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Former NBA dancer helps other dancers reach the pro level

Jennifer Caputo-Pietrobone, third from left, director of the Reading Phillies Dance Team, with some of her dancers on the team, from left, Ashley Cuva, Erica Hassler and Alexandra Plank, team captain. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Caputo-Pietrobone)

By Courtney H. Diener-Stokes
Reading Eagle
June 9, 2011

Berks County, PA – Jennifer Caputo-Pietrobone, 32, a professional dancer for the Philadelphia 76ers from 2003 to 2005, started the Academy of Movement in 2007 to coach and direct various local dance teams.

The Bern Township dance studio offers a variety of classes in addition to molding future professionals.

“It has been four consecutive years of coaching that at least one of the members of my team has been selected for either an NBA or NFL cheer or dance team,” she said.

In addition, Caputo-Pietrobone, Spring Township, holds a full-time job at Wilson High School as the health, physical education and dance teacher, where she has been the past 11 years.

“I taught full time when I was dancing with the Sixers,” she said.

The desire to get married, buy a house and start a family prompted her retirement from dancing with the team, but that hasn’t clouded her memory of what she found to be her favorite aspect of being a professional dancer.

“It was the thrill of performing in front of 20,000 fans,” she said.

As wife to Jarl Pietrobone, 39, who she calls “Super Dad,” and a mother to Jacie, 4, and Jiana, 15 months, she commits most of her weekends to directing and coaching.

Over the last four years, Caputo-Pietrobone’s studio has been the home studio to semipro dance and cheer teams such as as the Reading Phillies Dance Team, Reading Phillies Diamond Divas youth pro dance teams, Reading Express Jr. Junction Hip-Hop Crew and Reading Express Smokin’ Hot Steam Team.

“We do everything from choreographing, running rehearsals, deciding on costuming, selecting music – you name it, we do it,” she said.

Alexandra Plank, 23, Spring Township, a studio instructor at the Academy of Movement, helps Caputo-Pietrobone run her “tight ship,” having various roles with many teams.

In addition to directing and coaching the teams, Caputo-Pietrobone also runs the auditions and selects the girls, most of whom have a background in either cheering or dance.

While the semipro teams don’t offer payment, the affiliation can be invaluable for those who want to dance professionally, offering them good exposure.

“The girls have the opportunity on the minor league teams to gain experience for the major league teams,” she said. “That’s the incentive to working for no pay, just for resume experience.”

She is proud of seeing her girls reach the next level in securing spots on professional teams, winning stiff competition among 200 to 400 others who audition.

“It’s absolutely super rewarding to know that they will be able to gain the exposure and the experience of dancing at a professional level,” she said. “To most of the girls, this is a childhood dream of either being an Eagles cheerleader or Sixers dancer.”

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