By Tammy Scileppi
It was an afternoon of ballet memories.
When lovely Miami City Ballet Principal Dancer Jennifer Kronenberg Guerra returned to the Once Upon A Time Dance Studios stage in Richmond Hill – where it all started – her beloved dance teacher Teresa Aubel was there to greet and embrace her. Also there were those who remembered Kronenberg when she was a cute, tutu-ed ballet student living in Kew Gardens with her parents.
Everyone gathered in the little theater to watch the graceful dancer rehearse for an upcoming benefit show.
“It was the past meeting the present; a coming together,” Aubel said. “We were happy watching her and our jaws dropped. It was a wonderful experience for me and everyone; a pleasure to see her dance. Her artistry is so much higher up that it’s beautiful.”
Teaching the budding little ballerina her first basic positions at the barre, then patiently training her to hone her poses away from it, Aubel watched her eager student practice her first arabesque and leap into the air like an antelope. Aubel was there when the lithe preteen blossomed into a confident, driven dancer, worthy of a spot with Miami’s famous ballet company.
Kronenberg lives in Miami, near Coconut Grove, but is still a Queens girl at heart. When she and her hubby, fellow MCB dancer Carlos Guerra, and their beautiful baby daughter Eva, recently returned to New York City, they visited Queens, where Kronenberg’s parents still live.
The dancer said the old nabes were “surprisingly, still very much the same. Other than a few more Starbucks that have popped up, Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill didn’t seem to have changed too much.”
From ages 7 to 17 Kronenberg attended ballet classes at Once Upon A Time, when her school day was over.
“They have expanded the space a bit and have added the little black box theater, where Sunday’s show was held, but otherwise, it’s just as I remember it,” said Kronenberg. “And most importantly, the warm, loving, nurturing feeling I remember growing up with still exists. It hits you almost immediately as you walk up the drive, and embraces you when you enter the school. I love that.”
Her family and several friends and students came to watch the striking dancer perform excerpts from “Coppélia” and “The Dying Swan” ballets. During the event, the Devore Dance Center from St. Albans performed African dance. Aubel teaches ballet there and Devore was Kronenberg’s teacher at Cardozo HS.
“My teacher chose ‘Coppélia’ because I danced it so often while I was in her school,” said Kronenberg, “It was actually one of the last things I performed there before I left to go to Miami. Before that she attended the School of American Ballet in Lincoln Center.
Kronenberg said she chose “The Dying Swan” because she always wanted to dance it during her career, but didn’t have the chance. “I also thought it would be an interesting contrast to the silly, peppy feeling of ‘Coppélia.’”
“She was such an easy child to teach because she was so focused, and that ability made her into a master artist,” Aubel recalled. “And when I watched her doing ‘The Dying Swan,’ the concentration was overwhelming – so consuming that she was the swan. You can only touch that when you’re a great artist.
“But I knew that when she was a child. I knew she had that very special quality – smart, funny, witty, easy to work with – everything you would want from a student. And then she had the desire.”
“I’m a firm believer in teaching children to appreciate and be involved in the arts from a young age, and OUAT’s Theatre Street School gives children exactly that opportunity,” said Kronenberg. “In other countries an arts school like this would be funded by the government, but not so in the United States, unfortunately. So I’d like to do my part to help raise funds to keep the school alive and flourishing, so more children will continue to have the wonderful opportunities that I did as a child.”