12 July 2010
Ditch the Workout—Join the Party!
On Tuesday June 22nd Ballet Idaho’s Natalie Gallegos Wickstrom and guest instructor from Seattle, Washington set up studio 1 at the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy with live drummers and 30 guests for some intense, energy-induced Zumba!
Natalie is high energy and an extremely talented dancer and instructor! She gets in the class and you immediately feel that energy she brings in with her. She brought with her John Delapena, her fellow Zumba and Ballroom Dance Instructor from Seattle with equal. matching energy and exuberance. Together they were extraordinary!
I had the privilege of being a guest at this remarkable event. At first I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to go or what to expect. About 10 minutes before it started, the drummers showed up with African style drums. They were so excited to be here and be a part of this event. Then the guests started arriving. I wasn’t sure how many we would have, but was hopeful we would have a good turnout. Well, they kept arriving….I was thrilled to have so much support for Ballet Idaho and Natalie and John. Pretty soon the music started and the drummers began warming up and it was truly electrifying! And the guests were still coming! At that point we had about 15 people which was great. I went in to the studio to take a peak and John and Natalie were doing a Tango, Cha-Cha, Rumba, Ballroom combo together that was simply beautiful! The guests just stood and stared in amazement watching them warm-up. And the guests kept coming! We were about to 25 people at this point. WOW! They went ahead and started the class. They started out with explaining a little bit about Zumba:
What is Zumba®? Working out can be healthy, rewarding and beneficial and now it can also be an exhilarating experience! The Zumba® program fuses hypnotic Latin rhythms and easy-to-follow moves to create a one-of-a-kind fitness program that will blow you away. The goal is simple: We want you to want to work out, to love working out, to get hooked. Zumba® Fanatics achieve long-term benefits while experiencing an absolute blast in one exiting hour of calorie-burning, body-energizing, awe-inspiring movements meant to engage and captivate for life!
The routines feature interval training sessions where fast and slow rhythms and resistance training are combined to tone and sculpt your body while burning fat. Add some Latin flavor and international zest into the mix and you've got a Zumba® class!
Now I must add here that as they are talking about Zumba, they are all over the place, dancing jumping and moving. They just do not ever stop shaking! And the guests were STILL coming. We ended up with about 35 people for this event. Amazing! And every guest that came had the SAME energy! Are seeing where this is heading? This building had so much energy it could have lifted off the ground. Truly! At this point I remembered that Ballet Idaho was having a Board Meeting upstairs. I thought to myself, oh no, they aren’t going to be able to focus on their meeting. And then I thought to myself, what a great opportunity for our Board Members to witness such a spectacular event. As the class got started and the guests started movin’ and shakin’ and the drums started beating and Natalie and John started hollering, there was no going back. All I can say now looking back on it is OMG!!!! This was one of the most fun and exciting dance fitness class I have ever been to. Everyone one was having such a great time. It didn’t matter who you are, how old you are, what size you are or even if you have ever done Zumba before as many had not. They all had a great time and I saw nothing but a sea of smiling, happy faces and lots of laughs as well. I finished up the class feeling like I just could not wait for another one. And with a new found energy that and excitement that would not calm for about a week after. Everyone needs to experience Zumba!
Oh, and the Board Members, Well they couldn’t helpbut to come down to see what all the noise was and watched for a few minutes, they too could feel the energy in their little board room upstairs and they could do nothing but smile.
07 July 2010
This year's Ballet Idaho Summer Intensive had a lot of interesting students from Idaho, Montana, New Jersey and British Columbia, Canada. In a previous blog you can read what Madison Cole's mom said about their experience here in Boise at the Summer Intensive. Madison is going to be 12 years old soon and she comes from the same school in New Jersey, The Academy of Dance Arts, that Jessica Sulikowski came from. Jessia is a professional dancer in our company and I worked with her many years ago on The Nutcracker
in New Jersey when she was a child. See how good training can lead to great things?
Madison was a real standout this year. But we had lots of others, too. Two girls came to us on scholarships awarded through Montana Dance Association. I was happy to provide them with these places as we're seeking to include students from other Inter Mountain states in our programs. It reminds us that Ballet Idaho is the only professional ballet company with an academy in the Inter Mountain West.
