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A medley of music......filters into the halls.

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 was started. 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 Company Dancer

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
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