Tag Archives: Collin County Ballet Theatre

The Nutcracker: Collin County Ballet Theatre

Collin County Ballet Theatre Presents The Nurcracker. Photo: Fermaint Photography

This year’s Nutcracker season concludes with Collin County Ballet Theatre’s spirited version featuring stunning guest artists and live music at the Eisemann Center.

Richardson — With more than 15 professional and pre-professional The Nutcracker productions running from Thanksgiving to Christmas each year, ballet company directors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have to continuously find new ways to up their production value if they want to stand out from the rest of the Nut pack. For some ballet companies this means tweaking choreography, storylines and stage setup while for others it means adding live music and big names from local and national dance companies to draw in the crowds, which is exactly what Collin County Ballet Theatre (CCBT) does with its Nutcracker production. While the promise of live music and notable guest performers is what initially got me to the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts last Tuesday evening, it was the budding technical range and intuitive musicality displayed by the Senior Company (Brittany Chambers, Emily Dunaway, Aurelia Han, Lauren Huynh, Abigail Linnabary, Marissa Storey and Carissa Weaver) as well as Junior Company Member Alisa Ishikawa’s luminous performance as Clara that puts CCBT’s Nutcracker production in a class of its own.

For those unfamiliar with the 19th century holiday ballet originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, here is a quick synopsis: The story begins at the Silberhaus’ annual Christmas party where family and friends have gathered to eat, drink, dance and exchange gifts. Herr Drosselmeyer arrives late and entertains the children with magic tricks before handing out toys to everyone, including a nutcracker doll for young Clara. After Clara falls asleep she dreams of her nutcracker doll coming to live and battling an army of mice led by the Rat King. Once the Rat King is defeated the Nutcracker Prince escorts Clara through the Land of Snow and across the Lemonade Sea to the Kingdom of the Sweets where couples from different nations are waiting to dance for her, including the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.

Most Nutcracker productions have the cast enter the stage during the musical introduction at the beginning, but CCBT Director’s Kirt and Linda Hathaway cleverly chose to leave the stage blank and just let the audience soak in the crisp, pervasive sounds of the Plano Symphony Orchestra (PSO) led by Hector Guzman. Nothing beats live music at a dance performance. It adds new depth and excitement to a dancer’s performance, which we clearly saw in the Merlitons and The Waltz of the Flowers variations as well as the Grand Pas de Deux with the Cuban Prima Ballerina Adiarys Almeida (Melian Izotov Dec. 22) and World Ballet Competition Gold Medalist Taras Domitro (Shea Johnson Dec. 22).

The Hathaway’s kept the movement in the party scene simple with repetitive combinations that included waltz steps, pas de chats, glissades, piques and detournes, which the adults and children cleanly executed while also changing directions and group formations. Timing was off here and there and movement appeared fuzzy at times, but the performers continued to garner strength and confidence as the scene progressed. Alisa Ishikawa (Clara) was a guiding light for the younger dancers on stage. She confidently led the children across the stage in a number of skipping and running passes. She also exuded youthful vigor and technical brilliance in her solo moments which showcased her supple pointe work and graceful arms. Additionally, Ishikawa had some endearing moments with Kirt Hathaway (Drosselmeyer) who charmed audiences with his gleeful expressions and dynamic gesturing.

Once Clara is asleep chaos ensued in the form of tiny dancers dressed up as mice. They scurried around the stage as dancers dressed in red and white solider uniforms tried to coral them with their militant arm movements and clipped marching steps. The battle scene was where CCBT’s Resident Company began to shine. Jamie Thompson (former member of Dallas Black Dance Theatre) was a ball of controlled energy with his multiple jumps and grand battements, and Lauren Gonzales (CCBT instructor and choreographer) was the most agile Rat King I have seen all season with her head whacking leg extensions and multiple fouette turns.

The momentum in the battle scene carried over into the snow scene thanks to the striking violins offset by a brass counter melody that the dancing snowflakes then paralleled with their springy yet sometimes heavy footwork and fluttery arm movements. CCBT Resident Company Member Ashton Leonard’s rigid spine kept her from filling out some of the poignant musical notes in the Snow Pas de Deux, but she countered that with beautiful control during the adagio sections and a fearless approach to the numerous lifts. Guest Artist Shea Johnson continues to work on his technical control and onstage chemistry, which was evident in his tight landings and the confident way he led Leonard through the intricate partnering skills.

