International Ballet Theater founder Anita Conley on producing the dance narrative The Weaving, part of the company’s performance at the Majestic Theatre.
Dallas — International Ballet Theater (IBT) opens its 2013-14 season with The Weaving Saturday at the Majestic Theater in Dallas. This heartfelt dance narrative portrays the inspirational life of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Christian who aided more than 800 Jews in escaping the Nazis during World War II. The Weaving features original music and choreography and is directed by Gloria Moulopoulos and produced by IBT founder Anita Conley. The evening will also include variations from classical and contemporary ballet works such as Paquita and Don Quixote.
Born and raised in Dallas, Conley has been involved in the dance industry for more than 35 years. She performed as an Apache Belle at Tyler Junior College and in 1978 she formed Danceline USA, a leadership training camp for young dancers. In 1979, Conley was selected to be a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader, giving her the opportunity to entertain U.S. troops stationed abroad.
Conley received her B.A. in Health Education from Southern Methodist University and in 2009 opened Studio A Dance in Southlake, Texas. Conley and her husband are patrons of the New York City Ballet and have recently been welcomed on to the School of American Ballet Advisory Board.
TheaterJones asks Anita Conley about the inspiration for The Weaving, the challenges of producing a dance narrative and how she helped the dancers get in touch with their emotions for their parts.
TheaterJones: Why is it called The Weaving?
Anita Conley: Because Corrie ten Boom always described her life as a weaving, a tapestry of good, light threads and difficult, dark threads.
What inspired you to create The Weaving?
I actually fell in love with the story back when I was a girl after I saw the movie “The Hiding Place,” which is based off of the book of the same title. In the book Corrie and her family build a hiding place in their home for the Jews they couldn’t find homes for. When the family is arrested and taken to a concentration camp all the Jews were able to get away. What has stuck with me is even when circumstances were quite dismal Corrie and her sister Betsie continued to give thanks. Even after Betsie’s death, Corrie was able to give thanks and forgive the man responsible for her sister’s passing. I look at their lives and wonder if I could ever do that. Could I be light in a dark place like that?
What do you want the audience to take away from the performance?
The story is really about hope, redemption and love. Among all the Holocaust stories that I have read this one strikes me because of the redemptive quality. We all want redemption. And I think it’s really a story for our time what with all the bullying that you see going on today and the conditions of the world. Many countries still deny that the Holocaust ever existed. There are always going to be those bullies and what we need in this world are people who will stand up.
When did you start working on this project?
The first time I did The Weaving was with Brent and Judy Klopfenstein about seven years ago. We did a small rendition of it and when I started my own studio I wanted to do it again on a larger scale. In 2010 we took The Weaving to Lincoln Center to a sellout crowd and since then I have been working with Gloria Moulopoulos, a talented director and actress, to perfect the work.
Did you find it challenging to incorporate dance into the narrative?
Not really. If anything the dancing adds to the narrative. An example would be the Jewish Baby Dance. In this part of the story our hero Corrie ten Boom, who worked in the underground during the Nazis invasion of Holland, receives a call one night that all the babies from the Jewish orphanage are going to be killed. So, she collected uniforms of Nazis who had defected and sent her teenage boys and girls to the orphanage to retrieve the babies. It’s a great dance because it mirrors the story and comes across very powerful. The fact that The Weaving has a great story to follow, I think, makes it more appealing to our dance audience.
You opened Studio A Dance in 2009. Did you start International Ballet Theater around the same time?
No, but my dream for the studio was always to have a strong ballet program. We started competing in the YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix) in 2010 and we brought in some guest artists to help the girls with their variations and that’s when I knew I wanted to start a non-profit. It takes a little while to fill out your paperwork, but we did obtain our 501(c)3 status in 2011 and we have been building up the company ever since. I just love ballet, so it’s only natural that I would want to start a non-profit company to train the dancers we have in the proper techniques so they can progress in all the forms of ballet.
IBT’s mission is to enrich, educate and keep ballet alive in its classical and contemporary forms. So, without IBT there wouldn’t be The Weaving because the technique the boys and girls need to perform the dances they receive classically from our wonderful teachers and guest artists.
How did you help the dancers connect with the emotional content of this story?
Well, we had a movie presentation of The Hiding Place and Ms. Gloria would visit the rehearsals and talk to the dancers. Gloria plays the older Corrie so she would go and watch the dances and try to help the kids get in touch with their emotions and help them show that emotion through their eyes and bodies.
This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.