Author Archives: Ballet Austin

Ballet Austin

About Ballet Austin

Ballet Austin is a professional dance company which also offers professional classical ballet training and instruction through the Ballet Austin Academy, which is one of the largest in the U.S. We're committed to providing the highest quality dance instruction to students, and currently the Academy has more than 800 students. Ballet Austin's Butler Center for Dance & Fitness offers classes for all ages and skill levels. And our state-of-the-art Pilates Center is open 7 days a week and gives clients personalized training with one of the top voted instructors in Austin. Dance and fitness workshops are also available, as well as adult workshops and summer kids camps.

Summer Intensive: Week Two… And Counting – Pt. 3

This is the third in a four-part blog series about our annual Summer Intensive program. This week, our Associate Artistic Director Michelle Martin, took some time to detail what our Artistic Staff looks for from students during the intensive.

It’s hard to believe we’re already half-way through the first session of the Summer Intensive and well into the process of selecting dancers for our year-round programs. Students in Levels 7 and 8 who are, at a minimum, seniors in high school are eligible for consideration for either our Trainee Program or a contract with Ballet Austin II (BAII), our second company/apprentice program. Our Artistic Director, Stephen Mills, and I are committed to identifying and inviting dancers who are a good fit for our programs, meaning that they will benefit from their experience here, and Ballet Austin will benefit from their contribution. There are many factors to consider, starting with a solid foundation in classical ballet technique. Many of the dancers who come here have had training in a ballet curriculum that is different than the technique and aesthetic that we teach. Training is usually quite firmly entrenched in muscle memory and it can be challenging to adjust to the new concepts that we introduce, so much of what Mr. Mills and I are assessing is a dancer’s willingness to explore, and capacity to adapt to other ideas. To help us evaluate this more quickly, all of the Level 7 and 8 ballet technique classes are taught by me, Mr. Mills or our Rehearsal Director, Allisyn Paino.

In addition to strong classical technique, a contract with BAII also requires that dancers have an interest and a developing aptitude for contemporary movement, particularly as it relates to Ballet Austin’s repertoire. This is easiest to assess by having the dancers learn, rehearse and perform some choreographic excerpts from our work. As the dancers learn the material we are able to glean a lot of important information. Beyond capability with a particular movement style, we can get a sense as to how quickly a dancer learns, how they observe and absorb nuance and detail, and how independent they are about refining what they’ve learned. We can also see how they interact in a collaborative environment – with their peers, with a partner – as well as how they approach the rehearsal process.

This process of selection is challenging on both ends, for the dancers who are participating in this ongoing audition, and for those of us responsible for program placement. We are evaluating technical strength and physical conditioning, personal motivations and work ethic, and the subjective considerations of artistry and aesthetic. Though it’s not easy, it’s a method that has created opportunity for many dancers and for Ballet Austin over the past decade, and we are committed to continuing this process for each new group of Summer Intensive dancers.

Summer Intensive: Day in the Life – Pt. 2

This is the second in a four-part blog series about our annual Summer Intensive program. This week, I shadowed summer intensive attendee Nicole Douglas, 18, who joins us from Ashland, Massachusetts. Nicole auditioned for the Ballet Austin Summer Intensive in New York City, and will be with us for the remainder of the summer participating in the 6-week program. I spent Wednesday photographing Nicole during her day at Ballet Austin. Here’s what she had to say about her day:

My schedule at Ballet Austin differs a little every day. We have ballet class each day, and then go into a variety of other classes ranging from Pilates to technique-focused dance classes. Yesterday was an especially long day because I had pointe, Pilates and then a two and a half hour repertoire class all following my daily ballet class. My day started around 9:45 when I arrived at Ballet Austin and found an empty studio in which I could warm up.


Around 10:30, I went to ballet in the AustinVentures StudioTheater. I really like our daily ballet class because it provides the opportunity for me to focus mainly on my technique. Stephen Mills teaches a very different style of ballet from what I am used to, but I am really enjoying this new style and am happy to be re-training my body to do new things. We also do center of ballet class on pointe, which at times can be difficult but I know is really beneficial for me. Pointe class is pretty basic, but I like it because it sets aside time for me to focus on really working through my point shoes and articulating my feet more.



In the afternoon after lunch, I went to Pilates. I loved our Pilates class yesterday because I love working my abs! The Pilates class here at Ballet Austin is very intense but it is SO good for my body that I don’t mind.


Until now, almost all of my training has been based in classical Ballet, so going into the repertoire class I didn’t really know what to expect. By the second time I had the class, though, I had fallen in love with it. Yesterday we worked with choreography from Ballet Austin’s 2010 production of Carmina Burana.


Let Us Take You to the Movies

Let’s face it. Summertime in Texas is HOT.

