CARLISLE — When Nicholas Ade, the new chief executive officer at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, wants to consult the renowned school’s institutional memory, he doesn’t have to dust off archives or fire up an antiquated microfilm reader.
He can just walk down the hallway and talk to school founder Marcia Dale Weary, who still teaches classical ballet at the 59-year-old Carlisle school nearly every day.
Her unvarying formula of discipline and rigorous training in a family-style environment has proven to work spectacularly well. More than 21,000 boys and girls have trained at the school. CPYB currently has more than 80 alumni dancing professionally in highly regarded ballet companies, such as the New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet.
“What’s paramount to me is keeping Marcia’s values and her ideas of what she wants the school to continue to be,” said Ade, who was named recently by the school’s board of directors to fill the post left vacant when former CEO Alan Hineline left last summer to take over leadership of Ballet San Jose, a professional company in northern California. “However the school evolves, it has to happen in the right way.”
Or as longtime CPYB faculty member Darla Hoover told Ade soon after he first arrived in Carlisle from the Pacific Northwest Ballet, “As long as you are doing right by Marcia, you will be doing right by the school.”
Weary, who is still the guiding force at the nonprofit school, expressed a lot of confidence in the selection of Ade, and said she hopes he can lead the school into a new era.
“We couldn’t find anyone who would be better than Nicholas,” Weary said. “He’s a very hard-working person, he understands fundraising and he communicates very well with the children and parents.”
The admiration is mutual. Even before Ade arrived from Seattle to become CPYB’s school principal two years ago, he was aware of the Carlisle school’s reputation as a “ballerina factory” because of the number of highly skilled dancers it produces using the principles established by Weary.
“There were some CPYB alums (at Pacific Northwest Ballet) when I arrived,” Ade said, referring to dancers Noelani Plantastico and Carrie Imler, the latter a Carlisle native, in particular. “Not surprisingly they were the strongest dancers in the company. They were not only well-trained dancers, they were mindful dancers. By that I mean they were able to dance with abandon and confidence, but also they were very disciplined.”
Ade, a Los Angeles native, danced professionally at PNB for 10 years before an injury to his Achilles tendon forced him to retire from the stage in 2006. “No one dances forever,” Ade said. “I knew that, and I was ready for a new chapter.”
He moved into the teaching side of ballet and served as principal of PNB’s school, the Francia Russell Center, from 2006-12. Then he came to CPYB, the only regional school in the nation authorized to perform the works of George Balanchine, founder of the New York City Ballet and considered by many the greatest choreographer of the 20th century.
Since coming to Carlisle, Ade has already helped to quadruple — to 44 — CPYB’s number of male students, a demographic much prized by ballet schools and professional dance companies.
Ade, in his late 30s, said he hopes to be at the school for a long time.
CPYB is already a family affair for him. His wife Paige, a former PNB dancer, does a blog for the school at www.jackrabbitblog.com. Their 8-year-old daughter is enrolled as a dance student. “She’s already hooked,” Ade said of his daughter.
At first, Ade said he wasn’t sure he even wanted the CEO post on a permanent basis. A heart-to-heart with Weary persuaded him.
“She really asked me if it was something I wanted to do because she would like me to do it,” Ade said. “It was a wonderful conversation we had.”
Ade served as CPYB’s interim CEO while the school’s board of directors conducted a five-month, nationwide search for a new leader.
At the time, Weary said she wanted “someone who just loves children and who just loves ballet. They have to be able to handle money, but I want more than that. I want someone who is almost obsessed with educating children in the arts.”
Ultimately, board members, with Weary’s blessing, decided they already had their man in place.
“From the minute he joined CPYB as school principal he embraced our vision,” board President Hugh Aberman said in announcing the appointment of Ade. “It’s clear he understands the heart of this organization and the impact CPYB has, both in the dance world and our community.”
Ade takes over the CEO post at a time when CPYB, with an annual budget of about $4 million, reportedly sits in good financial health. It features an enrollment of 286 youth dancers drawn from all over the nation, and a faculty that includes Weary and Balanchine expert Hoover.
Even Hineline is not completely gone from the school where he worked in one capacity or another for many years. A well-known choreographer, he is likely to return to CPYB from time to time to help the school stage his own works, as he did recently for an October production of his “Hansel and Gretel.”
There are no plans at the present time to fill Hineline’s former position as resident choreographer at CPYB. Ade said the school can continue to perform Hineline’s works and commission other choreographers as needed.
Alicia Good-Boresow, a former CPYB student and founder of the Kansas City Youth Ballet, has been named CPYB school principal to replace Ade. Terms of their contracts were not divulged.
As CEO, Ade has goals for CPYB, and among them is raising the profile of the school in the capital region.
While CPYB has a distinguished national reputation in the world of ballet, he doesn’t think local residents are always tuned into what the school has to offer, both in terms of ballet and also the self-discipline that students can apply to their lives, whether they seek to dance professionally or not.
“Taking some of the mystery away is part of it,” Ade said. “This place is amazing, and more people need to know that. The kids here are extraordinary, everything you want a young adult to be.”
He knows there may be some difficult decisions ahead, but believes he is capable of making them. “It is a heavy burden in the sense that you have to be mindful not only of the business but of the people,” he said. “I really try to be sensitive about who is going to be affected by my decisions.”
On Weary’s wish list for the future is an expanded CPYB campus that would offer more teaching space and perhaps the school’s first performance hall.
Currently, CPYB’s public shows, including the upcoming performances of Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker,” are performed at Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in downtown Harrisburg, plus a few more at Hershey Theatre. Both of those venues are more than 20 miles from the school’s North Orange Street headquarters in Carlisle.
“I’ve always wanted to have our own theater in Carlisle,” Weary said. “It costs so much, I know, but I wish we could have one.”
Ade also supports expansion, although he and Weary both acknowledged that cost is an issue.
“I would like to see us grow within the next five to 10 years, but we have to move with care,” Ade said. “We would love to be able to expand here. We are at capacity, I would say. I just want to make sure we are prepared for the future.”