All the students had wonderful experiences with familiar and new teachers. Heather Hawk, Racheal Nole, Jared Hunt and Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti are well known dancers and teachers here, but at the Summer Intensive they pushed their students farther than usual. Our own Ballet Idaho Academy students LOVED what they did for them, both technique-wise and in choreography. The guest students loved the special attention these teachers provided and worked very hard in some really challenging material. Jared's Jazz class was a HUGE hit with all the students.
Racheal and Jared staged the "Garland Waltz" from Sleeping Beauty
. Racheal knows a version of the original choreography and shaped it on the students at hand. She mixed several different levels and came up with a beautiful and cohesive work that involved some pretty striking patterns and beautiful steps. Everyone looked great at the performance on the last day.
Heather and I staged the Fairy variations from the Sleeping Beauty
Prologue. It's a beautiful scene, where each Fairy enters and bestows a gift on the infant Aurora at her Christening. The gifts are not the standard fare, they are attributes the child will take with her as she grows. The Fairy of Grace provides beauty of movement, the Breadcrumb Fairy provides that the child will never go hungry, The Songbird Fairy gives the child a beautiful voice, Fairy Violante gives her energy! And the Lilac Fairy gives her Wisdom. In Russian folklore the Lilac is a symbol of wisdom.
We had two completely different casts for this scene, one of tall girls, one of shorter girls. They all did splendidly! I think the audience on hand was very surprised how difficult and demanding this material was. The girls knew it, of course! They worked very hard to perfect the technical requirements as well as the choreographic intent of each different quality. This was a good introduction for our own Academy students, too, because Ballet Idaho will be dancing the full-length Sleeping Beauty
next season and we will be using lots of students from our school. It's going to be as big as Nutcracker!
In the second week of the Intensive we had the rare privilege of having Nicholas Ade teach our students. Nicholas was a dancer in Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle and after a distinguished career, went on to become first a teacher, then a principal in their school. Nick is a phenomenal teacher! He's unique! He has a very meticulous and careful method of teaching --- at first his class seems incredibly slow, until the student figures out that he's probing deep into every muscle and bone to explain how technique works. It's exactly the kind of training I want to have here at Ballet Idaho, so his method really helped the students understand how their bodies are supposed to work. He explains everything so well, and he has great stories and he's really funny! The kids all loved working with him. After teaching a full load of classes, Nick coached the girls dancing Sleeping Beauty
variations. His advice and counsel were invaluable to them and I think they all took a tremendous lesson with them.
It was sad to see everyone go after spending such an intense and focused two weeks. We hope our students left with lots of knowledge, insight, eagerness to do better and a sense of themselves as dancers. I know they left exhausted but exhilarated! We hope to see many of them back next year. Thanks to everyone for all your hard work and dedication.
18 June 2010
Since moving to Boise two years ago, I had not been back to New York City, my hometown. So after the company finished this season and the Academy Year-End Performance had taken place, I felt it was a good time to make the trip and catch up.
I love Boise, but there's nothing like New York! I saw lots of good friends, old friends, professional friends, teachers and dancers, and even new friends and got right back into the pace of the city. The School of American Ballet gave its annual workshop performances and they were amazing. The SAB performances are more like New York's 3rd professional company, the dancers were so accomplished. Heather Hawk, an alumnus of the school, was with me at the matinee and we saw a fantastic performances of two Balanchine ballets, Valse Fantasie and Bouree Fantasque, both beautifully danced. Bouree has always been one of my favorite obscure Balanchine works -- it's a comedy, which is rare for him, but also looks like a speeded-up Dior fashion show from the 1950s! It's so beautifully dressed, so witty, elegant, stylish, and full of great good humor ---- and that nutty music by Chabrier!!
