Hansel & Gretel A Family Affair
For over 19 years, The Ballet School of Stamford has been providing children in the area the highest level of ballet instruction. Through the years it has also created a family amongst its dancers, alums and their families. In its first year as part of Chelsea Piers, The Ballet School is excited to have father and daughter take the stage together for the 2018 performance of Hansel & Gretel at the Place Theater on Friday, May 24.
Seventeen years ago, the School began finishing Spring with a performance that showcases the dancers’ skills. “The first show was Hansel and Gretel. We felt that it was perfect to celebrate our first year under Chelsea Piers, by performing Hansel and Gretel again” said Marti Etter, Director of the Arts and Scholarships at Chelsea Piers.
Franki Spinelli Mastrone, a Sophomore at West Hill High School in Stamford, CT will be dancing one of the leads Gretel. Her father Frank will be singing the role of Gretel’s father.
As the daughter of Ramona Spinelli, a former theater stage manager and Frank Spinelli, Broadway actor, some may say performing is in her blood, but Franki made dancing her own. “Franki is a triplet. She and her sisters have been "finding themselves" since like second or third grade,” shares father Frank Mastrone. “Trying to define who they are separate from their sisters. Since a very early age, dance has been Franki's "thing". Now, it has become her passion. Little in her life matters as much as dance.”
Franki found her love for dance and her passion for ballet at The Ballet School of Stamford. “Dance has given me something to be passionate about. It has taught me to care about creating something important, and really wanting to make something look perfect. It has made me into a much more caring person” shared Franki in a recent sit down. “Dancing makes me feel like me. When I’m dancing I feel like myself, and that I’m doing what I’m meant to do.”
This is not Franki’s first time performing in Hansel and Gretel. In the Ballet School’s 2012 performance, she was one of the youngest on stage playing a forest animal. “Even back then Fanki had a lovely stage presence and you could see that dance made her happy” shared Etter. “In the six years since that performance Franki has developed skill and confidence on stage. She has also tackled very challenging roles, but when on stage you can still see that same love of dance in her face that she had at 10.”
Franki, who now dances 5-6 days per week in ballet classes and rehearsals for the show, is excited to play the role of Gretel. “Gretel is the most exciting role I’ve ever had! It’s very challenging because of all the fast jumping and strong technique required, but it’s really fun. It’s a big character role and there’s a lot of acting which I love.” Another thing she is excited for is performing with her father, “I am so excited to perform with my Dad! I never would have imagined we’d perform in a ballet together, but now that we are I’ve never been more excited to perform something. It’s going to be so special.”
Frank Spinelli, who is no stranger to the stage, having performed on Broadway in Phantom of the Opera and Jekyl and Hyde, agrees with his daughter. “We have done little things together before, but this is much bigger. I will be singing the role of her father, and that is sooo cooool. Time flies in life, children grow so quickly. Getting to do this with Franki is something we will all remember for our entire lives. I have been performing since I was Franki’s age, so sharing the stage with her at this point in her life is sort of perfect.”
Spinelli and his wife chose the Ballet school of Stamford for Franki because “It has always been an "arts" organization as opposed to a dancing school. It has a legitimate approach to ballet and I figure if one is to put in the time one should learn the craft correctly. On their years with the school they shared “the Ballet School of Stamford has been an incredibly supportive organization to my family and the greater Stamford community.”
When asked to share his favorite parts of the performance, Spinelli proudly speaks about his daughter once again. “The fact that Franki had foot surgery last fall and she is in good enough condition to do this part in the ballet is wonderful. She is such a trooper!” On a personal front, he shares “I have not done many light opera roles in the last twenty years. I did lots of Rhomberg and Gilbert and Sullivan years ago, so it is fun and challenging to work with these incredible singers and musicians on the Humperdink music.”
Can we expect to see Franki Spinelli Mastrone on big stages for years to come? She has no plans on stopping after Hansel & Gretel, looking forward to two more years of Spring performances. After she graduates High School? Franki says “Dance will always be a part of my life. I hope to be a professional dancer, and maybe go into theatre. But no matter what career path I choose I will always love Ballet.” We look forward to seeing the Spinelli’s perform along with all the Ballet School of Stamford at Chelsea Piers dancers today. Tickets ranging from $10 for children to $50 for adults are still available for the 7:00pm performance by visiting The Plaace Theater Box Office or online.