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Ballet Theatre Company Makes the Magic of Cinderella Accessible to Everyone

Cinderella (Jo-ann Burke) and Prince (Gennaro Della Ragione). Photo by Thomas Giroir. Costumes by Pat Nurnberger.

West Hartford-based Ballet Theatre Company will present ‘Cinderella’ at The Bushnell in Hartford, with several unique elements including a sensory-friendly performance and Playhouse on Park Co-Founder  and Artistic Director Darlene Zoller appearing in a key role.

From left: Ali Nitowski, Calvin Bittner, and Darlene Zoller. Photo by Thomas Giroir, costumes by Normaa Savarino.


Ballet Theatre Company (BTC), will share its beloved fairytale classic, Cinderella, with greater Hartford on the last weekend in April at the Bushnell’s Belding Theater. The production will feature original choreography by the company’s Artistic Director, Stephanie Dattellas, set to Prokofiev’s joyful score.

In addition to the two public performances, the Company sets itself apart by expanding the magic of Cinderella to one sensory-friendly performance, and one abbreviated performance held exclusively for students across Connecticut. 

Beautiful technique, artistry, unexpected comedy, and drama are all interwoven throughout Dattellas’ Cinderella storyline, casting a wide spell of enchantment to delight audiences of all ages. 

BTC’s professional dancers, Jo-ann Burke and Gennaro Della Ragione, will premiere the principal roles of Cinderella and the Prince. Last spring, Burke was featured in Dattellas’ Aladdin as the Princess of Agrabah, where Ragione performed as a fellow starring role, the Maghrib (evil sorcerer). 

The coveted role of the Fairy Godmother will be performed by guest artist Lindsey Donnell of Dance Theatre of Harlem. Donnell recently performed with BTC in its 2022 production of The Nutcracker as the Dew Drop Fairy with a rendition deemed “effortlessly exquisite.”

Season Fairies. Photo by Thomas Giroir. Costumes by Pat Nurnberger

BTC’s resident professional company will fill soloist roles such as the Spring Fairy, the Autumn Fairy, the Summer Fairies, and the Winter Fairy, and pre-professional dancers of BTC’s Junior Corps de Ballet will comprise a number of ensemble roles throughout the production.  

Alongside BTC’s professional and student dancers, BTC welcomes Darlene Zoller, Artistic Director of Playhouse on Park and stop/time dance theater who will perform the role of the wicked Stepmother. Her daughters include local performer, Calvin Bittner and BTC apprentice Ali Nitowski.

Bittner will also be assisting the costume department with his lavish wig designs. Owner, and wig stylist of “Wigs by Onions,” Bittner has been commissioned by local and national drag queens. Notably, one of his wig designs was seen on RuPaul’s Drag Race this year. 

To bring Dattellas’ rendition to life, BTC Head Costume Designer Pat Nurnberger is once again working her magic to create numerous new costumes. In addition, BTC’s Scenic Designer, Jacob Sikorski is creating an extraordinary horse-drawn carriage and other surprises to delight and astound audiences. BTC’s resident Lighting Designer, Samuel Bondolillo, who recently finished working with Beetlejuice on Broadway, will be expertly illuminating each element of this lively production.

Performances of Cinderella will take place on Saturday, April 29 at 1 p.m. and April 30 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at The Bushnell Maxwell M. and Ruth R. Belding Theater. Tickets can be purchased at https://bushnell.org/shows-concerts. 

Season Fairies headpieces. Photo by Thomas Giroir. Headpieces by Heidi Usami

About the Sensory-Friendly Ballet

The 11 a.m. Sunday morning performance is sensory-friendly and will provide a safe, judgment-free, relaxed environment for those who have sensory or any other types of challenges that may make them feel uncomfortable at a “typical” performance. BTC inaugurated its sensory-friendly offerings during its 2022 run of The Nutcracker in partnership with The Miracle League of Connecticut. One audience member wrote, “I just wanted to congratulate you on a gorgeous Nutcracker production! It was amazing – rave reviews all around! Thanks for the inclusion of the sensory-friendly Nutcracker this morning. Our family LOVED being there. Our children have some significant delays and I have never felt comfortable having them attend “regular” performances. I was so proud of what amazing audience members they were today – having the staff there to help, dimmed lights, softer music and a very understanding audience were huge helps. Thank you!”

The three-part mission of BTC is to enrich the Greater Hartford by producing professional dance productions, to partner with community organizations to make the art of dance enjoyable and accessible to all through its Community Enrichment Program, and to teach dance education for ages three through adult at the School of Ballet Theatre Company.

In the past 24 years, BTC has trained thousands of aspiring dancers, provided hundreds of jobs to local dance professionals, produced over one hundred incredible live-action ballets, and has enriched the community through its four youth enrichment programs by making dance accessible to over 11,000 children in the Greater Hartford metro area. 

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