Perhaps the highlight of the trip was re-connecting with my old colleague and friend, Misha Baryshnikov. We hadn't seen each other in a long time. He looks great! Heather and I went to visit him at the Baryshnikov Arts Center on Wet 37th St. It's a building he founded as a center for new dance, new music, new ideas. A splendid building with two theatres and lots of big bright open studios. Misha likes to come in and warm himself up privately and he often entertains friends and colleagues in the studio while he works out. Heather had not seen him since they were both in New York City Ballet together so that was a nice re-union. We were having a great time catching up on our projects, sharing recent stories about family and friends, remembering choreographers and dancers were both knew, talking about the future. Misha was eager to know all about Ballet Idaho and was very happy to hear how well we're doing. I invited him to come out here and visit us next season --- he's a BIG FISHERMAN and I know he would have a great time fishing in Idaho!
Then something really amazing happened. He was telling us about a new solo that Alex Ratmansky had choreographed for him --- he was about to fly to LA to dance it later that week. He simply asked Heather and I if we would like to see it and, in disbelief, we said, Sure! So he turned the music on and for the next 12 minutes we had a private command performance by one of the world's greatest dancers! He suddenly lost all age and infirmity and was the old Misha again. It was beautiful, touching, sweet, funny, melancholy, exciting, full of energy and brilliance. The solo is danced to Glinka's Valse Fantasie --- yes, exactly the same music Balanchine had choreographed and that SAB was dancing uptown. But this version was a story ---- a young man meets a woman he falls madly in love with. They are separated and many years go by. He comes back one day and meets her again ---- he thinks he still loves her, but too much time has passed, they have become different people, yet he has deep and confused feelings about her. It ends sadly, but with irony.
There's a lot of old-fashioned mime in this solo, beside some brilliant dancing. Heather was astounded by the way Misha did the mime --- it's his heritage, of course --- it's what he learned as a student in Russia. He does it so simply and directly, so beautifully. It just flows out of him like the dancing --- and this is what mime is supposed to be. It's supposed to be MUSICAL! And that's exactly how he made it look.
The solo is brilliant ---- I didn't even get the name of it, we were just so enthralled by Misha's performance and by the overwhelming generosity of him dancing it for us alone. We applauded, of course, then talked a bit more. Heather and I came out into the hot and humid New York sidewalks and floated our way across town. It was a stunning and unique experience and we were on a cloud for the rest of that day.
Oh, and I got back in touch with my shopping gene ---- New York is one of the greatest shopping cities in the world and I put a lot of dents in my wallet....but who wouldn't?
Coming back to Boise, I did feel like I was returning to my home. If you go to New York in the summertime you will gain a new appreciation for the dry climate we enjoy here ----- and you will NEVER complain about traffic again!
18 June 2010
When Durea and Heather from Ballet Idaho asked me to write a blog about our experience here in beautiful Boise, I was more than happy to do it! We are from New Jersey and this is our first time here and so far... so very good.
My daughter is dancing with Ballet Idaho in their Summer Intensive for 2 weeks. Many people asked me, “Why Idaho?” Well, for starters, Peter Anastos is highly regarded in our neck of the woods for his choreography. Of which, my daughter’s ballet school, the Academy of Dance Arts (ADA), in Red Bank, NJ, uses for many of their performances, including the Nutcracker, every year. Jennifer James Church, Artistic Director for ADA highly recommended that Madison (my daughter) take the opportunity to study with Peter and the Ballet Idaho Company. Jessica Sulikowski, a former dancer with ADA and present BI company dancer, took the time to answer many questions I had about coming out to Boise. (Thank you, Jessica!) Jessica was definitely a “Prima Ballerina” at ADA and I felt that if this was the caliber of dancer that BI was taking in, then this was a very good place for my daughter to be studying.
Ok, so... As nervous as I was traveling with just me and 2 kids, I have come to find that the city of Boise is incredibly easy and fun and it’s residents have got to be some of the nicest and most generous people I have ever met. It’s a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the east coast and certainly a beautiful change of scenery. The weather is fabulous. My curly hair (which I hate) is amazingly straight here. So right off the bat, I look better in Boise... LOL.
