I adored performing in Ballet Austin’s Community Education programs when I was a Professional Division Trainee during 2006-2008. If you’ve never swung upside-down as a kangaroo in front of cheering kids, you don’t know what you’re missing. It was always a delight to see kids inspired and engaged by Build-A-Ballet programs featuring Stephen Mills’ Carnival of the Animals, to say nothing of the infectious glee shared by Family Dance Workshop participants and The Nutcracker School Show audiences. So when I was asked by Michelle Martin (Ballet Austin’s Associate Artistic Director) to be the choreographer for a new educational program entitled Symphony of Clouds, I was thrilled… but frankly, my knees knocked together with surprising speed and painful forcefulness. I knew from personal experience how Ballet Austin’s educational programs are both substantive and entertaining, and how they have the capacity to spark creativity and broaden horizons… No pressure, right?
Symphony of Clouds is the latest offering in Ballet Austin’s Arts Blitz program. Every year, the Arts Blitz team (Ballet Austin, Pollyanna Theatre Company, and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum) bring innovative dance-theatre productions to hundreds of area students, and provide classroom educators with associated curricula and Continuing Professional Education credits.
Symphony of Clouds brings the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to life with spoken-word dialogue, dance, and, of course, the masterful music of Mozart. The stars are actors from Pollyanna Theatre Company and dancers from Ballet Austin’s Professional Division Trainee program (my alma mater!). Luckily for me, the production blossomed into being with the direction of Pollyanna Theatre Company’s ever-enthusiastic Judy Matetzschk-Campbell, and with the rehearsal direction of Ballet Austin’s talented and tireless Jaime Lynn Witts.
On January 27, 2011, approximately 300 students at Pleasant Hill Elementary cheered a young “Wolfie” Mozart on as he wowed exuberant European Empresses, encountered a squawking chicken, laughed at the antics of a dancing juggler and his comically clumsy sidekicks, marveled at mustachioed musical maestros, and jiggled and jived with merrily mischievous piano keys… in short, they experienced the production Symphony of Clouds. Hooray!
Not a student or educator in an elementary school? Not to worry! Public shows are offered at Ballet Austin’s AustinVentures StudioTheatre on Feb 5 – 6, 2011 at 2:30pm and 4:00pm, for only $12 per ticket. The production is one hour long. Hope to see you there!
For the first installment of our La Sylphide video blog series, I sat down with Artistic Director Stephen Mills and Associate Artistic Director Michelle Martin. We discussed the great significance of La Sylphide and the beautiful choreographic style of August Bournonville. And they expressed their excitement about bringing this centuries-old masterpiece to the stage for the first time ever in Austin. Check out the video!
For Tickets and more information about La Sylphide, click here.
This Month’s Alaska Airlines Magazine includes a column featuring our upcoming show Symphony of Clouds. This ballet, a collaboration with Pollyanna Theatre Company featuring the Ballet Austin trainees, is a fun dance-theatre retelling of the story of Mozart’s childhood.
Click the image above for a larger version. For more information about Symphony of Clouds, or to purchase tickets, click here.
We are proud to announce that our 2010 production of The Nutcracker set an all-time record for single ticket sales and attendance. Thank you to the over 26,000 who joined us for Austin’s Holiday Tradition this year! Many performances of the 2010 production sold out, so mark your calendars for July 2011, when tickets for the 2011 production will go on sale.
We all have one, our very first memory of The Nutcracker ballet. We remember it as magically today as when we first sat in the audience, amazed by what was happening on stage.
I was five years old. I’d been taking dance classes for about a year and a half when my mom, who also grew up dancing, told me we were going on a mother-daughter date to see The Nutcracker. The what? We had quite a collection of real nutcrackers around our house so I didn’t know why we had to go see more…they weren’t that exciting. But despite the confusion, I put on my fancy red satin dress, black patent leather “heels”, enormous hair bow and hopped in the car as we headed to the Wortham Theatre in downtown Houston.
I fidgeted in my seat, still completely puzzled, as we waited for the curtain to open. And when it did…I sat perfectly still with my eyes glued to the magic and dancing that was happening before me. The production was breathtaking.
I’m now twenty-two and for the past seventeen Christmases, my mom and I haven’t missed a Nutcracker season. For me The Nutcracker represents everything I love about the holiday season: family, tradition, joy, excitement, and wonder. It was not only my first ballet, but it is still my most treasured.
So what’s your most memorable Nutcracker experience? Share with us what makes this one-of-a-kind production a treasure in your eyes! Post your story in the Comments section below and see all the different memories The Nutcracker has inspired!
From the children who perform as Angels to the professionals who dance the principal role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, The Nutcracker is as much a part of ballet as tendus and pliés. It is a yearly tradition for so many dancers because it stands as a holiday tradition for so many families.
Like many others, including Company dancers Aara Krumpe and Ashley Lynn Gilfix (who are interviewed in the video above), it was the first ballet I saw as a child. So many children watch this production and dream of dancing onstage, maybe someday dancing as the Sugar Plum Fairy. And as Ashley explains, the delight of seeing The Nutcracker as a young child became one of her main inspirations for pursuing ballet.
For the Ballet Austin Academy it is a dream come true. And for the Company dancers who will perform as the Sugar Plum Fairy, it is a childhood dream realized. Check out the video above to see why, from Angel to Sugar Plum Fairy, Ballet Austin’s annual production of The Nutcracker holds a special place for everyone involved.
Click here for tickets or more information about The Nutcracker.
Aara Krumpe performs as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker.
