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Dress Parade?

So, I was very curious yesterday when the hallway was lined with clothing racks and storage containers. I went into the studio anticipating a rehearsal of the company preparing for this weekend’s collaborative performance with the Boise Philharmonic. To my surprise is Heather Hawk with a black gown from the mysterious lady in Cinderella and Nutcracker soldier hat. Next to her were Jared Hunt, Ryan Nye & Graham Gobeille….in white tights and Nutcracker soldier hats. What in the world? I thought they were performing La Creation du Monde by Milhaud and Divertissement by Ibert? I clarified the confusion with Artistic Director and Choreographer, Peter Anastos, who explained the choreography to Ibert’s piece is an idea of a dance company in rehearsal with a myriad of bad situations and problems. Peter’s comedic touches once again will be on stage this weekend with the Boise Philharmonic!

Oh, Baby!

Tuesday’s audience for Ballet Idaho Family Series presentation of The Italian Program was truly inspiring….and dedicated! I think I officially met Ballet Idaho’s YOUNGEST audience member ever, a young gentleman born at midnight (April 5th). Reminder: our Family Series performance was at 6 pm on April 6th. Now, that’s some dedication from some loyal Family Series season ticket holders. Introducing young children to all art forms is so important and this baby was here in our auditorium to hear and watch Ballet Idaho excerpts from Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Stravinsky’s Pulcinella. It was ‘date night’ for one very special father and daughter as well. Dad came decked out in a tuxedo and his beautiful little girl was dressed to the nines in her dress and shawl with big blonde curls. Their evening was starting at the ballet and moving to dinner….how precious is this? These moments are memorable in so many ways especially with this young lady who will remember this ‘date night’ with her daddy and will hopefully someday bring her children to see the ballet. -Heather Calkins

Oh Pulcinella, you're simply mad!

Our rehearsals for the Spring antipasti program had been underway for a week or so when we were scheduled to have our first day of Pulcinella antics. My legs were tired and I was ready to go home to enjoy a glass of Brunello when I realized that having a role created on me would be as wonderful as the shaved porcini salad at Antico Noe in Firenze. I decided to stay. Pulcinella is a debonair jokester with little or no inhibitions. He succeeds in being the center of attention in perpetuity. He is helplessly doomed in attracting women and he is forever followed by his loyal clown fratelli. He prances about in his clown suit as if it were the most exclusive couture in all of Milan. I see absolutely no relationship between Andrew Taft and Pulcinella whatsoever. The piece begins with nothing but the head of Pulcinella. His head is simple and elegant like a well-reduced Bolognese sauce. The curtain is reluctantly drawn due to the imminent frenzy among the maidens within the theater. Sadly, there is a body attached to said head... The fun ensues as the Pulcinelli take over the town and unintentionally woo all of the ladies (it's unavoidable). Rehearsal time in the studio is always bright and the creation process is molto bene. I am reluctant in divulging too many of Pulcinella's secrets. The ballet is coming to fruition, the characters are developing and the laughter will be a wonderful thing... just like the magic that happens when basil meets mozzarella and tomato. Buon appetito! -Andrew Taft

Ballet Idaho has a great Academy!

Ballet Idaho has a great Academy! So many of our students are traveling to prestigious schools this summer it's a sure sign we're on the right track. David Wilcox from Long Beach Ballet came to audition for his summer course in January. Part of that program is a 3-week trip to China and he invited several of our students to join. Kirsten Jensen, Nell Rollins and Marina Russo will be taking part. Julie Dunlop is another story: She was chosen by both David Wilcox AND Jillana for summer intensive but chose, after much thought and parental input, to go to Jillana's School in Taos, NM. Jillana is an extraordinary person. She was one of the stars of New York City Ballet in the 1950s and 60s and a favorite of George Balanchine. She premiered several of his most important ballets and, looking at pictures and film of her dancing, she was surely one of the most beautiful dancers he ever had! Studying with this amazing woman is a direct link to Mr. Balanchine's technique and his style. There is hardly another opportunity so rich in the ballet world today. When Jillana was here for her auditions in February, she made a special point to tell me how good our students are here at Ballet Idaho Academy. She was very flattering, which of course is a reflection on our students' hard work and discipline. She chose several to attend her summer intensive: MaryAnn and Sarah Meyers, Julia Dunlop, Cristina Zimmerman and DJ Massingale will be attending this summer. We're all eager to hear about their experiences in Taos when they come back to Boise later this summer! Meanwhile, Youth Ensemble members Sara and Marianne Meyers, Julia Dunlop, Nell Rollins and Cristina Zimmerman will have the added experience of attending the Regional Dance America Festival in Richland, WA, this May. This is an incredible program, including over 500 students from ballet schools and pre-professional companies all over the Western states. Teachers from several different countries will be giving ballet classes, there will be seminars on career opportunities, mime classes, folkdance classes and lots of information being shared. This is a great opportunity for our students to see their colleagues and peers from other places and bond with them on what makes dancing and training so important and special. Our Ballet Idaho Youth Ensemble will be observing this year --- it is too early for us to perform at the prestigious Festival ---- but we can count this as our debut there and will look forward to being a performing company in years to come. Sarah Ellis, one of our company dancers, will be joining us. She'll attend classes and seminars and be drafted as a chaperone! Congratulations to all our fantastic students and Kudos on achieving these benchmarks in their progress with Ballet Idaho Academy.