We are staying at the Hampton Inn/Downtown. What a GREAT hotel! Seriously, the service of the young people at the front desk, housekeeping, etc., is outstanding. Whatever we need, they are there to help us. We never leave the front doors without them wishing us a great day. The hotel itself is immaculate and beautifully decorated. They offer free internet and a free breakfast which isn’t just donuts and coffee. The food is excellent! Eggs, bacon, potatoes, fresh fruit and make-it-yourself waffles that the kids love. They also offer free coffee and fresh fruit all day long.
There is plenty of places to eat in the city... It is so charming... So far, we’ve had ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s (sinfully good), spaghetti at The Spaghetti Factory (excellent), pita’s at The Pita Pit (awesome and cheap!), burgers and cheese fries at Moon’s (fantastic), taco’s at Cafe Ole (delicious and totally authentic) and perhaps our favorite place of all, mac and cheese at Solid (awesome!). What a great place for a nice dinner! Food was excellent and the water with a slice of cucumber is genius! We even met Ryan Nye, a Ballet Idaho company dancer who is a server there. He took time out to chat with us for a little bit. What a really, nice guy.
Last night we had the pleasure of attending the Shakespeare Festival to see Mid Summer Night’s Dream. All I can say is I wish I could go every night! It was brilliant and hysterically funny. The actors top notch. The amphitheatre amazing. I’ve never seen my children enjoy a show as much as this. If you are debating wether to go, waste no more time and get your tickets now. I was lucky enough to meet Lina Chambers this morning while picking up my son Griffin who is attending the Shakespeare Shakedown camp while we are here. Lina played Helena last night and was amazingly funny! What a brilliant, young actress! She told me how she got her start attending the ISF camps at 8 years old. The same camp my son is attending now, which he loves. A special shout out to Eduardo Placer who played Puck. Griffin thinks you ROCK! And, actually, so do I... =)
I am amazed, so far, by the quality and emphasis on the arts here in Boise. It’s only been a week, and it’s been wonderful! Can’t wait to see what the next week has in store...
28 May 2010
The Regional Dance America Festival is a breathtaking event! There are over 500 students from across the Western and Pacific states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Utah, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, who participate in classes and seminars, and who perform nightly for an audience of their peers. It's amazing. 4 days of intensity that will stay with us forever!
This year, the Festival was held in Richland, Washington, at the Mid-Columbia Ballet, Debra Rogo, artistic director. And the Ballet Idaho Youth Ensemble was an important part of the Festival!
Ballet Idaho Youth Ensemble was represented by me, Racheal Nole, our dancers Julia Dunlop, Sarah and Mary Ann Meyers, Nell Rollins, Kristina Zimmerman. Sarah Ellis, from the professional company , participated as a dancer and did extremely well in all her classes. In addition, we had Kathryn "The Great" Zimmerman, Michelle Meyers and Patricia Dunlop as chaperons . Everyone had a fabulous time. It was a totally eye-opening experience!
These students are very committed to their dancing, their training, their art. Each student strives to give their best. It's amazing to see so many people in class working hard to do better, dance more fully, perfect their craft and art.
In addition to all the students, we teachers got to see each other's classes and compare notes on technique and training. That was very valuable. I taught three classes over the four days and spoke with all the other teachers about how we approach technique, style, musicality, the perfection of a dancer. We all had important contributions to make.
The RDA Festival was spread over two hotels and we occupied 6 studios simultaneously teaching, coaching, lecturing all day long. The students were very busy every day, learning and absorbing. We had fabulous pianists in all our classes --- from New York, Seattle, all over the map. The talent level was amazing and our girls from Ballet Idaho got to see for themselves the level that's out there. Our girls stood out technically and artistically. It was so gratifying for me to see how well our students did compared to everyone else.
We were in the midst of incredibly talented dancers and it was a huge boost for our girls to see where they stand. No one came away unaffected by the size of the experience.
Meals were provided by the RDA Festival and I have to thank Debra Rogo and her sister, Gaye, who direct the Mid Columbia Ballet in Richland and who coordinated over 500 people in various and complex groupings. How they kept it all together I'll never know, but it all went off without a hitch. It's like a gathering of the United Nations, there are so many people, so many different needs and agendas.
