The professionalism of our faculty has earned Eastern Connecticut Ballet its reputation for excellence. Having studied at the world’s best schools and performed with major companies, our instructors and visiting artists have both the experience and the vision to train the next generation of dancers. They also act as counselors to provide our students with professional guidance as they navigate their education and careers.
Artistic Director Gloria Govrin oversees a curriculum that provides the highest quality technical instruction at all levels of ability; this program produces well-trained, versatile dancers who reach for the best. Today, ECB’s reputation for superb teaching draws students from all corners of the state. Our summer intensives also attract many from throughout the United States who wish to study under Ms. Govrin, and our distinguished guest artists from New York City Ballet and elsewhere.
Damara Bennett joined ECB in the summer of 2018 as the Director of Curriculum and Programming. Ms. Bennett has devoted much of her career to developing a syllabus for beginning through advanced students insuring the best foundation for excellence on all levels.
Lise Reardon: Founder & Executive Director
Ms. Reardon taught classical ballet in southeastern Connecticut for 21 years before devoting her full-time efforts to school development. Twenty-seven years ago, Ms. Reardon established Eastern Connecticut Ballet as the region’s only non-profit training school for young dancers. Before this, she ran the Riveredge School of Ballet and Ballet de Jeunesse in Niantic for 11 years. Under Ms. Reardon’s direction, Eastern Connecticut Ballet’s school has grown from 60 to over 300 students, expanded its programs to offer modern, character, jazz, Pilates and other forms of dance, and established a place in the community as a premiere arts resource.
Ms. Reardon majored in dance at the Juilliard School of Music and holds a bachelor of arts, cum laude, in elementary education from the University of North Carolina. She performed with the Ruth Page Ballet Company, the Chicago Lyric Opera Ballet Company, and the St. Louis Ballet.
In Chicago, she trained with Ruth Page, Larry Long and American Ballet Theater principals Ruth Ann Koesun and John Kriza. In New York, she studied with Antony Tudor, Alfredo Corvino, Sallie Wilson, Michael Uthoff, and modern dance greats Jose Limón, Betty Jones, and Kazuko Hirabayashi.
Ms. Reardon serves on the Advisory Board of the Connecticut Dance Alliance and is a member of the SECT Cultural Coalition. She was most recently honored by Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.
Gloria Govrin: Artistic Director
A product of the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet, Gloria Govrin was the vanguard of the tall-is-terrific look of modern ballet. Gloria’s strength, stature, and stamina made her a star soloist for many years. In fact, George Balanchine often choreographed roles specifically for her because of her stage presence and unique abilities. Roles such as Hippolyta in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Coffee in Nutcracker, the Princess in Firebird, and La Bonne Fee in Harlequinade were so stamped with her identity, that the entrances and exits on the scores were marked with her name rather than that of the role. Mr. Balanchine also established her in high-profile roles and ballets such as Stars and Stripes, Western Symphony, Apollo, Agon, Dewdrop in Nutcracker, and many others.
Upon retirement, Ms. Govrin opened her own school and company in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In 1986, Robert Weiss asked her to come to the Pennsylvania Ballet to teach and from there, she became the principal teacher at the Rock School, the official school of the Pennsylvania Ballet. At the school, Gloria choreographed showcases, conducted audition tours, created and presented lecture demonstrations, taught company classes and assisted in staging Balanchine repertoire. In 1999, she was invited by Helgi Tomasson to be the Associate Director of the San Francisco Ballet School. During her 8 years there, she trained many students who went on to professional careers with San Francisco Ballet, as well as many other companies worldwide.
Over the years, Ms. Govrin has been an invaluable mainstay to the Ballet World. People still refer to her strength and personality as a dancer on stage, but she has yet to find a greater passion for this art than teaching. Ms. Govrin is considered one of the leading masters of the Balanchine Technique and she brings her years of experience into every class she teaches. Most recently, she was honored by Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame. Along with her illustrious career, Ms. Govrin is most proud of her daughter, Olivia, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, who currently teaches music for the Boston Public Schools.
Damara Bennett: Director of Children’s Programming
Ms. Bennett received her formal ballet training under the direction of Lila Zali in Laguna Beach, California, where her early dedication and talent won her a Ford Foundation Scholarship from the School of American Ballet. In 1971, Ms. Bennett joined San Francisco Ballet, under the direction of Lew Christensen and Michael Smuin. In 1987, Ms. Bennett founded City Ballet School in San Francisco, where she served as artistic director and offered a comprehensive curriculum incorporating the Vaganova syllabus. Many of Ms. Bennett’s students have gone on to dance with professional companies such as Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and Dutch National Ballet, on Broadway, and in feature films like Center Stage.
