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theinterview Dance theaters thrive under direction of talented women


Behind every successful theater performance, stands the person

who makes it all happen through sheer determination, vision and talent. In north metro Atlanta, the holiday season doesn’t officially begin until the Sugar Plum Fairy takes the stage in “The Nutcracker.” Here are profiles of the many women who lead the premier dance and ballet theaters throughout the area.

Nancy Tolbert Yilmaz, founder/artistic director ▼ Roswell Dance Theatre/ Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance Nancy Tolbert


laughs as she mentally “crunches”


number of students who have passed through the doors of her company, the Roswell Dance Theatre,


she opened the doors more than three decades ago. “Whew! That’s 33 years of teaching approximately 500 dancers a year…so about 16,500 dancers,” she concluded. “I am now teaching the children of the first children I taught. I have three generations of dancers in this year’s ‘Nutcracker.’” Although this will be her 20th

year of sugar plum

fairies and dancing rat kings, Tolbert Yilmaz says she has never grown tired of the annual performance. “Every year is a new and different cast,” she said. “We work on changing up the show each year, with new costumes, new choreography, new ideas…it is the highlight of our performing year.” Tolbert Yilmaz has extensive dance training in ballet, tap and jazz, studying with such notable teachers as Robert Joffrey of the Joffrey Ballet New York, David Howard, Pittman Corry, Igor Schwezoff and Gabriela Taub-Darvash. She was also a featured performer in the opening and closing ceremonies for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. As she works toward the opening performance of “The Nutcracker” this season, Tolbert Yilmaz reflects on the many elements that make it successful. “We are like a big family. We work together, play

together and take care of each other,” she said. “Our ‘Nutcracker’ is so special because it brings out the best in each of us and we enjoy every minute.”

Roswell Dance Theatre/ Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance 10400 D Alpharetta Street, Roswell 770-998-0259 |

22 | | december2011

Kitty Garrison, executive director ▼ North Atlanta Dance Academy/Theatre It is no surprise that Kitty Garrison is actively involved with the arts and, in particular, responsible for all the details that result in well-run performances. As the daughter of professional musicians, she spent many hours as a child roaming the aisles of Symphony Hall in El Paso, Texas. She attended every ballet performance

available, including several

performances by the Ballet Russe, which was still touring in the late 1950s. “From age 8 to 15, I studied ballet and flute, and I spent summers organizing neighborhood shows, creating programs and selling tickets!” Garrison recalled. “It was those early experiences that made me realize I enjoyed being behind the scenes - rather than in the spotlight.” As

an adult, Garrison

raised four children, pursued a career in interior design and stayed involved with various dance organizations.


1997, she and her husband Michael Garrison, opened North

Atlanta Academy. Two

Maniya Barredo, director ▼ Metropolitan Ballet Theatre

After dancing the lead roles in Atlanta Ballet productions for nearly 20 years, Maniya Barredo opened

her own

theater in downtown Alpharetta in 1998, to

train the

generation performers.


next of

Since 2003, Ballet

Theatre has performed “The Nutcracker”

and Barredo looks forward to this

season’s performance with the same enthusiasm as her first performance. “Oh my, I’ve danced in about a thousand

‘Nutcrackers’ and I loved it every time,” said Barredo. “It’s really about the child in all of us, from 2 to 92, and everything that is special about Christmas.” The former prima ballerina (a title bestowed upon

her by Dame Margot Fonteyn) said she selected the suburbs of Atlanta to place her school, noting the area is a thriving locale for the arts.

A native of the Philippines, Barredo began her

ballet career at 2 years old and by age 7 was a professional dancer with her own television show. At 17, she left the Philippines to attend a ballet workshop in New York, which led to an audition and acceptance into the prestigious Joffrey School. She danced with the Joffrey Ballet for several years before heading to Montreal where she performed with Les Grandes Ballets Canadiens.

Dance years later, they founded North Atlanta Dance

Theatre, a performing dance company in Johns Creek.

“My 10 years of experience as an interior

decorator has proven very valuable in the family business,” said Garrison. “I design all the costumes for every production, oversee the fittings, find or make headpieces and props and arrange for backdrops, flooring and production transportation.” She said her skill at backstage

organization is disciplined, while pleasant, making for a wonderful experience for the 100+ dancers who depend on “Miss Kitty” to have the right answer at any given moment!

North Atlanta Dance Academy 10700 State Bridge Road, Johns Creek 770-772-8000

In Canada, she was “discovered” by Robert Barnett, the artistic director of the Atlanta Ballet, who brought her to Georgia in 1977, where she danced until her retirement in 1995. Barredo has danced with Mikhail Baryshnikov, toured with the Stars of the World Ballet and performed the leading roles in many performances with the Atlanta Ballet.

Metropolitan Ballet Theatre 11460 Maxwell Road, Alpharetta 678-297-2800

◄ Rose Barile, director Alpharetta Dance Theatre


A graduate of the New


School of Performing Arts and Julliard, Rose Barile

has been the director of the Alpharetta

Dance Theatre for nearly three decades. There,

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