Wednesday, May 26, 2010

BalletMet to Russia!

BalletMet's Artistic Director, Gerard Charles, and fourteen of our professional dancers are currently in Russia. The company will be performing in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Both cities are huge centers of dance in Russia and have festivals that celebrate the arts in early June.

Two years ago, BalletMet Columbus was honored with the invitation to perform at the Russian festival, Moscow International Contemporary Dance Festival, or Moscow Footlights. Since January of this year, Gerard and BalletMet staff have been intensely preparing for the trip. Planning time abroad can be difficult, especially when you don't speak the language. Russia has also had some fairly recent political changes which added a little more confusion to the preparation process. Luckily, Gerard and BalletMet staffers have risen to the occasion and done an amazing job in hashing out the details of the trip.

Gerard took time away from planning a couple weeks ago to discuss some of the differences and difficulties he has encountered in getting ready for BalletMet's time in Russia.

The company costumes cannot be shipped ahead of time to Russia. Therefore, they will be taken on the flight. A few BalletMet dancers will take extra suitcases in order to transport the costumes. Russia does not have Laundromats and their theaters do not have washing machines like theaters do in the United States. That will make laundering the costumes very interesting, especially because certain detergents must be used due to the allergies of the dancers. Gerard is determined to find a solution. He jokingly mentioned paying the hotel staff to wash the costumes at the hotel or at home if need be. I cannot wait to hear how that turns out!

During a typical BalletMet performance, the music used has been recorded to a CD. In Russia, the music used is taken from mini-disks. These disks can skip from song to song like a CD, but the mini-disks allow for editing of the songs as well. Therefore, BalletMet recorded the performance music on a mini-disk instead of a CD for the trip. Gerard has decided to bring his iPod as a backup for the music that will be heard during the show. I think that was a smart move - better to be safe than sorry!

The dancers and Gerard will be in St. Petersburg for the White Nights Festival. This festival is in honor of the time of year when the sun never sets in Russia. That will not only be something to get used to, but something for the visiting BalletMet staff to enjoy in Russia!

Interested in learning how to greet someone in Russian? Click on this link to learn how!

COMING SOON: Stories and pictures from the trip!

Friday, May 21, 2010

BalletMet: The Academy Spring Performance

The BalletMet Dance Academy is ranked among the country's top dance-training centers affiliated with a professional company. The Academy is filled with talented dancers, including a number of Pre-Professional students, who have been nationally recognized for their dance abilities. Students of the academy range from infants to adults, which creates a diverse student population at BalletMet. There are a wide variety of dance classes offered to students, including ballet, modern, jazz, pointe, and many more.

The Academy student dancers take classes all year, learning and practicing dance works for the end of the year showcase, the Spring Performance. The Academy instructors spend most of the year preparing their students for this performance, so it is a rewarding experience for them to see their students perform what they have learned throughout the year. These dancers put a lot of time and effort into learning and perfecting their pieces, and therefore look forward to the Spring Performance.

Dancers as young as nine years old have the opportunity to dance in the Spring Performance. However, the toddlers and the adults in the academy do not perform in the final showcase. There are 283 Academy students performing in the Spring Performance this year.

Each dance class will perform at least one dance work to display the talents of the dancers. The younger dancers typically perform one or two pieces for the show; however, the Pre-Professional students perform over 10 group pieces, which does not include the additional solos, duos, and trios that they perform as well.

Senior faculty member Susan Dromisky let me sit in on a Pre-Professional class to give me an insider’s look on a typical day of rehearsal for these dancers. These students use half of the year to prepare for The Nutcracker and the other half focusing on the Spring Performance. They explained that they are in the BalletMet studios six days a week, and typically spend nine hours a day rehearsing and training. A few of the Pre-Professional students said that though rehearsals can be tedious at times, they look forward to performing for their family and friends at the end of the year.

The Spring Performance is one of just a few opportunities for many of the Academy students to be on stage performing for their family and friends, so this is most of the dancers’ favorite part of the year. Whether or not the Academy students perform one or 12 dances, all of the dancers get to experience that special feeling under the spotlight for at least a few minutes. To some students, this is what dancing is all about: sharing their love for dance with the audience!