All the parents, chaperons, teachers, musicians, were thrilled with this event. One of the best things that happened was the awarding of prizes on the last night, at a Gala Dinner event. Lots of scholarships were given for different school's summer intensive programs. But at one point, Diane Lauridsen, one of the directors, silenced the audience with a major announcement: For the first time in RDA history, a professional contract as an apprentice was being offered to one of the students: Brooke Frandsen was offered a job with BALLET IDAHO!! We were stunned as the whole audience cheered in joy! And we were gratified that we were the only group in the entire Festival attached to a professional company. As one participant told me during the dinner, "You better be prepared next year for all these graduating girls to pound down your door looking for jobs!" That was so great to hear.
Ballet Idaho made a tremendous impression on the last night and we now proudly take our place as part of RDA Festival. Next year we go on to Las Vegas as full members.
I can't wait for the next Festival. Our Ensemble will be bigger and better than ever and we will make an important contribution to the Festival. More than that, our students will enjoy this rare opportunity to show what we can accomplish in Idaho and show their own special talents and artistry.
All in all, a great event and one of the highlights of this year's Ensemble life!
Thanks, everyone, for being so great, supporting your children, making Ballet Idaho great!!!
28 May 2010
Three teenagers, two mothers, two ballet teachers, Racheal Nole and myself and Ballet Idaho’s Artistic Director, Peter Anastos, take a road trip to Richland, WA. While the scenery was great, the purpose was a four day dance-filled adventure. I accompanied five young dancers, and three very supportive mothers, from the Ballet Idaho Ensemble to Regional Dance America’s Pacific Region Festival, hosted by Mid-Columbia Ballet. I attended Festivals in the Southwest region for years and was eager to share the experience with the students. On the car ride there I tried to encourage homework and studying, as they would most likely sleep the whole way back (I was right), but instead we played cards. My family took many road trips and balancing the deck on a cooler and reaching back and forth over the seats was a familiar episode. We checked-in to the hotels with little time to un-pack before the first performance. The Festival‘s opening ceremony included introducing the faculty and we vocally expressed our support for Peter and Rachel. Classes began at 8:30 am the next morning and continued till 5:00 pm. I did my best to keep up with the young dancers. Our students shined beautiful in their classes. It was a great pleasure to watch them with new instructors. Every dancer’s history of training and performing varies from person to person, and it is this constant stream of new experiences and details, from one life to the next, that contribute to training artists.
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13 May 2010
The Ballet Idaho Youth Ensemble continues its 2009/2010 tour performing three shows at two Boise area schools last Friday, May 7th. It was a long day for the dancers who performed two shows of Moving Through Time
, choreographed by Ballet Idaho Artistic Director, Peter Anastos, at Trail Wind Elementary. This Ballet shows the evolution of Ballet technique and dance styles over the last 200 years, including excerpts from classic Ballets such as Giselle, La Bayadere, Swan Lake
, and other famous Ballet variations. The Trail Wind Elementary students were especially enthralled by the stories of super-natural creatures, spirits and ghosts, and the Romantic idea of undying love and the torment of the unobtainable.
They ended the day at Riverstone International School performing the timeless classic, Peter and the Wolf
, choreographed by Ballet Idaho Ballet Master, Alex Ossadnik. This performance also includes a demonstration of the meticulous training dancers undergo to obtain Ballet technique and rhythm. The students thoroughly enjoyed the interaction as they were taught some of these techniques and allowed to follow along with the dancer’s demonstration.
The Ballet Idaho Youth Ensemble will end its 2009/2010 tour May 28th at Collister Elementary performing Moving Through Time.
We look forward to another great year of bringing dance, artistry, and culture to Boise and surrounding area students. A big THANK YOU to our Ensemble dancers and their parents for all of their commitment, dedication, and hard work to make this Outreach Program possible!
Ballet Idaho Upper Level Academy students are invited to join the Ensemble by filling out the Ensemble Membership Request Form included in the Pre-Registration packet for the 2010/2011 Academic year. For information on rehearsal schedules, performance dates, and Ensemble requirements and fees, you may refer to the current Student Handbook or contact Ballet Idaho at #343-0556.