Finding fun activities to do, not to mention working out, can be incredibly challenging now that the temps in our great state have reached triple digits. So we’d like to invite you to stop by Ballet Austin this Sunday to beat the heat and catch a movie with us in our AustinVentures StudioTheater. We are partnering up with Austin Film Festival once again to bring you the second installment of our summer Dance Film series. This Sunday, at 3pm, we are screening The Company. $10 not only gets you in the door for the movie, but ALSO gets you access to one of our incredibly popular Ballet Fit classes (my personal favorite) directly following the show. Interested? Scroll down for more information on The Company, Ballet Fit and Sunday’s instructor and new Ballet Austin Company member, Elise Pekarek.

The Company (2003):
Through a tale composed of true accounts, Director Robert Altman (“M.A.S.H.”, “The Player”) brings us an intimate look at the intense lives of ballet performers at the Chicago Ballet Company. Allowing freedom from tightly scripted dialogue, Altman elicits genuine performances from his cast. This, along with a plot comprised from real-life stories, gives “The Company” such an authenticity as it reveals to us the lives of those who endure the pressures of ballet and performance art.

Ballet Fit incorporates a variety of ballet-inspired movements to improve flexibility and balance, and also strengthen, lengthen and tone muscles. This class is focused on fitness and fun. By integrating classical ballet movements with additional exercises such as crunches and push-ups, Ballet Fit will promote overall toning, help reduce weight, increase muscle strength and flexibility, improve coordination and posture and firm target areas. This is a class for dancers and non-dancers alike. No previous ballet experience is required. Wear workout clothing and ballet shoes or socks. Resistance bands used in some classes are provided during class.



Elise Pekarek, Instructor and 2011/12 Company member:
Originally from the Chicago area, Elise began her ballet training with Judith Svalander in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Elise attended summer programs at Ballet Austin and Pacific Northwest Ballet, and in 2007 was accepted into Ballet Austin’s Trainee Program. Elise spent two seasons as a Trainee, followed by two seasons as an apprentice in Ballet Austin II. She was recently invited to join the Company for the 2011/12 Season. Elise teaches classes for Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School and Pilates studio.

For more information, please view our Ballet Austin Dance Film Series page.

To purchase tickets, please go here.

Summer Intensive: It Begins! – Pt. 1

This is the first in a four-part blog series about our annual Summer Intensive program. This week we wanted to give you a run-down on how the program works, as well as why it is so valuable – both to us and the dancers which attend. Please check back each Thursday to see more behind-the-scenes coverage including day-in-the-life features, as well as posts by our artistic directors regarding their processes. We hope you enjoy!

Starting next Monday, our halls will be overrun with nearly 300 ballet dancers who will arrive for the first leg of our nationally-recognized Summer Intensive. Ranging in age from 9-22, these serious ballet students are split into either the Senior or Junior Summer Intensive programs depending on their age.

The Summer Intensive program is the culmination of an annual 30-city audition tour which takes place the winter prior to the program. This year, we are so pleased to welcome students from 36 states and 4 different countries into our home!

Ballet Austin Summer Intensive

Summer Intensive is incredibly important to both ballet students and our company. Whether students stay for three weeks or six, they leave the program having greatly improved their skills and technical abilities. Aside from this obvious benefit, however, the program also allows our own artistic staff to select students for our Ballet Austin II Apprentice and Trainee programs. The three and six-week programs allow us to observe the students’ work ethics and styles, ensuring our ability to select dancers who be a great match with our company.

Over half of the current professional Company dancers have been through BAII – a program where dancers come and live year-round and work in-residence at our studios. Dancers may only stay in BAII for a maximum of two years, after which they may be invited to join our Company, or otherwise will move somewhere else to continue their career development.

Summer Intensive 2011 starts this Monday, and we cannot wait to meet everybody! Check back next week for a day-in-the-life feature of one of the participants!

For more information the program, please click here. See you next week everyone!

2010/11 Austin Critics’ Table Award

Ballet Austin is honored to have received TEN nominations for the Austin Critics’ Table Award, for both company productions and company artists.

Paul Michael Bloodgood, Aara Krumpe, Michelle Martin, Christopher Swaim and Jamie Lynn Witts all received recognition for their performances during the Ballet Austin 2010/11 Season.

Ballet Austin also received nominations for Kai, La Sylphide and Studio Theater Project. To read more about the Austin Critics’ Table Award Nominations and to see the full list of nominees and categories, please click here.

Introducing Our New Company Dancers

Here at Ballet Austin, we’d like to extend a warm congratulations to both Elise Pekarek and Michael Burfield, who will both be joining the company for the 2011/12 Season. Both Michael and Elise just finished the 2010/11 Season as members of Ballet Austin II. Scroll down to find out a little bit more about each of them. Congratulations to you both!