From 2003-2013, Ms. Bennett was the director of the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre under the artistic directorship of Christopher Stowell. Her responsibilities included establishing and overseeing the school curriculum for the school as well as training teachers, managing the apprentice and pre-professional programs, selecting the repertoire for the annual school performance and the apprentice outreach performances. In addition, Ms. Bennett taught all levels including pre-ballet and company class. Under Ms. Bennett’s directorship, students went to join professional companies and schools such as Tulsa Ballet Theatre, Ballet Austin, Les Ballet de Monte Carlo, San Francisco Ballet, Nevada Ballet Theatre, Oregon Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet, Northern Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Most recently, Ms. Bennett served as a faculty member of San Francisco Ballet, managing curriculum and teaching levels 1-8. She has also been a guest teacher on the faculty of Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, working with all levels.
Marc Spielberger: Ballet
Mr. Spielberger was trained at the Ballet Academy Munich, Heinz – Bosl Foundation. He danced with the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin and performed as a Soloist with the Miami City Ballet under the direction of Edward Villella. He has danced at the Kennedy Center, the Music Center/L.A, New York City Center and throughout Europe, China and Russia, performing works by Maurice Bejart, Roland Petit, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, William Forsythe, John Neumeier, Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Jiri Kilian, Nacho Duato, Edward Villella, Patrice Bart, Mark Baldwin, Peter Martins, and others. Since his retirement, he has taught at schools in Japan, Germany, France, Austria and ballet companies throughout the United States and Germany.
Mr. Spielberger is also a noted choreographer. He has choreographed works for Miami City Ballet among others. His ballet Sanctuary won the Prix Noveau at the American Ballet Competition in 2009.
Stephanie Gagliardi: Adult Ballet
Ms. Gagliardi began her professional training with the School of Hartford Ballet. In 2004, she was invited to study with the Princeton Ballet School. She began teaching there shortly after and had the opportunity to perform with their company, The American Repertory Ballet. The Hartt School awarded her a scholarship to the University of Hartford where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.F.A. in Dance Pedagogy. Here she had the pleasure of performing many lead roles and also taught for The Hartt School Community Dance Division, Premiere Dance Theater, and The Boys and Girls Club of Hartford.
Ms. Gagliardi has also danced with Ekklesia Contemporary Ballet, appeared as a guest artist with Eastern Connecticut Ballet and served as a mentor for college students at the University of Hartford.
Laura Barnard: Ballet & Character
Ms. Barnard began her study of dance at age 14. Before this time, she was an international level competitor in Rhythmic Gymnastics. Ms. Barnard holds a classical ballet teaching degree from the Fontys Dance Academy in the Netherlands, specializing in the Vaganova Style. She also has a modern dance performing degree from the Rotterdam Dance Academy, specializing in the Cunningham and Limón Technique. She completed a scholarship program at the Merce Cunningham Studios in NYC.
Ms. Barnard performed professionally with several companies in Europe and NYC, including Introdans with which she traveled internationally to Morocco, France, Croatia and Indonesia. She was honored to perform in pieces by choreographers Hans van Manen, William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, David Parson, Mia Michaels and Merce Cunningham among others. Ms. Barnard has taught classical ballet throughout her dancing career to ages 3 to 80 in the Netherlands and New York City. Ms. Barnard works closely with Ms. Bennett to insure curriculum continuity.
Barbara Parish: Modern
A teacher, choreographer, and performer, Ms. Parish received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance from The Boston Conservatory and a master’s degree in Education from Boston University. She has been awarded Dance Educator’s Fellowships and grants for study at the Bates College Dance Festival for the past several years. In addition to working with many companies and choreographers as a freelance dancer, she was a dancer/soloist with Tslila & Dancers and a member of the Boston Dance Theatre. Ms. Parish also performed in repertory with The Cliff Keuter Company and Frances Alienikoff Company.
Ms. Parish was the Head of the Dance Department at Brookline High School in Brookline, Mass., and is currently the Director of Dance at The Williams School in New London. She has also been a faculty member and contributing choreographer at a variety of dance studios and schools. For the past 18 years, Ms. Parish has created a diverse repertory of choreography for both professional and student groups. Her works include Musical Theatre, Jazz, Contemporary Modern Dance, Ballet, and Early Modern Dance styles. Her choreography has been described as “upbeat, energetic . . . with a confident air” and “elegantly sophisticated.”
