Trinity Experience at the Heart of the Albano Ballet Company

Liberal Arts and the Trinity Community Take Center Stage in Albano’s Nutcracker

Hartford, CT, November 25, 2014 – Joseph Albano ’60 runs the Albano Ballet Company with all the polish and intensity one would expect from a choreographer with roots in a conservatory environment. His dancers know, however, that the liberal arts are at the company’s core. What they may not realize is how close this success story was to never happening.

Albano arrived on campus in 1956, when Trinity was an all-male college and studying dance was not yet an option. He wasn’t sure right away that the College was the right fit for him. During his first year, he packed up his car and set off for Boston to study dance. He made it as far as Colchester, Connecticut, before his trip was interrupted when his car was struck by a milk truck. He returned to Trinity.

IDP student Eric Carnes rehearses for
The Nutcracker
with his co-star,
Miku Kawamura.
His sophomore year, Albano went through the same routine, this time leaving for New York’s Juilliard School. Against all odds, a car accident once again disrupted his plan. Another year, another conservatory, another car accident.

“I think it’s in the cards for you to get a Trinity education,” his sister told him. She was right.

Albano graduated in 1960 with a degree in English. That same year, he founded the Hartford Ballet Company. In an era when regional ballet companies were rare, the Hartford Ballet Company found uncommon success. For a decade, Albano’s productions attracted world-class performers and dazzled Hartford audiences. Eventually, the Hartford Ballet Company grew into something different from what Albano had envisioned. So, in 1971, he founded the Albano Ballet Company.

This is where Albano relishes making the most of his Trinity education. Albano is not just the company’s choreographer. He designs and constructs costumes and sets. He raises funds and manages budgets. He teaches and advises his dancers as they continue their educations and launch their careers, onstage or off. These varied roles, Albano acknowledges, are rooted in his experience at Trinity.

“I’m not a product of just being hatched,” he says. “I’m a product of being schooled at Trinity. I’m a choreographer with a brain for literature, history, and the sciences.”

This creative deployment of the liberal arts takes place in a historic carriage house on Girard Avenue in Hartford’s West End: a building Albano bought from the wife of a former Trinity administrator, in fact. There, Albano teaches his students, directs rehearsals, and can often be found working with his team of volunteers constructing costumes and set pieces. The building was once the gymnasium for the Oxford School, and Albano is quick to point out that it’s where Katharine Hepburn studied dance when she was young. In a more recent era, it was where Albano helped launch the career of Paul Russell, the world-famous performer who starred with the Dance Theater of Harlem and the San Francisco Ballet.

Today, Albano has a new star dancing in the very same building: current Trinity IDP student Eric Carnes. He has been dancing with the Albano Ballet Company since he was 12 years old, when he was taking a dance class with a performer from Albano’s The Nutcracker. The production needed someone to play The Little Boy, and Carnes filled the role. He later stepped away from dance for a few years, but in 2007 found himself drawn back to the stage.

Joseph Albano '60 (right) and current IDP student
Eric Carnes at the Albano Ballet Company's studio.

Carnes, a native of Newington, Connecticut, is now in his fourth year of playing The Prince in Albano’s The Nutcracker, the holiday classic that has been called the best in Connecticut. He is much more than the company’s lead dancer; Carnes is Albano’s right hand man, often conducting rehearsals, assisting younger dancers, and helping with marketing and bookkeeping. He’s even helped to fix the plumbing. 

When he arrived at Trinity, he immediately saw how the College had influenced the dance education he had been receiving for years. Carnes, who is looking forward to welcoming 30 of his fellow IDP students and their family members to one of his performances in The Nutcracker, says it made his transition to Trinity much easier.

“The way he approaches dance is the way I would approach a philosophy class,” Carnes says. “[Albano] talks a lot about deductive reasoning; he brought us up with that kind of thinking. He sets us up to succeed.”

And succeed they have. On Saturday, November 29, Carnes will lead a cast from around the globe—including over 100 dancers from Japan, France, Greece, Italy, and around the United States—in this season’s premiere of The Nutcracker. Their task is to bring their audiences into a fantasy world for two hours at a time. That world is the result of months of rehearsing, but also of learning Tchaikovsky’s music, studying the history of the ballet, and appreciating the science of how the human body works. In short, it’s rooted in the liberal arts.

Albano’s Nutcracker opens on November 29 at the Middletown Performing Arts Center, followed by two performances at Central Connecticut State University’s Welte Theater on December 6 and 7, and two weekends of performances at Mohegan Sun’s Cabaret Theatre on December 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, and 21. Ticket information is available from the Albano Ballet Company.

Photos by Josalee Thrift