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11 May 2010
Forget about Dancing with the Stars! There is simply NOTHING like dancing with the Boise Philharmonic!
What a fantastic time we had performing with the Phil this past weekend, both at the Morrison Center in Boise and Swayne Auditorium in Nampa. The dancers were thrilled being so close to the musicians, who were seated onstage. The sound was immediate, vibrant, LOUD!, and it made us all keep together as performers, which is not the same feeling when they're in the pit. The dancers and musicians could actually see each other and it was really fun.
Robert Franz was so welcoming to the dancers. He was sensitive to tempi, kept asking if things were allright, kept a very vigilant eye on the choreography and what the dancers needed. We can't wait for him to conduct our Nutcracker this year.
Fun was certainly the order of the day --- and I hope we brought a sense of humor to the Philharmonic audiences. They're already pretty hip, being used to the way Robert introduces pieces of music. He's a hoot! So when we started our antics in both ballets, they were ready for us. Attentive, kind, smart, the Philharmonic audience was with us at every step --- and didn't miss a single choreographic "punch-line."
We HAVE to do this again --- but don't worry --- Robert and Alex and I are already plotting something BIG as a collaboration for the future. Stay tuned....
28 April 2010
As Ballet Idaho dancers prepare for their showcase, Ballet Innovations
, it is exciting to watch the process of growth and understanding of each dancer through their choreography. Dancers are, what I call "action artists." They express their creativity through every movement and muscle in their body. Each one has their own style and idea of feeling. I feel that choreographing is opening yourself, your creativity, your style and your raw emotions. It is the difference between talking and singing.
Having studied art and music my entire young life, I found myself instantly comfortable when choreographing. I am partial to the classical ballet style, mostly because that movement works best with my body and, hence, I can make more sense of it when choreographing. My piece, Cercio
, is set to the beautiful monotony of a cycle, but the power and force that erupts when it is broken.
I am very excited to have the opportunity to set my vision on such a beautiful and talented group of dancers. It is a rare occurence for one to choreograph on a professional company, none the less, a valuable learning experience for any young dancer.
Robert Ryan Callan
27 April 2010
It started in a conference room. Eleven dancers sitting around the table and one on the phone. It’s Monday, our day off. We haggle over casting and in about an hour we have 12 choreographers with cast lists and preliminary schedules in hand geared up to go to work. We thought we had this all under control. That is how work on Ballet Innovations
I soon found out it wasn’t as easy as we all hoped. My first inclination came that Tuesday. We are all set to start rehearsing and one of the dancers notices that she is scheduled to be in two places at once. All dancers try to conquer the impossible but that is one feat even we can’t manage. I quickly come up with a solution and go see Alex, our Balletmaster, to approve the change. This is when it hit me how demanding producing this show would be. Alex turns to me and in his very frank east German way he says, “Michael, why don’t I give you authority to make all schedules.”
The ensuing two weeks became a whirlwind of scheduling, choreographing, rehearsing, costuming, light designing, and dancing. Our company of 23 is creating twelve ballets with most dancers performing in two or three. The work load is intense but everyone stepped up to the challenge. There has never been a more exciting time at Ballet Idaho. Dance is going on all day in four studios at once. A medley of music from different composers and different genres filters into the halls. The dances themselves are all very unique ranging from strictly classical technique to contemporary movements, from solos to duets to eight synchronized ladies. The arts are truly alive at the corner of 9th
and Myrtle, and the creative spark is leap-frogging throughout the building.
We are now less than a week away from our performances on May 1. Most of the choreography is done and all the dancers are getting anxious. There is a real joy in the building. We feel a sense of accomplishment. Twelve ballets in three weeks with little help from our staff. That sounds pretty great. Ballet Innovations
will be presented at our in house theater inside the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy for two shows on Saturday May 1, at 2:00pm and 8:00pm. Tickets are only $10 and there will be refreshments after the eight o’clock show. We only have 200 seats for each show so buy your tickets now, and you won’t be disappointed.
Michael Dennis Dunsmore