Elise Pekarek
Originally from the Chicago area, Elise began her ballet training with Judith Svalander in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Elise attended summer programs at Ballet Austin and Pacific Northwest Ballet, and in 2007 was accepted into Ballet Austin’s Trainee Program. Elise spent two seasons as a Trainee, followed by two seasons as an apprentice in Ballet Austin II. She teaches classes for Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School and Pilates studio.

Michael Burfield
Michael is originally from Lubbock, Texas where he studied at Ballet Lubbock under the direction of Yvonne Racz-Key. After graduating high school Michael went on to the Pacific Northwest Ballet on full scholarship as a Professional Division Student, and got to perform with the PNB Company in Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Coppelia. Michael was a part of Ballet Austin II for the 2010/11 Season, before being invited to join the Company.

Dancer Preview: The Magic Flute

Aara Krumpe, a Ballet Austin company dancer, reflects on the innovative nature of The Magic Flute, as well as her experience in preparing for it. The production premieres this weekend, May 6-8, at The Long Center.

This weekend will be the world premiere of Stephen Mills’ The Magic Flute. I have worked with Mr. Mills for twelve years now and I think this production is his most complex and elaborate full-length ballet. It has been a very unusual process for the dancers because there are so many elements involved: choreography, music, props, costumes, and of course, the shadow puppets.

In this production I will be dancing the role of Queen of the Night, a strong and powerful woman who is also manipulative and evil. Typically to prepare for a role, I study films and books to develop inspiration for my character. Original ballets, however, are a special treat for the dancers. A simple look or a hand gesture can define a role, and everything is magnified in shadow for this piece, so I restrained myself until Mr. Mills choreographed the ballet in its entirety to decide how to augment his steps with my interpretation of the character.

In rehearsal: Aara Krumpe, left, as the Queen of the Night.

For the past two weeks, the dancers have rehearsed in the morning at the studios then headed over to the warehouse to work with the scenic elements. The shadow puppets are incredible!  The simplicity of light creates a magical world of larger-than-life imagery. Our costumes were designed by Susan Branch-Towne to be very elaborate and distinct so the audience can distinguish which character is in shadow. I particularly love my costume! I have an exquisite dress with an amazing cape and a six-inch-high white wig (which I have yet to rehearse in) created by Allison Lowery.

As we head into the theatre this week, we will add a new element of the ballet with each rehearsal, the most challenging of which will be the music. We have been rehearsing with a recording of the opera but we will dance to an instrumental rendition performed by The Austin Symphony. Although I am anxious about the absence of vocals in such a powerful score, I like that Mr. Mills chose to tell the story primarily through dance.

I am very excited to see this ballet come together! I constantly marvel at Stephen Mills’ vision, and this ballet is shaping up to be a masterpiece. I hope you come to see for yourself!

 

The Magic Flute – World Premiere
THIS WEEKEND

8pm | May 6 & 7
3pm | May 8, Mother’s Day
The Long Center
Austin, Texas

 

For more information, please visit our page for The Magic Flute.
For tickets, please click here.

The Building of The Magic Flute Production

Ballet Austin’s The Magic Flute hits the stage a little over a week from now (Mother’s Day Weekend, May 6-8), and our production and artistic staffs are hard at work producing all of the elements that will come together to create this innovative, world premiere. Today you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the world of The Magic Flute, whose scenic elements were masterfully created by local scenic designer, Michael Raiford.

Ballet Austin is working with the New York-based company RoseBrand to develop and produce several sets of “Portals” and “Legs”, which will form the different layers of the scenery. Portals hang in front of the background, which in our case is created by rear-projection of images, and help frame the scenery. Legs are similar to your standard “wings” on a stage, and in the case of The Magic Flute, form tree patterns. You can see the way all the elements come together in the rendering below!

RoseBrand creates these scenic elements through a system known as “precision cutting.” In other words, they receive electronic images or patterns of what each element should look like, and then they are created and cut out with a laser. You can see a life-size version of Portal #1 below:

After the portals are printed and cut out, they are mounted onto mesh to make them more sturdy and prevent them from tearing during use. Below is part of Portal #2, the grey vines. This portal was actually produced in TWO parts, which will hang side by side, to make future traveling, storage and touring easier.

Separate elements have also been designed and created for different parts of the production. You can see the changing stage scenery in the renderings below. As the creator of The Magic Flute, Ballet Austin owns all of the scenic elements, allowing us to store them for future productions, rent to other ballet companies and possibly tour to other cities!

Sarastro’s Temple:

Woods:

The Meadow:

For more information on The Magic Flute.

Purchase Tickets to The Magic Flute.

Note: All image credit, including those of the Rosebrand workshop and the stage drawings / renderings, is given to Michael Raiford. Mr. Raiford, a local scenic designer, created all of the scenic elements for The Magic Flute. You may view a Flickr portfolio of his work here.