What an exciting evening!

I was so excited for Tuesday’s Family Series:Cinderella! We had a very welcome full-house at the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy auditorium highlighting Act II of this Saturday’s production Cinderella, all in full costume and make-up. I watched curious kids learning about theater etiquette, Peter spoke about the choreography, we all saw highlights of the ballet in real time and got to meet the dancers up-close and onstage. Just click on the pictures and I need say no more. Many thanks to our season sponsor of the entire series: Treasure Valley Family Magazine and all the volunteers who helped make it possible. Partners like you make living and working in the Treasure Valley a pleasure and very rich, indeed. It is very gratifing to watch the “new” Ballet Idaho grow and take flight in just 1 ½ short years, it’s our second season with a new Artistic Director and new company and re-defined Academy of dance. We are here to stay and I invite you to join the movement and keep company with us! Family Series: All-Italian Program is on April 6th at 6:00 here at the studios! See you at the theater . . . -Julie Numbers Smith-Executive Director [flickr-gallery mode="photoset" photoset="72157623235997311"]

Cinderella, Cinderella night and day it's Cinderella!

Rehearsals are going so well for our new production, it's hard to believe the company just came back from a long post-Nutcracker lay-off. The dancers are in amazing shape! Both my Cinderellas, Phyllis Affrunti and Racheal Nole are fabulous --- they are very different dancers. One of the great things about having a number of principal dancers is the ability to see the differences in artistic focus. Both these ladies are working on a very high plane of inspiration -- this is one of the best gifts we can offer our audiences here in the Treasure Valley, the ability to see really first class dancers at the top of their form. While Racheal is sweet and tender, lyrical in her pas de deuxs, sparkling and joyful in her solos, Phyllis is dramatic and vulnerable, finely shading her pas de deux moments and bringing great pathos to the Act 3 "mad scene." Thinking back on all the great leading dancers I worked with on Cinderella in New York at American Ballet Theatre, I can only say that my two ballerinas here in Boise can match them step for step! Meanwhile, all the other dancers are rising to the occasion, especially the surprising and delightful work of Steven Bain and Michael Dunsmore, playing the two Step-Sisters. They have the company convulsed with laughter at every rehearsal! They are truly hilarious and, after a bit of hesitation at first (few male dancers' hearts soar when they see themselves cast as "Step-Sisters...) they decided to plunge into their roles with gusto. The roles of Step-Sisters are a real challenge both in comic timing and dramatic musicality --- not to mention learning to walk in heels! Both Steven and Michael are doing fantastic work and I think our audiences, especially kids, will roar with laughter at their antics. Our dancers look beautiful in the Ballroom scene waltzing the night away, they carry fantasy to new heights in the Four Seasons section of Act 1 and offer strong dramatic portrayals of the myriad characters who pursue the Prince in Act 3. Our company men this year are really growing artistically and technically and they have quite a lot of spectacular dancing to do in all 3 Acts. Please join us at the Morrison Center on Saturday, February 6. This ballet is a hilarious and romantic fairytale, a special treat for audiences of all ages --- you won't want to miss it! Also, don't forget about Overture Notes, my conversational look behind the scenes that happens one hour before curtain time --- that's 1pm and 7pm and Saturday in the theatre. I have a lot of great stories about Cinderella, especially the time Mikhail Baryshnikov and I came REALLY CLOSE to performing the Step-Sisters ourselves!! -Peter Anastos [flickr-gallery mode="photoset" photoset="72157623337898130"]

