Artists from across the country, including local performers, will take the stage on June 29 and 30 at Morris Performing Arts Center for the World Premiere of Raffaella, a new full-length fairytale ballet honoring the memory and legacy of South Bend native and ballet dancer Raffaella Stroik.

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.

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.”

The ballet’s story is an original fairytale inspired by the life of local ballet dancer Raffaella 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.”

“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 Ms. 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.

World-class 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, Ms. 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.

“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. ”

Performances of Raffaella are Saturday, June 29, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 30, at 3 p.m. at the Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend. Tickets start at $18.50 and are available through the Morris Center box office or online at

About the South Bend Symphony Orchestra
Celebrating the 92nd Season, the South Bend Symphony Orchestra is the region’s only professional orchestra and is committed to engaging the community in all it does. In addition to being recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and other state and local arts funding organizations, the South Bend Symphony Orchestra is the recipient of the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County’s Leighton Award for Nonprofit Excellence, which recognizes the best-run nonprofit organization in St. Joseph County, Indiana.