Christine Finch: Ballet & Adaptive Dance
Christine Finch received her pre-professional training at Eastern Connecticut Ballet. She attended Butler University and graduated with a B.A. in Dance Pedagogy with a focus on early childhood education and development. As an undergraduate, Ms. Finch completed the National Dance Institute Teacher Training Course and taught an after-school program for at-risk children at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Indianapolis. She has taught ballet at several dance studios in the Midwest and New England as an undergraduate and graduate. Recently, Ms. Finch completed an Adaptive Dance Teacher Training Workshop at Boston Ballet. She is extremely passionate about working with differently-abled students and adults and sharing Adaptive Dance with the community.
Jeremy Cox: Ballet & Jazz
Jeremy Cox started his training at New Haven Ballet at the age of 4. In 1994, was accepted into the School of American Ballet on scholarship where studied for five years. Mr. Cox has been honored to train under esteemed teachers such as Stanley Williams, Richard Rapp, Peter Boal, Jock Soto, Suki Schorer, Susie Pilarre and Katrina Killian.
Mr. Cox has received numerous awards for his dancing in Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary and Tap, including the Presidential Scholarship at the White House and by President Clinton in 1998. In 1999, he received a contract from Edward Villella to join the Miami City Ballet where he traveled up the ranks to Principal Dancer in 2006.
Mr. Cox has had the privilege to perform principal roles by notable choreographers such as George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Antony Tudor and Mark Morris. In 2010, he left Miami City Ballet to join Twyla Tharp in his Broadway debut as a principal in “Come Fly Away”. After, he toured Europe and Japan as a guest artist with Miami City Ballet and Twyla Tharp. In 2014, Jeremy began teaching in Connecticut.
Felipe Puletini: Jazz
Felipe is a Brazilian born professional dancer. Throughout his professional career in Brazil, he has performed in repertory classical ballet, musical theater, and Brazilian television. Some highlights are as soloist in Cinderella, Swan Lake, Paquita, Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, Don Quixote (Cuban version) and La Fillé Mal Guardée (Cuban version), I Gotcha! (Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb), The Hunchback Of Notre Dame as Clopin, The Lion King as Pumba, The Little Mermaid as Scuttle and ensemble in 1st Bibi Ferreira Awards (The Brazilian Tony Awards).
Felipe’s international career started in 2015 when he joined companies in USA including Mystic Ballet and CT Theater Dance as a principal dancer. His repertory includes works by Rodney Rivera, Sergei Vanaev, Alejandro Ulloa, Lauren Edson, Gabrielle Lamb and he has created feature roles in The Little Mermaid as a Chef Louis.
As a dance coach and choreographer, Felipe consults with CCSU (Central Connecticut State University)and other dance schools in USA and Brazil.
Performing Fine Arts Major in Dance, and Certified Teacher in both the Giordano Technique (Certificate Program with Nan Giordano) and PBT (Progressing Ballet Technique).
Ms. Dixon is originally from Baltimore, Maryland where she started her dance training at the age of three. She later trained and graduated from the Baltimore School for the Arts. She has also trained at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Washington Ballet and Boston Ballet.
Ms. Dixon had the pleasure of dancing many lead and soloist roles while in school. While in college, she discovered her passion for teaching and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Hartford, The Hartt School with a BFA in Ballet Pedagogy. She teaches a wide range of classes, from pre-ballet through the advanced levels, directs many aspects of the Nutcracker production, and creates choreography for young children through company dancers.
Kim Stirtan: Pilates Instructor
Ms. Stirtan is a certified Stott Pilates Instructor. She has taught Stott Pilates since 1999 and is certified on all Pilates equipment. She has been awarded through IDEA Health and Fitness Association, as a PFT Master (personal fitness trainer), their highest recognition. Kim is well qualified, having a Bachelor of Science in Health and Fitness and is certified through American Council of Exercise (ACE) as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer.
Diane Laurent: Essentrics Instructor
Ms. Laurent is a certified Essentrics Instructor and holds fitness certifications from the International Sports Science Association ISSA. She is a Specialist in Exercise Therapy, a Personal Fitness Trainer, and is an IBBA-certified Barre Instructor.
Diane discovered Essentrics in 2012 to recover from knee surgery and a shoulder injury. She recognized the value of Essentrics as a healing movement program that can relieve pain and transform the body, improve posture, while it strengthens and tones quickly and safely. She has been teaching Essentrics for three years and has studied with Master Trainers Erica Vipond, Gail Garcau, Meg Fenneyand the program’s creator, Miranda Esmonde-White at the flagship studio in Montreal, Canada.
For the past two years, Diane has provided the Senior Fitness Classes for the Town of Woodstock Recreation Department. She teaches Essentrics at the Body by Design Studio in Woodstock, CT and provides personalized exercise therapy sessions for private clients. Before finding Essentrics, Diane was an active participant in fitness programs, including ballet, barre, yoga, Pilates, and is an avid paddleboarder. She has served in executive positions throughout her long career in the healthcare industry.