Week two of Cinderella

Week two of Cinderella rehearsals begin and the dancers are ready to learn Act III. Class is quiet and it seems that a little mental fatigue and muscle soreness have set in. By Friday I have seen it all... tripped over my broom, had my practice skirt fall to my ankles in some turns, spilled my coffee on James' ballet shoes. I tell myself that I am "saving my grace for the stage" and that it's better these things happen in rehearsal! Since there are lots of props for me in this show, I make a mental list with Monica... a crust of bread, a needle and thread, the slipper... Both casts work on the last pas de deux with Alex. It's beautiful and I'm so inspired watching Phyllis and Jared as they put it together. I watch through the doorway as the Prince and his companions double saute basque their way through Act III in search of Cinderella. It's like a "dance- off" and that thought makes me laugh. Friendly competition can bring great things out in dancers. Girls from the enemble join us for a scene where the Prince is showered with a deluge of shoes as he pirouettes. He hits the floor in the fetal position and everyone giggles. The Stepsisters enter the studio and the final scene begins. I watch as Peter explains the comic timing to them with the precision of a surgeon. It must be clear in order to be funny... and they are. When Steven offers a sickled foot and smile to be fit by the slipper I realize that no matter how hard I try, they will steal the show!

--Racheal Nole, Principal Dancer be continued!

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Nutcracker on the Strip

Exhausted the morning after finishing six successful shows of Ballet Idaho’s The Nutcracker and attending the cast party, I was already on a flight to Las Vegas, Nevada for another week of performances. Upon arrival in this brand new city, I was excited to start my adventure. The city was filled with lighted up skyscrapers and billboards with a mountainous desert backdrop. However, it was straight to the studio to rehearse with an unknown partner and company of dancers. After being welcomed by the staff and company, I rehearsed the Arabian variation with Barry over the next few days. What you would normally have a few weeks to prepare, we had less than five days. Within three days of working together, the difficulties turned into a solid routine and we we’re very comfortable dancing with each other. Since I was only guesting for one variation in Act II, I had plenty of downtime to enjoy The Strip. Staying at the Paris hotel was a treat. The view from my room allowed me to enjoy the illumination of the city and water-show in front of the Bellagio anytime. The tourist priced food was satisfactory. French cafés and restaurants lined down the cobblestone passage. The $9 chocolate croissant and coffee was well worth the outrageous cost. The location was conveniently near the Miracle Mile, a long corridor filled with young, stylish stores where I could finish my holiday shopping. High-end shops were found at ever corner in the nearby hotels. I had the opportunity to visit the surrounding casinos sightseeing, although I was unable to gamble because of my age. Getting lost for over an hour in Caesar’s Palace was an exploration. The theatre we performed in was also attached to the Paris. The performance routine was standard including a warm-up on stage, rehearsal, corrections, and then the show. The costumes and sets were all very familiar because they were borrowed from Ballet Idaho. It was another amazing experience to perform in a crowded, but beautiful venue. Before I knew it, my five performances were over. Thankful for the experience, I said goodbye to the new friends I made. My last night in Las Vegas, I had an entertaining night out on The Strip with some of the dancers. One week after I arrived, I was on a flight to New Jersey to enjoy the holidays with my family. Looking back on the experience, I am extremely thankful for the opportunity I was given and I am already planning my next trip back to Las Vegas. Read the review! 'Nutcracker' a near-perfect treat - News -* --Jessica Sulikowski


It was our first week of preparing for "Cinderella." Music by Prokofiev and choreography by Peter Anastos, it is a story we all know and love. The dancers are working very hard and learning lots of new material. It's nice to be back in the studio and put our bodies back together after the holiday layoff. Behind the scenes, we find new uses for some of the many props used in this ballet... the ribbons that are used to depict the wheels of Cinderella's carriage are also great for rhythmic gymnastic routines on the break! All in all, we managed to set most of Act I and II which is a great accomplishment in just a week! For me, "Cinderella" is like revisiting an old friend and it's comforting to have something familliar in a place that is new to me. I danced this version of the ballet at Nevada Ballet twice, in 2003 and 2008. Of course there are always changes and updates in the production to best suit the company, though I try to share whatever knowledge I can from my own past experience. One addition that is very special to me is including children from the Ensemble in Act I and I look forward to sharing the stage with my lovely students who will play "mice". Their enthusiam is contagious! Next week we will begin Act III, but for now a well deserved weekend! be continued --Racheal Nole