The second act contained even more exuberant dance sequences, standout instrumentals by PSO and exquisite performances from individual CCBT company members and guest performers. The dim lighting at the start of the Lemonade Sea section prohibited us from seeing the pretty green hues of the Sea Maidens and Sea Sprites costuming as well as most of Carissa Weaver’s Sea Queen choreography, but the lights did brighten up as we were welcomed into the Kingdom of the Sweets by a dozen cute cherubs.

The variations in the second half were hit or miss. While Brittany Chambers, Marissa Storey and Adrian Aguirre (CCBT Resident Company) had the tendency to rush at times, the trio did handle the playful shifts from staccato to sequential movement in the Spanish dance with polished ease. A stumble earlier in the act threw Emily Dunaway off her game in the Arabian duo, but kudos to her for maintaining the slow, hypnotic feel of the music with her unhurried back arches and leg extensions aided by Michael Stone (CCBT Resident Company). Katelyn Benhardt and Sophie Ludwig were not always in unison during the Chinese variation, but they attacked the nuances in the fast-paced number with exacting pointe work and endless energy.

Photo: Fermaint Photography

Aurelia Han, Lauren Huynh and Abigail Linnabary did not miss a beat or, in this case, a ballonne (a step in which the dancer springs into the air extending one leg to the front, side or back) in the Merlitons variation, while Reid Frye (CCBT Resident Company) wowed viewers with his acrobatic skills as the Trepak. Linnabary, Huynh and Weaver also embodied the ethereal qualities of the lead fairies in the Waltz of the Flowers with their flickering foot work, graceful arm positions and subtle musicality.

The highlight of the evening was the Grand Pas de Deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy (Adiarys Almeida) and her Cavalier (Taras Domitro). Almedia was the epitome of a prima ballerina with her technical fortitude, amazing body control and musical maturity. It appeared as if her body was the source of the music as she twirled, leaped and fluttered across the stage. Domitro also entranced the audience with his tender handling of Almedia during the various dips and balances in the partnering sections as well as his explosive leaps and quadruple pirouettes.

<< This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

2014 Nutcracker Nuttiness

Carolyn Judson as the Sugarplum Fairy in Texas Ballet Theater's The Nutcracker. Photo: Ellen Appel
Carolyn Judson as the Sugarplum Fairy in Texas Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker. Photo: Ellen Appel

No matter where you live there is a Nutcracker performance waiting for you. Here’s a list of North Texas Nuts, plus other holiday dance.

From the big-budget dance companies such as Texas Ballet Theater and Moscow Ballet to the smaller, community-based companies, there is an enchanting Nutcracker performance for everyone to see. For those of you living North of Dallas there is the Allen Civic Ballet, Festival Ballet of North Central Texas in Denton and LakeCities Ballet Theatre in Lewisville. For audiences in the Richardson and Plano area the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts is hosting multiple Nutcracker performances the next two months, including Chamberlain Performing Arts, Dallas Repertoire Ballet and Tuzer Ballet. For Garland residents there is Dallas Ballet Company’s annual production at the Granville Arts Center and for Irving patrons Ballet Ensembles of Texas’ showing of the holiday classic at the Irving Arts Center. If you prefer live music, check out LakeCities Ballet Theatre, Allen Civic Ballet and Collin County Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker productions. For those looking for something a little different there’s 8&1 Dance Company’s In The Spirit and Ballet Concerto’s Holiday Special.

Full list and ticket information below:

Nov. 21-22

Ballet Frontier of Texas presents The Nutcracker with choreography by Chung-Lin Tseng at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. Tickets $40-50. Call 817.689.7310 or visitwww.balletfrontier.org

Nov. 22-23

Moscow Ballet return to Dallas with its rendition of The Great Russian Nutcracker at Southern Methodist University’s McFarlin Auditorium. Tickets $28-88. Call 800.745.3000 or visit www.tickmaster.com

Nov. 22

Colleyville Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker for one-night only at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets $35-40 Call 972.744.4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com

Nov. 26

The Angelika Film Centers in Dallas and Plano screen Getting to The Nutcracker, a documentary about what it takes to produce a production of the Nut, at 2 p.m. in both locations. www.angelikafilmcenter.com

Nov. 28-30

Chamberlain Performing Arts annual showing of The Nutcracker featuring New York City Ballet Principal’s Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets $12-100. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Nov. 28-Dec. 27

Texas Ballet Theater takes the stage with Ben Stevenson’s version of The Nutcracker, with the same extravagant sets and effects that we saw last year. Call 877.828.9200 or visit http://www.texasballettheater.org

  • Nov. 28-Dec.7 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House
  • Dec. 12-27 at Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth
  • The Nutty Nutcracker is Dec. 19 at Bass Performance Hall

