More Than A Memory

CHAUTAUQUA – No one can question the memory of Adriana Cammarata.

Cammarata is a kindergarten teacher at Love Elementary School, and apparently has a remarkable memory for former students. One example of her exceptional memory occurred earlier this summer. Cammarata was taking in a performance of the Charlotte Ballet in Residence with her sister. The Charlotte Ballet in Residence is part of Chautauqua Institution’s dance program.

While watching the performance, Cammarata spotted a familiar face on the stage. She had spotted her former kindergarten student, Jordan Leeper, who now is a member of the Charlotte Ballet.

”I was sitting there watching and he looked so familiar to me,” Cammarata said. ”I looked at the paper, and it had his name. I then turned my head and recognized his mother.”

After the show, Cammarata went back stage to meet with Leeper.

”I asked him if he remembers his kindergarten teacher, and he looked up and yelled, ‘Mrs. Cammarata.’ His mother recognized me too. It was really special to see him,” she said.

Cammarata enjoyed the experience so much she wanted to involve other Love teachers who remembered Leeper as a student. She went back again to a performance of the Charlotte Ballet with Elaine Wendelboe, Jamestown Public Schools paraprofessional, and Roslyn Sisley-Kazelunas, Love Elementary second-grade teacher.

”It was sad not all the teachers could go. The other teachers that went remembered him a little bit. They never had him in their classroom, but they were excited and proud of him too,” she said.

Cammarata said the part she enjoyed the most about reuniting with Leeper is the fact he loves what he is doing. She had remembered that Leeper enjoyed dancing as a child, and had heard he was dancing as an adult. She added it was thrilling and exciting to know that he had accomplished his dream job.

”It is a great story for Love School. He is doing something he absolutely loves. He was smiling from one ear to the other,” she said. ”The biggest thing for me is in life it is all about being happy and you have to choose a career that makes you happy. You have to be so happy with what you are doing because you are doing it everyday. That is the ultimate dream for all of us.”

Leeper, who could not be reached by The Post-Journal for comment, began studying ballet in Jamestown at the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet School from the age of 12 to 17. Jordan attended summer training intensives at the New York State Summer School of Arts and spent the summer of 2007 training in Chautauqua. In 2008, Jordan attended San Francisco Ballet School’s summer intensive, where he was invited to continue training during the school year under the direction of Parrish Maynard and Lola De Avila. In 2010, Jordan acquired professional experience as a guest artist with the Metropolitan Ballet Theatre in Alpharetta, Ga. Leeper was a member of Charlotte Ballet II for the 2010-11 Season. He has been with the Charlotte Ballet for three seasons.

Founded in 1970, Charlotte Ballet is the oldest professional ballet company in North Carolina. Today, the organization enjoys a national reputation for excellence in programming, education, outreach and dance training. Under the artistic direction of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride, former New York City Ballet stars, the dance theatre has built a diverse repertoire ranging from full-length classical ballets to innovative contemporary works. The Chautauqua Dance program, was formed by Bonnefoux in 1989, includes performances by the Charlotte Ballet in residence and the renowned School of Dance. Tonight is the last performance of the Charlotte Ballet at Chautauqua Institution.