My Nutcracker Adventure

Sunday December 13, 2009 It’s 4:30 pm Sunday December 13th. The Morrison Center is rolling up the carpet from Ballet Idaho’s successful run of Nutcrackers. The crew was busy packing, the volunteers were helping gather costumes, and the company was abuzz about post show parties and their plans for the holidays. What was I doing? Packing for an early flight that would take me to dance in yet another Nutcracker. “What am I thinking?” kept running through my head when I checked my plane fight time. The 6 am flight departure was glaring at me, but so was the destination. NYC here I come! Many ballet schools around the country have their very own Nutcracker traditions. This holiday classic is where most dancers have their first stage experience that doesn’t include the word “Recital”. New Tampa Dance Theatre is one of these schools. The students carry most of the show themselves, which is a huge feet. The Sugar Plum and Cavalier are professional dancers that are hired just for the shows. That is where I come in. But before I could get to the sunshine state I had to take a detour to work with my partner in New York City. Monday December 14, 2009 I arrived in New York in the early evening. I had a list a mile long of places to eat, people to see, and of course, stores to visit. Way more than I could ever accomplish. Of course I also had to put an entire Grand Pas de Deux together with my partner, Benjamin Lester, who danced with Ballet Idaho last season. This was going to be Ben’s last show before he retired and we wanted it to be as much fun as possible. We went to dinner to discuss our strategy of working, eating, and shopping. Once I was full of yummy New York goodness, we walked through Times Square and shopped in Soho before returning to Ben’s home for some serious youtubing of Grand Pas videos and then sleep. Tuesday December 15, 2009 Tuesday morning arrived way to early for me, but I was excited to get to work. Ben and I took the subway to Steps on Broadway to take ballet class. I was hopeful to see some well-known dancers. I wasn’t disappointed. Along with several principals from American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, the recently retired Alexandria Ferri, who is my idol stood diagonally from me. It was pretty hard to concentrate on myself in class with dancers all around me that I usually only see in magazines. Just as entertaining for me were the other “regular” students in class. I am not sure if they even knew what the teacher was asking for half the time, but they were truly living in the moment. I am almost positive that the Saturday Night Live character who could “kick, stretch and was 50 years old” was based on one of the women standing by me. After class Ben and I trekked to the Manhattan Movement Arts Center. It was a beautiful facility and I was able to watch the famous David Howard teach a class before we got to work. Surprisingly we got everything set and solid within 2 hours. Pretty satisfied with our effort Ben went off to oversee an event he was hosting and I was off to shop, eat, and visit with old friends. I was on my own in the Big Apple and loving every minute of it. Wednesday December 16, 2009. Wednesday brought much of the same as the day before. Ballet class with most of the same amazing dancers I had seen the day before, including Wendy Whalen. Then off to rehearsal, a lovely little meal at Bouchon in Columbus Circle, and some more much needed visits to old friends. Besides getting completely lost on the subway at midnight, I was already deeming this the best guesting job I ever had and I hadn’t even gotten to the real job yet. I stuffed my bags full of all my new NYC goodies that I found and was ready for some sun in Florida. Thursday December 17, 2009 Once again I was dragging my luggage to an airport way to early to mention the time. On the way to our flight we drove by the old Yankee stadium. I was informed that they are selling it off bit by bit to pay for the new stadium. This was latter confirmed when I opened my Skky Mall magazine on the plane. Besides me leaving my wallet at the ticket counter, going through security before I realized it, going back through security to find it as someone with my wallet was headed the other way, not being able to get back through security to get my wallet because my ticket was (guess what, in my wallet), and a number of pages over the intercom of LaGuardia, we were in Tampa, Florida and it was 70 degrees outside. This was no sweater weather! Now for those of you who don’t know Ben, he likes to do things a little different than the norm, which I am all for. As we are walking to the rental car counter he informed me that he asked for the “mystery car” package. Basically, he had no idea what we were going to get, but it was suppose to be one step above compact. I was seriously hoping for a Winnebago and worried that that 15-passenger van I just saw drive by was slated for us. Unfortunately, a mini van was the mysterious vehicle we were waiting for and Ben was not having it. As I guarded the luggage Ben secured something a little more stylish and only 10 more dollars a day. We loaded our luggage into a convertible, put the top down and drove to dress rehearsal. The New Tampa Dance Theatre was performing at Southern Florida University. After an unintended driving tour through the campus, we finally found the theatre and Ben introduced me to everyone. Our dressing room was huge and a beautiful gift basket full of snacks and chocolate was waiting for our growling tummies. The kids were nice and little shy at first. Although they all knew Ben from him guesting with them before, I was a