina Eglevsky. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from Arizona State University. Performing experience includes dancing with the Martha Graham Company and with the Murray Lois Company.
She has performed professionally with Atlanta Festival Ballet since 1994. Some of her most memorable roles include performing in Artistic Director Nicolas Pacaña’s original works such as Summer’s Eve, Woman of Crystals and Hold On; and in Artistic Director Gregory Aaron’s Alice in Wonderland and Bella Amore. She is well known for her interpretations of Arabian in Atlanta Festival Ballet’s The Nutcracker, and as the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty.
Nicolas Pacaña is Artistic Director of Atlanta Festival Ballet Company and Atlanta Festival Ballet School. He teaches and choreographs for the company and the school and often performs principal roles with the company as well. Mr. Pacaña began dancing under Fe Sala Viliarica of Cebu City in the Philippines. After studying on scholarship with Patricia Stander in Los Angeles, he made his professional debut with the Honolulu City Ballet. In 1976, Mr. Pacaña joined The Boston Ballet as soloist and quickly rose to the rank of Principal Dancer. He became recognized among the finest classical danseurs.
Highlights of Mr. Pacaña’s career with The Boston Ballet include Colas in La Fille Mal Gardee during a 12 week tour in China, the Middle East and Europe; his debut as Albrecht in Giselle for which he won critical acclaim; a tour of Europe with Rudolph Nureyev and The Boston Ballet that included such cities as Brussels, Milan, Rome, Sicily and London; and his performances of Espada and the Gypsy Boy in Don Quixote.
Mr. Pacaña joined the Atlanta Ballet in 1982 as a principal dancer and became well known for his interpretations of Prince Desire in The Sleeping Beauty; Taverna in Carmina Burana, and lead roles in Balanchine ballets such as Tarantella, Raymonda Variations and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. He established himself as the lead danseur for the Atlanta Ballet for 11 years, while charming and fascinating audiences with his technical and artistic talents. In 1987, he was called upon to replace an injured Mikhail Baryshnikov in the Don Quixote Pas de Deux with only four hours notice during Baryshnikov’s Atlanta tour. Mr. Pacaña has performed and taught all over the world. In 1985, he returned to the Philippines to perform with the Philippine Ballet Theatre at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Pacaña has had the distinguished pleasure to work with the following directors and choreographers:
Ben Stevenson (former director of The Houston Ballet), Sara Caldwell (former director of the Boston Opera), Yasuki Sasa from Japan, Violette Verdy (former director of Paris Opera and Boston Ballet), Choo San Go (former resident choreographer of the Washington Ballet), Glenn Tetley, Lynn Taylor Corbett, Michael Lavrosky (The Bolshoi Ballet), Pierre Locatte (Paris Opera Ballet), Tom Pazik, Bruce Wells, Dennis Nahat, Eric Cruz, Gener Carringal, Bronson (Denmark), Robert Barnet (Director Emeritus The Atlanta Ballet), Virginia Williams (founding director Boston Ballet).
In 1993, Mr. Pacaña traveled again to the Philippines to teach and choreograph in his home country. In 1994, he returned to the U.S. and was named as Co-Artistic Director of Atlanta Festival Ballet and Atlanta Festival Ballet School. Mr. Pacaña has been prolific in developing stunning new ballets for the company. His Paganini was chosen to close the GALA at the Southeastern Regional Ballet Association Conference in 1994 and received stunning reviews. His ballet’s such as Peter Pan, The Beauty & the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Tchaikovsky have been commissioned around the world.
In 2001, Mr. Pacaña was invited by his former director and teacher Fe Sala Villarica to return to the Philippines to guest dance and choreograph. Since that time he has returned annually to stage productions of repertory programs as well as The Little Mermaid, Alice in Wonderland and The Nutcracker for Balletcenter in Cebu, The Royeca Schools of Ballet, Davao City, Tagum City and General Santos City.
In 2006, Mr. Pacaña was named Co-Artistic Director with Gregory Aaron, of Balletcenter Cebu, located in Cebu City, Philippines. The same year, Mr. Pacaña and Mr. Aaron introduced the International Summer Series in Cebu, which attracted students from all over the Philippines. Mr. Pacaña continues to direct Atlanta Festival Ballet. He remains in great demand as a guest artist and teacher. His reputation as an outstanding choreographer continues to grow throughout the southeast and the world.
Jennifer is originally from New York and began her training with Warwick Ballet Theatre of Warwick, New York under the direction of Lucinda Henry. In 2002, she received the Silvio Petturici Performing Arts Scholarship Award. Jennifer graduated cum laude from The University of the Arts with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Dance Education. She has had the opportunity to perform many soloist roles during her seasons at AFB including “White Rabbit” in Alice in Wonderland, “Princess Florine” in Sleeping Beauty, “Dew Drop Fairy” and “Clara” in The Nutcracker, and “Odile” in Swan Lake. In her ninth season, Jennifer is excited to perform “Sugar Plum Fairy” in The Nutcracker.
Jennifer started her dancing with her mother, Sherri, at the age of six at Ballet Dallas. She continued training at the Boston Ballet and Ballet Workshop of New England. She studied dance at summer intensives such as Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Millwaukee Ballet, Orlando Ballet, and Miami City Ballet. Jennifer received her BA in dance from Mercyhurst College. Jennifer is excited to dance her fifth season at Atlanta Festival Ballet; having enjoyed performing such roles as “White Cat of Puss n Boots” in Sleeping Beauty and “Clara” from The Nutcracker.
Elizabeth is from Cheverly, Maryland where she began her training at the National Ballet School under the direction of Helen and Pamela Moore. She later studied at Mercyhurst College under the direction of Tauna Hunter, where she graduated in 2010 with a BA in Dance. Now in her fourth season with Atlanta Festival, Elizabeth has had the opportunity to perform numerous roles including: “Jewels Pas de Trois” in Sleeping Beauty, “Winter Fairy” in Cinderella, “Pas de Trois” in Swan Lake, and “Clara” in The Nutcracker.
Originally from Apex, North Carolina, Grayson has danced with Cary Ballet Conservatory, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and North Carolina Dance Theatre. While at NCDT she had many performance opportunities including roles in Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and the Pas de Trois des Odalisques from Les Corsaire. This is her second season with Atlanta Festival Ballet.