2/1/23 O&A NYC MORE HARKNESS STORIES: Julie Caprio- Forever a Harkness Dancer

On April 20th 2023 a live screening of An American Ballet Story, a documentary about the the all too short life of the Harkness Ballet, will take place at the New York Public Library Performing Arts – Bruno Walter Auditorium. O&A NYC Magazine Editor in Chief Walter Rutledge will moderate the post screening Q and A. An American Ballet Story takes us into the stages and studios of the Harkness Ballet through the stories of the dancers who were there. The screening is free but you must reserve seating in advance. 

If you have a stories you would like to share about your Harkness experience please send your articles (250- 500 words recommended) and  photos to walt.harkness@gmail.com.

By Julie Caprio

It was a warm summer day in 1977, my favorite weather for ballet. The sights, the sounds, the smell of NYC were pure bliss. My parents and I entered the marble mansion on 4 East 75th Street.

Only dancers auditioning were allowed, parents must wait in the downstairs lobby.Walking past the art, the cantina and into the dressing rooms, I pretend, this is my new life, I fantasize. I was number 43.

The dancers were so beautiful, and I was happy to be amongst them in class. Rebekah Harkness was judging. After I waltzed and turned across the floor in studio B, I was called to sit by Rebekah, I didn’t realize this meant I was chosen as a trainee. This was the day my life changed forever.

A year later I was asked to understudy for the performance at the United Nations and Grand Ball. The ballet was Facets by Joy O’Neill. Someone was injured so I took their place. Rebekah Harkness gave me an escort and I was picked up in a Rolls-Royce on a cool Autumn afternoon to take me to the performance and ball.  I never attended a prom, so I felt a bit like Cinderella. My mom scurried to find a gown and heels for me to wear, borrowed from my cousin. It still feels like a dream.

Later a choreographer from Europe Luc de Lairesse came to Harkness. He was a kind man and very clear in his direction. He had beautiful ballerinas in his pieces.  There was a different rhythm about his work. It was precise and articulate. I was cast as the cat in Gift of the Magi which I loved performing. When the Belgian Consulate came to NYC, Luc made me the lead dancer. I was terrified but to my relief it was reviewed favorably.

Luc is my friend and teacher, he taught a class at my studio in NJ November 2019 and then rehearsed my company Hamilton Ballet Theatre. He will return to Hamilton Ballet Theatre to teach a master class in April 2023.

I experienced so many amazing teachers and choreographers at Harkness. Robert Scevers choreographed several ballets for me and others. Alain Suissa set Incantation a la Lune on me and Malcolm Grant. Mina Yoo choreographed a pas de deux for me and Joel Rich and also Willy Shives. I worked with the extraordinary Christopher Aponte along with Walter Rutledge, Alexander Sombart and Darrel Barnett for the Asian Tour.

After my Harkness years I became a soloist for the Kansas City Ballet under the direction of Todd Bolender, following that I was a soloist with The Washington Ballet Company under the Director Mary Day and Artistic Director Choo San Goh. I retired from dancing full-time to teach and to open my school in the Harkness tradition. There were many wonderful schools but nothing like Harkness.

I wanted to mentor my students, teach them in a way that explores and challenges them as thinking artists. I have been teaching for more than 30 years, many students have become professional dancers with prestigious companies. My company Hamilton Ballet Theatre has been the recipient of two Harkness grants. I am always and forever a Harkness dancer.

My studio is located at the newly renovated New York Dance by Design in Mercerville NJ. I share the space with my former student Loretta Chianese, world champion salsa dancer. I am Julie A Caprio Ballet Technique, and my company is Hamilton Ballet Theatre. 609 529 9745

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Out & About NYC Magazine was founded to offer the arts and lifestyle enthusiast a fresh new look at New York City. We will showcase the established and the emerging, the traditional and the trendy. And we will do it with élan, and panache with a dash of fun.
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