Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Monday, April 23, 2018

Marissa-doll-nutcracker-echsMarissa Dembek, a senior at East Catholic High School in Manchester, performs on pointe as the Columbine doll in Connecticut Concert Ballet’s “Nutcracker” production last year. (Photo submitted)

MANCHESTER – As happens every year, East Catholic High School students will dance in the Connecticut Concert Ballet’s (CCB) “Nutcracker” presentation this month.

CCB, which is a dance training school, and East Catholic have much in common, as they share students from the same geographic areas, in approximately the same proportions per town, according to Kathleen Manero, public relations director for the ballet school. Students of CCB are frequently also among East Catholic’s best students, she added.

“There is a correlation between ballet and academic excellence which was first pointed out to me by Dr. Larry DeJohn, a counselor at East Catholic High School. He told me many years ago how colleges specifically recognize ballet as an indicator of an applicant’s discipline and achievement.

“Since beginning to write about CCB, first as a parent volunteer also many years ago, I have been amazed every year with the accomplishments of our dancers both on stage, in the studio and in other aspects of their lives,” she said.

All lead performers at CCB spend six hours a week in classes that include ballet technique and pointe. In addition, these students take at least one other form of dance. Rehearsals for the “Nutcracker” are held outside of class time, and the students rehearse for their leads and supporting roles an additional three or more hours a week.
This year, six East Catholic students who also are students at CCB are cast in lead “Nutcracker” roles.

Seniors Marissa Dembek and Bridget Oei are among East Catholic’s highest-achieving students, and also have significant lead roles in this year’s production. The others are Grace Mazzarella of Tolland, who also has multiple leads; sophomore Ashley Balfour of Windsor; and freshmen Alexis Barselau of Coventry and Megan Gager of Glastonbury.

Miss Dembek is a member of the National Honor Society, takes the school’s most challenging level of classes and stands out as a leader in community volunteerism. She also is involved in peer ministry and other clubs and sports.
At CCB, Miss Dembek’s excellence and dedication have been realized many ways. She has two lead roles in the “Nutcracker,” Dew Drop Fairy and an Arabian coffee dancer.

Miss Oei is student body president at East Catholic, where she takes the highest-level classes, is in the National Honor Society and is a National Merit Commended Student. Also a competitive Irish step dancer, she was ranked 11th in the world championship.

This year’s production of the “Nutcracker” is Miss Oei’s 15th at CCB. Her lead roles are Snow Princess and an Arabian coffee dancer.

Miss Mazzarella is a National Honor Society member who has been recognized with several academic awards at East Catholic.A recognized student leader, she volunteers for a local branch of Birthright.

Miss Mazzarella plays a Spanish Hot Chocolate dancer, Russian Candy Cane dancer and the ballerina doll.

The other three dancers, Miss Balfour, Miss Barselau and Miss Gager, all play military dolls. All also are academic standouts and active volunteers in the community.

This year’s “Nutcracker” will highlight 250 of CCB’s students alongside guest artists Rebecca DeNies, performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Eddy Tovar, in the title role of the Nutcracker.

Performances will be at the Manchester High School’s Bailey Auditorium at 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 14 and 21 and at 2 p.m. Dec. 15 and 22.

Ticket prices range from $15-$35 and are available online at and at 860-418-7294.