For Liz Stillerman, assuming the reins of the Covington Regional Ballet as artistic director represents a return to her community and dance roots.
It was announced in June that Stillerman, a Newton County native, would assume the position of artistic director on July 1, with Atlanta native Josh Schadl taking over as director of the CRB school and ballet master on the same day.
Stillerman and Schadl succeed Ashley and Peter Swann, who had served as the CRB’s co-artistic directors for the past eight years.
“I’m just so excited,” said Stillerman. “I’m from Covington and I was here when the Covington Regional Ballet was created, so I feel I’ve come full circle.”
Stillerman, an Eastside High graduate, earned her BFA in dance performance and choreography from Elon University and she’s also studied with the Jerusalem Academy Dance Ensemble, the Atlanta Ballet, the North Carolina Dance Theatre and the Joffrey Ballet.
She has performed with the TerraNOVA Dance Theatre, the Chicago Repertory Ballet, the Elements Ballet and the Atlanta-based Kit Modus dance troupe. She also leads fitness and aerobics classes at Push by Alcovy Fitness.
“I feel I’m walking into a dream job because these dancers are so well-trained and so beautiful,” said Stillerman, who 18 months ago moved back to Covington after living in Chicago. “I can’t wait to use the talent we have. And we have such a good administrative staff here and good team of teachers and a good technical team; I just feel lucky to get to work with these people.”
When asked if she planned any major changes within the CRB, Stillerman said, “That’s always hard to say as a creative person. I’m sure I have my own way of doing things, but I know things have been done well in the past, too, so I’m going to do the best I can to keep up the great work they’ve been doing.”
As artistic director, Stillerman — who danced with the CRB when it was established in 2001 — will select and choreograph the ballet company’s three annual productions: the fall’s contemporary dance show, the winter’s production of “The Nutcracker” and a spring performance. She’ll also have key roles in the administration of the CRB.
“I’ll be in charge of creating the choreography, the storylines and overseeing rehearsals, coaching the dancers and working with the technical staff to make sure we come up with backdrops,” she said. “Basically the whole production.”
Stillerman said she’s also looking forward to collaborating with Schadl.
“I knew Josh as an acquaintance before this, but in this process of transition I’ve gotten to know him so much better and he’s amazing,” she said. “I can’t wait to work with him — I think we’re going to be a really good team.
“I’m just ready to get in the studio. That’s what I love, is getting in the studio and rehearsing and creating. I’m really ready for that part to start — that’s the fun stuff for me. We’ve had a lot of camps and things going this summer and we’ll officially start in August, which is coming up.”
Shadl: ‘A great honor’
While Stillerman’s return to the CRB — the dance performance arm of the Arts Association in Newton County — represents an encore in her hometown, Shadl, 27, said his new job represents a career move he had not anticipated so early in life.
“It was quite unexpected,” he said. “I didn’t really expect this to come this soon in my career, but I’m very honored because CRB looks for leadership from within the family and I guess they had been quietly looking at me for a little bit and I had no idea. It’s a great honor to be appointed to this position.”
Shadl, who has taught classes at CRB for the past four years after being brought in as a guest artist, grew up in East Atlanta and began studying ballet at the age of 14 at the Atlanta Ballet. The 2014 graduate of Kennesaw State has performed with the Atlanta Ballet, the Georgia Ballet, the Georgia Youth Ballet, Ballet Mississippi and Tampa Bay Dance.
He has performed twice at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and has also studied at the National Taiwan University of the Arts.
When asked if he planned any major changes with the CRB, Schadl said, “I always feel there’s room for growth in ballet companies and studios. One of the things I’m really looking forward to and have kind of started to implement over the summer is bringing more Atlanta-based artists out to Covington just so the kids can get more exposure and work one-on-one with those teachers and professionals.
“It’s nice for the students to rub shoulders with them in the studio with other Atlanta professionals so they can see what life is like once they leave CRB.”
In his dual roles as administrator and teacher, Schadl will be responsible for the curriculum and day-to-day operation of the CRB school, will serve as the liaison between the school and parents and will help Stillerman with choreography.
Schadl — who in his spare time will continue to teach at Northeast Atlanta Ballet in Lilburn — echoed Stillerman’s comments about their upcoming collaborations.
“Liz has been a long-standing member of CRB,” he said. “It started in 2001 and Liz was part of that first group of students and worked her way up the ranks until she graduated in 2009. They really wanted somebody that was CRB family, and Liz could not have been a more perfect choice. She’s gone through the ranks and she knows exactly what it is to be a CRB dancer.”
He added that he looks forward to continuing the prestigious legacy of the CRB.
“I’m quite excited,” he said. “It’s been a very interesting transition because Peter and Ashley left big shoes to fill because they were very passionate about the work the kids did and really fostered a family feeling. Hopefully, I’ll be able to carry that legacy because they did such a great job in the last eight years.”
For more information on the Covington Regional Ballet, visit www.newtocountyarts.org.