Author Archives: Ballet Austin

About Ballet Austin

Get a glimpse of Ballet Austin behind the scenes and read more about our upcoming performances, as well as get an inside look into the lives of company dancers and Artistic Director and Choreographer Stephen Mills.

NAT/D Dancer Preview #2

Improvisation, “ugly” movements and commands. James Fuller discusses Loni Landon’s choreography style.

Loni Landon started her choreographic residency at Ballet Austin by asking me and the other dancers in her piece to close our eyes and explore our feet. I turned my feet out and in, rolled my weight onto my heels and then onto to the tops of my arches and crossed my feet so far that I could barely move. In ballet class, all of these positions would have been horribly wrong, but Loni wanted us to find ways of moving that would normally feel awkward or ugly. She explained that movements that feel awkward and ugly can be fresh, interesting and beautiful in ways that traditional steps can’t.

From our feet, we moved up gradually into our knees, hips, torso, head and finally arms. After giving each part of our body its due, we started to work with each other, first in pairs and then as a group. One of us would call out a command like “freeze”, “collapse” or “rescue”, and the other dancers would respond. We soon discovered that much of Loni’s choreography was like these commands: very specific but also open to many interpretations.

The last exercise Loni gave was to perform a short solo about ourselves. She encouraged us to both speak and dance. Everyone was nervous, but the results were magical. We danced and talked about our childhoods, our years of training, our relationships and our quirks. In just a few minutes, I learned things about my coworkers that I would never have dreamed. Loni gave us this assignment because she wanted to get to know us. She wanted our personalities to be part of her piece.

For the next few days, we learned phrases and created short group dances. I found this part of the process difficult both because of the volume of material and because Loni’s approach to movement is very different from ours. Loni approaches movement holistically, and wanted us to grasp her material’s shape, dynamic and intent simultaneously. At Ballet Austin, we usually approach movement more analytically. We break down the mechanics of each step, figure out when each step happens, and after all that work is done, we think about intent. I found it very hard to break myself out of this pattern. Loni would ask me to perform her movement with full dynamic and intent before I had had a chance to break it down and assimilate it.

Fortunately, as the piece gradually came together, I started to feel more comfortable in Loni’s movement. The piece is dark and smooth, but I can see glimpses of our jagged improvisations and cheerful solos in it. It’s fascinating to see two weeks of improvisation, tension and sharing woven into a piece.

Tickets on sale now for New American Talent/Dance.

NAT/D: Dancer Preview #1

New American Talent/Dance benefits choreographers and dancers alike. See how company dancer Beth Terwilleger learned to speak a new language.

A dance career is often too short, therefore the work that goes into it must be intense and full of passion in order to squeeze as much out of it as possible. Any chance to work with a new artist or choreographer is a gift that promises the opportunity to grow in many ways. I am lucky enough to dance for a company that not only has a director who challenges and allows his dancers to grow with his work, but one that also brings in artists to add to the richness of the company’s dancers and repertoire.

New American Talent/Dance allows for choreographers with a variety of voices and interpretations of movement to come into the world of Ballet Austin and help us grow. I feel very lucky to be a part of this project and constantly try to embrace the opportunity. With every choreographer, it is like turning into a sponge and soaking up as much as I can from the experience. Every choreographer I have worked with for NAT/D has spoken a new and different language. Some you will learn to speak better than others and some you may feel like you actually speak a little of already, but there is always a great amount of opportunity for growth.

This year I was chosen by Greg Dolbashian to be a part of his creative process and dance in his piece for NAT/D 2012. The experience of working with Greg was one that was truly unique to my dance career. Never, while growing up in a classical dance training environment, did I ever imagine I would be asked to explore the movement possibilities of dancing improvisational work, eyes closed, onstage during a performance. And this, exactly, is what Gregory asked me to do.  The improvisational work in Greg’s piece is heavily inspired by his own choreographic voice and movement style.  Greg’s language is unique and inspiring, but  it was also exceptionally challenging ; attempting to speak his language was no easy task.  Watching him move and hearing his deep understanding of movement and the emotion and the art that goes behind it allowed for me to fearlessly dive into his rehearsals. While I still feel I have a lot of work do to before I could even scrape the surface of what he is trying to pull from me as an artist, I know I have already really grown from the experience.

The beauty of a project like NAT/D is the opportunity for growth for all involved.  Not only do the dancers gain from it, but the choreographers are given a group of artists willing to explore with them and, ultimately, help them develop as well. The dancers grow, the choreographers grow, and Ballet Austin as an organization grows and benefits greatly as well. This type of support in the art world is imperative for growth, and the more we all support each other, the stronger the art world will be.

 

Tickets on sale now for New American Talent/Dance.

Dancer Holiday Wishlist

Recently we asked our Company Dancers to name one thing or two… or three… they would like for the holidays. Their answers may surprise you. Take a look to see what’s on the wish list of YOUR favorite dancer.

