Review by: Ina Nikolaeva
On Saturday, May 30, 2015, BalletCNJ hosted their Spring Performance 2015. The show featured 3 different ballet pieces. The first, Études, showed off ballet technique at the various levels a dance student progresses through. A nod to classical ballet training, the piece progressed through a flurry of tendus and pirouettes into a romantic pas de deux, then built up excitement with a jumps section, and finished off with the energized mazurka and finale. The second, Carmen, featured choreography from BalletCNJ Founding Artistic Director Alexander Dutko, which the school’s students performed at Youth America Grand Prix (see the highlights here) earlier in 2015. Finally, students danced the ethereal classical ballet Les Sylphides, with the original Fokine choreography.
Preparing the show involved much work for dancers and instructors alike. Rehearsals could run until 9 or 10PM at night on consecutive evenings, depending on dancers’ roles. All levels of students were involved in the production, and every one of them faced techniques that pushed their abilities to the limit. Michelle DeAngelis (Ballet IV in Études, Pink in Carmen, and Waltz Girl in Les Sylphides) performed her very first pas de deux onstage. “I had never done partnering before,” she laughed later. “All the lifts scared me! But after a while it became second nature, and I am so glad I got the experience!” Krista Pinkerton (Ballet IV in Études, Green in Carmen, and Chopiniana in Les Sylphides) found that Les Sylphides dared her to adapt to a role that did not align with her energetic personality. “I had to dance as if I was a ghost, an elusive figment of someone’s imagination,” Krista explained. “And I’m a very bubbly person naturally so I had to be careful not to let that show in my dancing.”
Many parents and friends attended to support the dancers at the show. Teresa Hartmann, whose two girls danced in both Études and Les Sylphides, said of the performance, “I got the chance to speak with many of our guests; I heard so many great compliments about the show and [their] technique, and these words are testament to all [their] hard work!” Teresa, along with several other moms, was heavily involved in the background work, such as costume design and creation, required to bring the show to life. Teresa also helped provide healthy snacks and even entire lunches on rehearsal Saturdays, which could run for 7 hours for the corps de ballet, and even longer for soloists. Many parents assisted in providing/selling delicious homemade sweets during the bake sale held before the show and during intermission. “We are very lucky to have both the dedication of our students and the support of parents at our school,” said Alexander Dutko of the experience.
Performing is a key part of ballet students’ lives – it is great professional experience, yes, but it is also the main reason dancers commit to their art. The performance is the culmination of all the dancer’s work, in rehearsal, during class, and even stretching at home or studying videos of other performers. For more advanced students, shows can be filmed for use as audition tapes when looking for apprenticeships and company positions. Krista Pinkerton believes the challenge posed by BalletCNJ’s Spring Performance 2015 helped her become a more versatile dancer in the long run. Jazmine Walker (Ballet III in Études, Corps de Ballet in Les Sylphides), also believes the structure and technique required by her part in the show pushed her to a new level. “The best thing about BalletCNJ is the amazing teachers! I love how they hold each student to the highest standards and can see the possibilities and talent that each one possesses before even the students see it,” she said.
The end of the show came with a certain quiet, reflective period about the experience. All of the challenges faced had been surmounted and the stresses of putting your best pointed foot forward calmed. Students changed out of their sylph (and poet) costumes and ran out to meet whoever came to see them dance. Some limped, some redressed blisters in a hurry. They had all been at the venue since 9:00AM. Some headed off to restaurants, some went home for a nap. One girl had tickets to an Ed Sheeran concert that evening. The instructors decided to cancel Monday classes to give the dancers an extra day of rest. They push the students towards perfection in every rehearsal, but in the end they want the students to simply enjoy their time onstage with the school. “We are very proud of everyone's hard work and results,” said Founding School Director Thiago C. Silva. “We hope everyone had an amazing time and we are already looking forward to our next performance adventure!”
I am always doing things I can't do, that's how I get to do them.
The dance is over, the applause subsided but the joy and feeling will stay with you forever.
-W. M. Tory-
You can watch the highlights from Spring Performance 2015 here.
- By Ina Nikolaeva