All little girls dream of dancing in her shoes. They’ve watched as she enters ever so gracefully onto the stage, they’ve sat enthralled during her pas de deux with the dangerously handsome prince, and they’ve all left saying “that’s what I want to be when I grow up.”
I remember being four years old, leaving my first production of The Nutcracker, and thinking the exact same thing. Who hasn’t dreamed of dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy at some point in their lives? It’s the role of a lifetime that every young prima ballerina aspires to be and for Ballet Austin’s Ashley Lynn Gilfiz and Aara Krumpe, starring in this years’ production of The Nutcracker as the Sugar Plum Fairy is “a dream come true.”
What’s your history performing The Nutcracker?
ALG: I was thirteen when I did my first Nutcracker back at home in Chicago and I was a Soldier. I was kind of just getting started in a pre-professional program, so, I was a little behind; I wasn’t ready to do pointe work. Since I’ve been dancing at Ballet Austin I’ve done Snow Queen, and Arabian, and Sugar Plum Fairy.
AK: My first Nutcracker was when I was ten in Corpus Christi, Texas with the Corpus Christi Concert Ballet and I was a Party Girl… I was actually here the season that Stephen choreographed this production of The Nutcracker, so I was an original member of the Snow Corps and the Waltz of the Flower Corps.
Ashley Lynn Gilfix performs as the Snow Queen in The Nutcracker.
Explain the significance of The Nutcracker in a dancer’s career.
ALG: It’s an opportunity to come back to something every year and you can look at it in two ways: you can look at it as, you know, over and over, or you can look as it as here’s my opportunity to come back to something that I’ve done a years worth of work in between and where am I this year and what can I add and what can I bring to the stage this time?
AK: I personally love The Nutcracker! It’s just nice to have something in your season that you do every year and this is the production where we do the most number of shows and it’s really an opportunity as an artist to improve technically from season to season and to improve your artistry.
What does it mean to you to perform as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker?
ALG: It’s a dream come true really. I think the first ballet I ever saw was The Nutcracker when I was little and I was already dancing at the time but not seriously. And I was always really inspired when we would come home from seeing The Nutcracker. And that was one of the things that made me really consider being a dancer.
AK: It’s a very special honor when you’ve reached that point in your career as a professional dancer to dance that roll and fulfill your dreams; it’s a very nice, special moment.
These are only excerpts from the interviews we conducted with Aara and Ashley so stay tuned to our blog to see the full video!
It was 1999 and Ballet Austin was ready to open its 37th production of The Nutcracker. But what the audience was in store for was not the same production of The Nutcracker they’d seen for years and years. There was a new Artistic Director in town, and on November 14 of that year, Ballet Austin would premiere his original choreography for The Nutcracker, the same timeless choreography that we still perform to this day.
I may be a little biased, but as I peek in on rehearsals, I continually find myself mesmerized by Artistic Director Stephen Mills’ choreography. There is such eloquence, grace, and vitality in his movement. And his original choreography for The Nutcracker is no exception. He has retained all the classic elements of this wonderful production while infusing it with his unique artistic vision. It’s what makes our production of The Nutcracker unique and it’s what makes it Austin’s holiday tradition.
Click here for more information about Ballet Austin’s production of The Nutcracker.
Every year as our annual production of The Nutcracker approaches, Ballet Austin is always abuzz with who will be cast as Clara, the Snow Queen, Cavalier, and the Sugar Plum Fairy among others. But one particular character that always attracts wide attention throughout Austin is that of the beloved Mother Ginger.
In the spirit of keeping Ballet Austin’s production of The Nutcracker unique to Austin, the Mother Ginger role has historically been filled with local Austin ‘celebrities’. We have been fortunate to have such guests as the late Governor Ann Richards, Lance Armstrong, Luci Baines Johnson, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Michael Dell, Joe Sears, Kinky Friedman, Maestro Peter Bay, and many more. All have sat atop the 8-foot high dress and sported the entertainingly oversized costume, complete with a showy head dress and extravagant make-up.
But this year, we’ve decided to make our production of The Nutcracker a little more special by introducing a contest to ‘fill the dress’! We’ve decided to ask YOU to nominate your favorite Austinite via an online contest that will recognize an outstanding community leader by awarding them the role of a lifetime.
We are looking for the most respected, adored, influential, caring and/or generous community leader in the city to play the role of Mother Ginger for the closing performance of The Nutcracker on December 23!
Due in great part to the overwhelming response to Ballet Austin II’s world premiere of Thang Dao’s Quiet Imprint last spring, we’ve brought the production back this fall with four shows, October 15-17, 2010.
Quiet Imprint explores the narrative of Vietnamese men and women displaced by the Vietnam War. In particular, New York-based choreographer and New American Talent / Dance winner Thang Dao looked to members of the Central Texas Vietnamese community, listening to their stories and drawing on their experiences as inspiration for the work.
For Quiet Imprint, Dao chose the music of Trinh Cong Son, an iconic figure in Vietnamese music, particularly to the generation that suffered through the war. His muse, Khanh Ly, sang all of the beautiful original recordings of his songs in Vietnam. But insisting on more than just the recordings for his piece, Dao contacted Ly to see if she might be interested in performing the music for the ballet live. Thankfully, she obliged.
I can say from experiencing the show last spring, that Dao’s movement set to her vocals is a stunning combination, and Ly will be returning to accompany the upcoming performances.
Watch the video above to see excerpts from the world premiere of Quiet Imprint, and watch the video below to see an interview with choreographer Thang Dao about creating the piece, as well as studio rehearsal footage.
And join us in the AustinVentures StudioTheater for Quiet Imprint, October 15-17!