James Fuller:
Pyke’s Philosophers

Jordan Moser:
A flock of silly looking chickens

Preston Andrew Patterson:
A pair of custom-made Air Jordans size 11… oh yeah and peace and goodwill towards men, and all that jazz

Beth Terwilleger:
A composting system

Aara Krumpe:
Snow in Vermont so I can take my boys sledding!

Paul Michael Bloodgood:
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 for Xbox 360

Anne Marie Melendez:
Cookbooks related to my new hobby… “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day” and “Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day” written by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. (The followups to “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”)

Ian J. Bethany:
Terry Pratchett novels, Wii games and juggling rings!

Ed Carr:
A few extra windows in my living room

Oren Porterfield:
To be free of debt

Kirby Wallis:
Warm clothes for my trip with my husband to Portland & Seattle!

Chelsea Renner:
A house. (We got it! We start moving in the day after Christmas.)

Christopher Swaim:
Another Pomeranian

Becky Johnson:
A trip to Disneyland

Michael Burfield:
A Wii and a peacoat

Orlando Julius Canova:
A red bike helmet (but a good one)

Ashley Lynn Gilfix:
A new digital camera to take photos on our African Safari Trip over the holiday break

Michelle Thompson:
Time, wine, massages and diamonds

Jaime Lynn Witts and Frank Shott:
To sleep in

Brittany Strickland:
Leg warmers

Elise Pekarek:
Cowboy boots

A Look Back at Come Dance! 2011

A few weeks ago, we hosted our 4th annual Come Dance! celebration. Over 1,000 people streamed through our doors that Sunday to participate in over 18 different FREE dance classes, including 7 new ones. The day offered something for everybody – from West African Dance to Ballet. Check out a few snapshots from the day below, and make sure to check out our BCS Drop-In Class Schedule to see when you can try out a few classes on your own.

West African DanceOur NEW! West African Dance, taught by instructor Jean-Claude Lessou.

BalletBallet, taught by Company Dancer & BCS Instructor Orlando Canova.

Our NEW! Turbo-Kick (cool down phase), taught by our certified instructor Brittany Harpole.

TapOur NEW! Rhythm Tap, taught by instructor Tony Merriwether.

JazzJazz Funk, taught by instructor Kathryn Waggoner.

A big thank you to everyone who attended! We hope to see you again soon… For more information on Drop-in Classes and Courses (which start this week!) in the Butler Community School, please visit our website.

Ballet Austin Academy Open for Registration

Fall registration for the 2011/12 Academy school year is in full swing, and the Academy has something to offer every student, beginning as young as even 3 years old.

Creative Movement classes, designed for children ages 3-5, take the approach of “creative play” and are designed to hone motor skills, while educating children on movement. Classes meet once a week and offer “movement stories and ballet-based activities” appropriate for both boys and girls.

When children turn 5, they and their parents are given the option of moving onto our Pre-Ballet program, which is open to children ages 5-7. Pre-Ballet is more structured than creative movement, and serves as a transition between Creative Movement and when formal training begins at age 8, in Level 1.

In both our Creative Movement and Pre-Ballet programs, faculty in the Ballet Austin Academy place high emphasis on curriculum and age-appropriate teaching. Through these classes, we provide a place for children to not only have fun, but also take the opportunity to prepare themselves for a quality dance education. We believe that upholding excellence and professionalism starts with providing quality dance instruction at the youngest age possible.

At age 8, students may join Level 1 in the Lower School, marking their first step to professional ballet training. This age and level also mean another very special landmark: the age where Academy students have the opportunity to be cast in The Nutcracker! Each year, over 200 Academy students are cast our annual production exclusively.

If you are interested in enrolling your child, please check the Ballet Austin Academy‘s website for more detailed information, including new student registration forms.

Please note: students new to Ballet Austin but with prior experience, who are 8 and older, are required to attend a placement class. Dates, times and other important details are below.

Placement Class:
August 20, 2011
Ages 8-12 | 2-3:30pm
Ages 13 and older | 3:30-5pm
Note: Please arrive 30 minutes early for check-in

First Day of Class:
August 29, 2011

 

Photos by Anne Marie Melendez.

http://www.balletaustin.org/academy/

National Dance Day – A Recap

Thanks to everyone who came to Ballet Austin this past Saturday and donated their time, money and dancing moves for National Dance Day! With your help and participation, we were able to raise over $1,000 for our scholarship program. Included in the crowd was CultureMap Austin’s Michael Graupmann who, despite not donning his dance shoes, reported and recorded the event. Check out Michael’s article on National Dance Day, complete with video of the lively Kathryn Waggoner.

Too busy to make it out this past weekend? Worry not.

At the end of this month, we are hosting our own annual day of dance, Come Dance! 2011, on Aug. 28 and EVERY class is FREE. Come help us celebrate  our fourth anniversary in the Butler Dance Education Center. Check out the link above for more details!