The Academy student dancers are continuing to rehearse for the Spring Performance and they hope to see all of their family and friends in the audience on the weekend of June 4. There will be five performances that weekend!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

BalletMet: Pre-Professional Students, Faculty, and the YAGP

Two of BalletMet's Pre-Professional students, Elizabeth Stack and Sofia Saari, placed in the top 20 dancers at the Youth of America Grand Prix (YAGP) Senior Division in March. The YAGP is an international student ballet and contemporary dance scholarship competition that is open to dancers ages nine to nineteen. How did these BalletMet students prepare for this competition? Who at BalletMet helped them? Glad you asked!

Susan Dromisky, one of BalletMet's full-time ballet teachers, assisted the dancers in training for the competition. Susan began dancing at age six, but her dance story is unlike that of most dancers. She describes her entrance into the dance world as a "fluke." Although dance was something that she fell into, Susan truly excelled in it. She fell in love with the hard work, sweat, and striving nature of ballet. With her years of experience and knowledge of dance, Susan was a great asset to the dancers as they geared up for the YAGP.

"The students have only a minute to present themselves and all the skills they have accumulated up until that point to the judges, " says Susan. Therefore, it is important that the dancers are prepared and at their best the day of competition. Competitions require extra work from both BalletMet students and staff. The number of hours devoted to preparing for the competition depends on both the competition and the student competing. BalletMet faculty and dancers must squeeze in extra practice around scheduled classes. The students are also responsible for working on their pieces individually.

Dance competitors are asked to chose two pieces from a repertoire list distributed by the specific competition. BalletMet's Artistic Director and Faculty then collaborate to pick which pieces from the list will be performed. Elizabeth Stack danced two classical variations at the YAGP, The Sleeping Beauty and Walpurgis Nacht. When asked about her performance, Elizabeth explained that BalletMet was the first dance academy she has been a part of that has paid special attention to artistic expression. She attributes much of her personal improvement over the past year to this. Elizabeth has been dancing since she was four years old and watched The Nutcracker on PBS with her mother. As part of her training as a dancer, Elizabeth values the knowledge and experience that she has gained through competitions such as the YAGP.

Susan Dromisky sees the goal of BalletMet's Faculty as assisting the students in becoming well-rounded dancers. In addition to the day-to-day instruction dancers receive at BalletMet's Dance Academy, preparing for competitions and being evaluated by judges is just another way that BalletMet pushes its dancers to excel.

All of BalletMet's Pre-Professional students, along with academy students ages seven and up, will be dancing at the year-end performances in the beginning of June. These performances will show family and friends what BalletMet student dancers have learned the past year through both academic instruction and involvement in competitions.

Friday, May 7, 2010

BalletMet: Using Momentum to Build Momentum in Children's Lives

You may already associate BalletMet with our professional company and our instructional dance academy, but did you know that BalletMet is very active in the Columbus community through educational dance programs in local schools?

Momentum is a part of BalletMet's DanceReach Residencies. Through the Momentum Program, students engage in music, movement, and choreography in order to build confidence, excellence, and discipline. Classes are held weekly for students in grades third through fifth in seven different Columbus and Hilliard elementary schools during the school year. The students have two performances. One is in their school's gymnasium mid-year whereas the year-end performance is at the Capitol Theatre downtown.

Approximately 400 students, who have been preparing since late September with the help of Momentum administrator Monica Kridler, dance teachers and accompanists, will present their hard work at their year-end performance on May 26th. This year's production has a health and fitness theme and was inspired by The Wizard of Oz. The main concepts are eating right, staying active and sleeping well in order to be fit for life. In the show, Dorothy has become a lazy couch potato. With the help of the students, she learns what it takes to live a healthy life.

I visited Weinland Park Elementary to watch as a group of third graders polished up their dance for the production. All 400 students will dance to the opening song as well as the finale. The show is comprised of dances which showcase each individual school. Weinland students will be dancing to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," which demonstrates the importance of sleep to a healthy lifestyle.

The energetic students started their class with warm-up exercises that consisted of clapping, stomping, and stretching. Janine, the students' Momentum dance teacher, instructed students to mimic her movements and follow her commands. The kids seemed to really enjoy the exercises, which are not only a good way to warm up but also a good way to practice movements that are in the dance.

Children, who otherwise might not have the opportunity, are gaining access to dance and music through Momentum and similar BalletMet educational programs. Not only that, but these students are learning discipline and excellence through dance. The mission of BalletMet's Education and Community Programs is to provide quality dance experiences that are informative, inspirational, and accessible so that the entire community may appreciate and enjoy the art of dance.

BalletMet Momentum participants are working hard and getting excited to perform for friends, family and community leaders on May 26th.