    LBT dancers in the snow scene section of The Nutcracker. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography
    LBT dancers in the snow scene section of The Nutcracker. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography

Nov. 29-30

LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s annual production of The Nutcracker features live music from Lewisville Lake Symphony and guest artists Sarah Lane of American Ballet Theater and Daniel Ulbricht of New York City Ballet. Tickets: $20-45. Call 972.317.7987 or visitwww.lakecitiesballet.org

Dec. 5-7

Dallas Ballet Company celebrates its 28th annual performance of The Nutcracker featuring guest artists April Daly and Miguel Blanco from Joffrey Ballet at the Granville Arts Center in Garland, TX. Tickets: $23-24. Call 972.205.2790 or visit www.garlandarts.com

Dec. 6-7

North Central Civic Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. Tickets: $30. Visit www.nutcrackertickets.com

Dec. 6-7

Ballet Ensemble of Texas presents the holiday classic with guest artist Dallas Blagg and Gabriela Gonzalez from Tulsa Ballet at the Irving Arts Center. Tickets: $25-30. Call 972.252.2787 or visit www.irvingartscenter.com

Dec. 6-7

Rowlett Dance Academy presents its version of The Nutcracker at Garland High School. Tickets $10. Call 972.475.8269 or visit www.rowlettdanceacademy.com

Dec. 6-7

Royale Ballet Dance Academy offering of The Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB
DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB

Dec. 12-14

Dallas Repertoire Ballet brings its rendition of the beloved holiday tale to the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets: $15-50. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Dec. 13-14

Festival Ballet of North Central Texas showing of The Nutcracker at Texas Woman’s University, Margo Jones Performance Hall in Denton, TX. Tickets: $11-36. Call 940.891.0830 or visit www.festivalballet.net

Dec. 20-21

Tuzer Ballet presents The Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets: $15-50. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Dec. 20-21

The Allen Civic Ballet presents its annual production of the holiday favorite with live musical accompaniment by the Allen Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. Allen High School Performing Arts Center in Allen TX. Tickets: $15-30. Visitwww.allencivicballet.org/nutcracker

Dec. 22-23

Colin County Ballet Theatre’s annual production of The Nutcracker features live music from Plano Symphony Orchestra at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets: $32-52. Call 972.744.4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com

Other Holiday Dance

Dec. 5-7

Denton City Contemporary Ballet presents A Gift for Emma at Krum High School Performance Center in Krum, TX. Tickets: $12-18. Visit www.dentondance.com

Dec. 7

8&1 Dance Company’s annual In The Spirit holiday celebration at the Quixotic Word in Dallas. Visitwww.8and1dance.com

Dec. 12

Ballet Concerto presents its annual A Holiday Special, with school performances at 10:30a.m. and 12:15p.m., and public performances at 7p.m. at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. Tickets: $5-20. Call 817.738.7915 or visitwww.balletconcerto.com

This list was originally published on TheaterJones.com.

Review: Ballet Fete, Collin County Ballet Theatre

Guest artists Michele Gifford and Ronnie Underwood perform a Pas De Deux from Sylvia. Photo: Fermaint Photography.
Guest artists Michele Gifford and Ronnie Underwood perform a Pas De Deux from Sylvia.
Photo: Fermaint Photography.

Collin County Ballet Theatre effectively hits on every part of the ballet spectrum with the help of some local talent in Balle Fete Esprit de Danse.

Richardson — From classical and romantic to contemporary and avant garde, Collin County Ballet Theatre’sBallet Fete Esprit de Danse had something for everyone to enjoy at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts last weekend. To accomplish such a feat CCBT Directors Kirt and Linda Hathaway called upon some local dance companies for assistance, including Ballet Frontier of Texas, Epiphany DanceArts and Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet as well as guest artists Yuliia Ilina, Michele Gifford, Harry Feril and Ronnie Underwood. What could have been an unbalanced collaboration was instead an exciting display of varying balletic forms and individual artistry with a couple of standout moments from CCBT’s own pre-professional company members.

The show opened with Kirt Hathaway’s Simple Symphony which had its premiere in 1982 with Lexington Ballet. Like the title states, this piece was very simple, from the pointe work to the formation changes, but by no means boring. The rudimentary steps (bourrées, changements, jetes) were done with exacting precision and uniformity. The six dancers skimmed across the floor with their triplets and bourrees as they weaved through one another. While the dancers point work was not always in sync, they paid meticulous care to their upper body positioning. Ilina and Feril’s pas e deux was a lesson in partner proficiency and artistic expression. Ilina’s wicked extensions and technical poignancy was complemented by Feril’s undeniable strength and innate ability to anticipate his partner’s needs. They never missed a hand connection and Feril handled the tricky press up lifts with ease.