new addition and they were curious. When we got the crash course in our entrances in the opening and finale of Act II, little heads were peaking in the studio door to check out the new ballerina. It made me remember how I felt watching professionals when I was younger. I felt very inspired to do the best I could and show how much fun it could be. The dress rehearsal went well and we were off to the hotel with the top down and the heat on. Friday December 18, 2009 It seems like when you go away is when everything back home goes crazy. This was happening for the both of us to a certain extent so we spent most of the day taking care of business, buying things we forgot for the theatre and resting before the show. The audience for opening night was packed full of families excited to see their little ones perform. With big smiles on their faces, the dancers took the stage by storm. With every dance I got more and more excited to get on stage. Ben and I walked out on stage and everything just felt right. It was just plain fun. The audience gave all of us a standing ovation and there was cheering all around. Still on a high from the show, we went looking for food. We wound up at a little family run Sushi place that was strangely quiet for a Friday night and very, very delicious. With our round bellies that would hopefully deflate by the matinee, we waddled to our car and attempted the drive back to the hotel with me using Ben’s GPS on his iphone to guide us. Possibly, I should have gotten a crash course in reading this device, because we missed the exit and ended up on the causeway bridge into St. Petersburg. It was too bad it was midnight, because I am sure the drive would have been beautiful during the day. An hour later and after lesson in how to read maps, we were resting up for our two show day. Saturday December 19, 2009. Before the matinee we ventured to this little breakfast place Ben knew. When we sat at our table, we noticed that the restaurant was playing the Grand Pas from Nutcracker. This has always been a sore point with dancers who listen to Nutcracker 6 hours a day for months at a time. You try to get away from work and sure enough the store or building you venture into to is blaring Waltz of the Flowers, Russian, or Marzipan. We found it unusual that the Grand Pas was actually playing and had serious problems concentrating on the menu until it was done. We then went looking for Christmas presents for our families. This is where my warning to all comes. If you pass by a huge building that says “International Flea Market”. It is not what it seems. Ben and I parked our car in front of a particular colorful one of these warehouses and were already hoping for handmade trinkets and eclectic finds. Upon entering our dreams were dashed as tattoo stands, spandex dresses, laminate furniture and replica designer bags were as far as the eye could see. It was then that Ben realized he left his tights at the hotel and they were probably still damp from the wash the night before. He dropped me off at the theater and drove back to retrieve them. When he returned his tights were still damp and against my better judgment he laid them across the makeup lights in our dressing room. Well, when I went to warm up, he went to turn his tights over and sure enough they had round burn marks up and down both legs. Now, I knew this was bad, but I could not stop laughing at the whole situation. Luckily, another dancer had an extra pair of white tights that Ben could borrow. Unluckily, the other male dancer was about 5’7”. Ben is about 6’2” and all legs. He ended up having to wear his burned tights under the smaller one. Although it wasn’t noticeable from the audience, I could still see little brown spots and it made us both laugh for most of the day. Sunday December 20, 2009 It was our last show together. More importantly, it was Ben’s last performance. His parents came to see him and we both got a little teary at the beginning of our pas. Once again Ben and I had a wonderful show and cheered all the other students on during their divertissements. When the show was over, I immediately gave my flowers to the student who danced Dew Drop. She had sprained her ankle in Saturday night’s show, and like a true ballerina in training, she bucked up and danced beautifully on Sunday. Ben gave his flowers to a girl who did her entire Spanish dance to either no music or the wrong music due to a music malfunction on opening night, but kept on dancing like a pro. Even at this young age, these dancers were proving the show must go on. We were immediately asked back for next year, which prompted me to remind Ben, that dancers never truly retire. I was sad to say goodbye to everyone, but anxious to get home to Boise for the holidays. The cold snap was heading to Florida and even though everyone was starting to bundle up, Ben drove me to the airport with the top down, the heat on, and Opera blaring. A dancer’s life is always changing. Most of us live our lives like modern day nomads. Moving from city to city, going anywhere where we can dance. The one true constant in our world seems to be the Nutcracker. Some dancers like it, some dancers could do without it. For me, it is like an old friend. There is always an adventure, an old and new story to tell, a lot of laughs, and a few tears. So last week when our pianist attempted to get away with playing “Waltz of the Flowers” for pirouettes and every dancer shouted “Noooooooo!!!” I secretly knew that when I heard that music in 10 months it would make me smile. --Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti, Principal Dancer
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