Angelia Prip ’22 (BUS) has been dancing since she was 4 years old, and, beginning in elementary school, she would typically practice every day. When she arrived at UConn, and discovered there was no ballet company here, Prip was devastated.
She set out on a mission to create the University Ballet Co., and, to her surprise, her initiative attracted 100 dancers, many of whom had trained with prestigious dance companies, including the Boston Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, Miami City Ballet, The Hartt School, the Nutmeg Conservatory and more.
“When I dance, I connect with other people and feel like I’m the most full version of myself,’’ says Prip, an Honors student and accounting major. “When I’m on the stage, I’m my most confident, most joyful self. It’s almost a way to be free!’’
Inaugural Performance Features Well-Loved Dances
The University Ballet Company’s inaugural performance is tonight, Tuesday, Dec. 7 at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. The company will perform excerpts from “The Nutcracker Ballet.’’ The performance will begin at about 8:20 p.m., following a presentation by the UConn Dance Company that starts at 7 p.m.. Tickets are $5 or $7.
“ ‘The Nutcracker Ballet’ is a tradition and a great way to celebrate the holidays. It’s a magical story,’’ Prip says.
Prip, who not only founded the University Ballet Co. but also serves as its choreographer, director, prop manager, marketing champion and more, said the company has not only been an artistic outlet, but also a source of tremendous fun.
“We work hard, but we also laugh during rehearsals. We have so much fun on stage!,’’ she says. “This ballet, and the music, is beautiful. I think people will feel that energy. We’d love to have people come out. We’d love to meet them and share that positive energy.’’
Prip founded the ballet company two years ago, as a freshman. The company is inclusive, welcoming everyone from curious novices to dedicated dancers. The company started auditions in spring 2020, and Prip felt that she didn’t want to exclude anyone who wanted to try.
“Ballet can be for anyone,’’ she says. “It was important to me that everyone felt welcome. We don’t cut anyone. Most of us have been dancing for years, but our newer dancers still have roles, just less featured and demanding ones. But it’s a good way to start.’’
“I really love it,’’ says Prip, a native of Brookfield, who devotes about 25 hours a week to the company. “It’s a big commitment, but it’s so rewarding seeing it come together. It gives me chills!’’
“No, I’ve never regretted doing this. It’s one of the best parts of my life. I was surprised how many people were interested and I wanted it to be such a great experience,’’ she says. “A video team came in to interview the dancers and they reiterated all the things that are important to me…that this club is friendly, committed to the art, that the ballet technique is excellent.’’
The company would not have survived, were it not for Prip’s determination.
“I knew I wanted to start the company right away. I posted all over social media to generate interest. We needed six people to start a club, and over 100 people responded. We’ve got people from all majors, undergraduate and graduate students, too,’’ Prip says. The next challenge was finding rehearsal space.
“When I want something, I’m very motivated,’’ Prip says, laughing. “I will try every different way. When we first started out and we needed rehearsal space, I called every school, every auditorium, and every church I could think of. I told them, ‘We’re here and we want to do this!’ ’’
The COVID pandemic ruined the company’s plans for its first performance but Prip persevered, teaching classes via Zoom.
Assisting Prip is long-time friend Karolina Zimny ’23 (CLAS).
“Angelia and I had been friends and dance partners for a long time, so when she asked me about helping her start this club, I immediately agreed, as ballet is a hobby we are both passionate about,’’ says Zimny, a junior from New Milford, who is majoring in environmental science.
“Angelia’s work ethic is very strong as she is always willing to finish what needs to be done. She does indeed have a strong sense of purpose regarding the whole company and making each and every dancer feel welcome and included,’’ she said. “We are both very excited to see where this club will lead us to and for the overall future of the company here at UConn.’’
The admiration is mutual, Prip says. “I really appreciate Karolina and I am so glad to have her help. We work well together and have similar perspectives about what we want to achieve.’’
The Ultimate Goal: Delivering a Good Experience
Prip is often asked how her work in the arts mixes with her career goals in accounting. She said she enjoys the focus of both.
“That’s the wonderful thing about the School of Business. I’m not only learning accounting, but also marketing, management and finance,’’ she says. And with the ballet company, she’s not just working on choreography and dance but also music and set design.
“Whether you’re in business or the arts, you’re focused on delivering a good experience. These are all things we talk about in class and I’ve used those skills when setting choreography, working with the theater to plan the performance, and more,’’ she says.
Prip sees herself owning her own business some day and believes that having knowledge of business and experience in leadership will serve her well.
“I don’t think I could go through my life without dance. When I wasn’t dancing it was just really weird. Accounting and dance are both parts of me. Accounting is very methodical and involves making good judgements. Dance, in many ways, is the same thing.”
Tickets: The UConn Ballet Co. will perform excerpts from The Nutcracker Ballet at 8:20 p.m. tonight at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $5 and $7. Proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test is required, as are face masks. The presentation will be preceded by a UConn Dance Co. performance that begins at 7 p.m.
Anyone interested in auditioning for spring semester can reach out to email@example.com.