Next up was August Bournonville’s (1805-1879) Reel performed by Ballet Frontier of Texas to music by Lovenskold. Dressed in white tops, plaid kilts, black knee socks and character or jazz shoes, this 31-person ensemble performed a fast-paced Scottish jig that featured rhythmic stomping, quick partner exchanges and continuous formation changes. Bournonville was not into flashy jumps or overheated gestures and he preferred accenting the downbeat in the music; the dancers took to Bournonville’s demi-character style with a vigor that left the audience breathless by the end.

Epiphany DanceArts piece, Rebirth, fused classical ballet technique with the expressive gesturing and wide arcing movement that we have come to expect from the group. The 12 dancers, dressed in various black tops and bottoms, executed a number of leg tilts, side reaches and back lunges as they continuously ran diagonally across the stage. A mashup of Beethoven and One Republic’s “5 Secrets” covered by The Piano Guys only heightened the sense of urgency in the dancers’ movements.

The most surprising work of the evening came from Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet. Choreographed by Victoria TranShades draws from the mythological idea that ghosts or spirits of the dead reside in the shadows of the underworld, according to the program notes. The movement is inspired by butoh, a form of avant garde performance art that arose in Japan in 1959. Adorned in flimsy white dresses and pale-painted faces or painted bodies as in David Sanders case, the dancers moved stiffly around stage as if in a trance, stopping intermittently to convulse or lackadaisically sway side to side. Their body shapes were disjointed (broken wrist and turn-in feet) and everything was done in a slow manner to the unsettling hum of Tibetan singing bowls.

The second half showcased the more traditional side of ballet with CCBT’s Mendelssohn, Longing for Spring and Le Corsaire Divertissement as well as the Snow scene from The Nutcracker performed by Ballet Frontier of Texas andSylvia Pas de Deux choreographed by Paul Mejia and performed by guest artists Michele Gifford and Ronnie Underwood (Oklahoma City Ballet). Gifford’s strengths came forth in her flexible spine and dynamic leaps and turns. Underwood surprised us all with his technical grace and exquisitely soft landings despite his broader frame.

It was hard to take your eyes off CCBT company member Kade Cummings in Mendelssohn and Le Corsaire Divertissement. He has come a long way over the last two years. Gone is the cheeky Fitz (The Nutcracker) character and in his place a more disciplined dancer. He oozed grace and confidence. His far-reaching lines, precision turns and effortless jumps set him apart from the other dancers. CCBT member Emily Dunaway displayed great emotional depth with her solo in Ilina’s Longing for Spring. Her conviction could be seen from her tense fingertips down to her punctuated pointe work.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

Southern Charm

Photo:  David Harris/ Time Frames Photography
Photo: David Harris/ Time Frames Photography

Hundreds of ballerinas from Texas and neighboring states took part in the 2014 Regional Dance America/Southwest Festival at the Eisemann Center in Richardson.

Richardson — A lone dancer dressed in country western wear (fringe top, black bottoms and cowboy hat) executes a series of slow leg extensions and turns on pointe in front of the silhouette of a gigantic cowboy hat. As the stage lights lift, the 30×15 foot cowboy hat is flown up revealing 20 or so dancers dressed in the same country attire. All together they performed a high energy Texas tribute complete with heel clicks, knee slaps, doe-se-does and hat tilts.

Top Hat, choreographed by Judy Klopfenstein and Cyndi Jones Littlejohn and performed by Dallas Ballet Company (DBC), kicked off the Emerging Choreographers showcase, part of the 2014 Regional Dance America/Southwest (RDA/SW) Festival which took place March 21-23 at the Renaissance Hotel and Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson.

As the evening went on, dancers from companies including Houston Dance Theatre, San Antonio Metropolitan Ballet, Midland Festival Ballet, Corpus Christi Ballet, Twin City Ballet and City Ballet of Houston just to name a few, took to the stage and gave engaging performances that highlighted their strengths which ranged from classical ballet and contemporary to more theatrical and jazz-based numbers.

These talented dancers travelled from Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas just to be able to take class from some of ballet’s best in addition to performing in front of their peers and auditioning for scholarships. “The dancers understand that the festival is not just about performance, but the complete experience,” says Collin County Ballet Theatre Co-Director Kirt Hathaway. “Excellent classes, being among like-minded young artists in an extended period, performing, watching performances, admiring others and wanting to become more than they are and challenging oneself is really what the RDA/SW festival is all about.”

