World-Renowned Dancers Teach Masters Classes

SJA dancers at master class
December 3, 2018

St. Johnsbury Academy dance students participated in master classes with dancers Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner. (L-R) Lillianna Kimbell, Chelsea Chen, Sara Bussiere, Antonia Varnum, Sam Bulpin, Maelley Singer, Hannah Ferry, Emma Larocque, Lyliana Cass, John Gardner, Elizabeth Gilmartin, Zekiah Lewis, Antonia Gabler, and Amanda McKerrow.

Two ballet dancers spent two weeks teaching master classes at St. Johnsbury Academy recently, continuing the school’s tradition of visiting artists. Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner have taught at the Academy a number of times over the years. Unlike other high school dance programs, the SJA program is technique based with an aim of providing expert instruction combined with exposure to world-class dancing and dancers. The dancers’ visits are made possible through the generous donations to the Ned and Sarah Handy Fund for Dance. Other visiting dancers and choreographers have included Christine Dakin, Steve Paxton, Miki Orihara, Stephen Pier, Pascal Rioult, Susan Kikuchi, Denise Vale, and Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch.


Amanda McKerrow is one of America’s most acclaimed ballerinas. She has the honor of being the first American to receive a gold medal at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow in 1981. Since then she has been a recipient of numerous other awards, including the Princess Grace Foundation Dance Fellowship. She was recently named Director of the Tudor Foundation and will succeed Sally Bliss upon her retirement.


Ms. McKerrow was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and began her ballet training at the age of seven at the Twinbrook School of Ballet in Rockville, Maryland. She later studied with Mary Day at the Washington School of Ballet, where she danced with the company for two years and toured extensively throughout the Untied States and Europe.


Ms. McKerrow joined the American Ballet Theatre under the direction of Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1982, was appointed to soloist in 1983, and became a principal dancer in 1987. Her repertoire includes the leading roles in Cinderella, Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, La Sylphide, and The Nutcracker. She has been acclaimed for performances of shorter works by George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Sir Frederick Ashton, Jerome Robbins, and Juri Kilian. Ms. McKerrow has created roles in ballets by choreographers such as Twyla Tharpe, Clark Tippet, James Kudelka, Agnes De Mille, Choo San Goh, and Mark Morris. She has also appeared as a guest artist throughout the world.


In 2000, together with her husband John Gardner, Ms. McKerrow began working for the Antony Tudor Trust, staging and coaching his superlative ballet The Leaves are Fading around the country. She has also staged numerous other ballets for professional companies and schools across the United States. During her last ten years performing as a principal ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre, she spent as much time as she could working with students and young dancers. Upon her retirement from ABT in 2005, she has devoted the majority of her time to teaching and coaching this great art form that she loves so much.


John Gardner was born in Lafayette, Indiana, and began his ballet training at the age of 12 with Glen Ashton in Lafayette, and subsequently trained at the National Academy of Arts in Champaign, Illinois, under the direction of Michael Maule. He received a scholarship to American Ballet Theatre’s School at the age of 16 and joined ABT’s secondary company three months later, in 1977. In 1978 he joined ABT’s main company and was promoted to the rank of soloist in 1984. Gardner’s diverse repertoire included many soloist and principal roles, representing an extensive range of styles and giving him the opportunity to work with some of the great ballet choreographers of the 20th century, including Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille and George Balanchine.


In 1991 Gardner joined Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project, affording him the opportunity to work closely with choreographers such as Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, Lar Lubovitch and Martha Graham. Gardner created numerous roles during his time with the White Oak Dance Project and toured extensively in Europe, the United States, Asia and South America. He returned to ABT in 1995, where he danced a wide variety of roles with the company until 2002. In 2000, Gardner, together with his wife Amanda McKerrow, began working for the Antony Tudor Trust, staging and coaching his superlative ballet, The Leaves are Fading, around the country.


During the course of his career, Gardner has achieved an excellent reputation as a master teacher and coach for ballet on both the professional and student levels, and has staged numerous ballets for professional companies and schools across the United States.

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