Local ballet dancer, teacher has completely original ballet created in her memory

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The South Bend Symphony Orchestra and the Morris Performing Arts Center have come together to honor the memory and legacy of South Bend native and ballet dancer Raffaella Stroik with a brand-new, full-length fairytale style ballet at the end of next month.

"The ballet will be the largest professional ballet to debut in Indiana and will be performed by the South Bend Symphony Orchestra and also include local dancers and alumni from Southold Dance Theater," organizers said.

Creators say the ballet’s story is an original fairytale inspired by the life of Stroik, a member of Saint Louis Ballet from 2017 until her accidental death in late 2018, and embodies her personal motto, “Beauty will save the world.”

“Raffaella is a truly unique production in the world of ballet. Unlike most ballets that are built upon existing compositions and stories, Raffaella has been crafted from the ground up, with an original script, score, choreography, and set design,” said Justus Zimmerman, South Bend Symphony Orchestra Executive Director. “The excitement and anticipation in the air as our musicians prepare and rehearse for its debut is unparalleled. For all the art lovers out there, this is an extraordinary opportunity to be part of history in the making.”

Artists who are part of the ballet’s creative team include Choreographer, dancer, and former New York City Ballet soloist Claire Kretzschmar, Neo-Romantic Composer Michael Kurek, professor at Vanderbilt University, whose Symphony No. 2: Tales from the Realm of Faerie topped Billboard’s Traditional Classical Chart, and Set Designer Gabrielle Stroik Johnson, Stroik’s sister, who is a classically trained architect, figurative painter, and former dancer who designed the sets for the Nutcracker ballet at the Morris based on the architecture of Tippecanoe Place and West Washington Street in South Bend.

“We are honored to present Raffaella, celebrating the beauty and spirit of a remarkable young woman,” said Executive Producer Duncan Stroik, the late dancer’s father. “The production, which features world-class artists and creators, is a testament to Raffaella’s enduring legacy and her belief in the power of beauty to transform the world.”

New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Isabella LaFreniere, who met and danced with Stroik while training in South Bend, will be dancing the role of Raffaella.

Argentina native Jonatan Luján, who has been a soloist at the Slovak National Theater, Ballet Zurich, the Metropolitan Opera, Ballet Argentino, and the Ullate Ballet in Madrid, will play the role of the Prince.

“It’s so exciting seeing something new, especially new beauty, ballet, and art,” said Raffaella Choreographer Claire Kretzschmar. “We have a great cast of dancers and a design team working to make every element of the production come together for this ballet that’s never been done before. We can’t wait to share this unique experience and the beauty of its inspiring story. ”

The ballet will be performed on Saturday, June 29, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 30, at 3 p.m. at the Morris Performing Arts Center.

Tickets start at $18.50 and are available through the Morris Center box office or online at https://raffaellaballet.org.

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