For the faculty roster, event organizers and DBC directors Judy and Brent Klopfenstein used a lot of teachers who are either from or currently working in Dallas, including Jason Fowler (repetiteur for Christopher Wheeldon and former DBC student), Chris Koehl (So You Think You Can Dance Season 8 and former DBC student), Kim Abel (consultant with the dance department at Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts), Thom Clower (former member of Dallas Ballet), Leslie Peck (Associate Professor at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts) and Nycole Ray (member of Dallas Black Dance Theatre).

Ballet royalty Christine Spizzo, Mary Margaret Holt and Jock Soto were also on the schedule as well as Kurt A. Douglas (modern) and Tyler Hanes (theater dance). “I knew these teachers would be great, but in the end they were even better than I could’ve ever imagined,” Judy Klopfenstein says. “I knew I wanted a diverse faculty within the different styles of ballet, but I also wanted to throw in something new and different like African.”

She adds, “We also had between 25 and 35 scholarships to hand out this year. There were scholarships given by American Ballet Theatre, BalletMet, Colorado Ballet, Oklahoma City Ballet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet as well as scholarships given by multiple local companies.”

The local pre-professional ballet companies participating in the festival included Collin County Ballet Theatre (CCBT), Ballet Ensemble of Texas (BET), Dallas Metropolitan Ballet (DMB) and of course DBC. “It was an amazing festival,” Hathaway says. “In speaking with my dancers the classes were so exciting for them and the faculty was awesome. They felt that the instructors could relate to them while at the same time not expecting anything less than their full effort.”

Many other festival participants felt the same way. After learning a vigorous George Balanchine variation from Jason Fowler, BalletForte company member Schuyler Buckler says that even though the variation was tough, Fowler was very encouraging. “He’s the good kind of strict that makes you want to do your best every time.”

Kristen Wright with BET adds, “The way he teaches is just so fun and he is very motivating.”

It also helps when the teachers are just as passionate and excited to work with the students. “I have always wanted to be a teacher,” Spizzo says. “Throughout my career I have honed my teaching skills and I have found a nice balance between verbiage and execution. I have learned that if you throw too much verbiage at younger dancers they won’t be able to process it. To me, teaching is the highest esteem.”

In addition to the variations class students also took partnering, ballet, pointe, modern, Pilates, theater, African and hip-hop. “I really liked Chris Koehl’s hip-hop class,” says BET company member Jimena Flores-Sanchez. “He really helps you break out of your shell.”

Buckler of BalletForte also enjoyed Koehl’s class, but admitted it takes her a little longer to pick up hip-hop movement than ballet choreography. “I just think hip-hop takes a lot more brain power whereas ballet has a lot more to do with muscle memory.”

When asked about the competitiveness of their career choice the students all agreed that the bar has definitely been raised higher in terms of technique and training. “The level of competition out there is really high,” Buckler says. “Today you’re expected to be able to do it all. You really have to be diverse in all styles of dance and the RDA/SW festival helps prepare us for that.”

This feature was originally published on TheaterJones.com.


RDA/SW 2014 Festival Happening This Weekend!

RDA Logo 2014_tanIT’S HERE!

Approximately 750 bunheads from Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas will converge at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX, this weekend for the 2014 Regional Dance America/Southwest Festival, hosted by Dallas Ballet Company.

Aptly named Deep in the Heart…There’s Dance!, this year’s RDA/SW Festival features a variety of master classes from ballet, pointe and partnering to theater and hip-hop as well as an emerging choreography concert, showcase performance and a closing gala happening each evening at 7:30pm at the Eisemann.

Tickets for the performances are $30 and are available through the Eisemann Center and Dallas Ballet Company.

Some of our local talent will be in attendance, including Collin County Ballet Theatre, Ballet Ensemble of Texas and Dallas Metropolitan Ballet.

And of course there will also be some amazing guests artists teaching at the festival, including Jason Fowler, Tyler Hanes, Kim Abel, Jock Soto, Kurt A. Douglas, Mary Margaret Holt and Thom Clower, just to name a few.

I will be there all weekend observing classes and watching performances. Come on by and say HI!


Dallas Ballet Company to Host 2014 Regional Dance America/Southwest Festival

RDA Logo 2014_tanYEE HAW! The Regional Dance America/Southwest Festival (RDA/SW) is coming to Dallas.

The theme for this year’s event is Deep in the Heart…There’s Dance! and there will be plenty of that to go around.

The festival runs March 21-23, 2014 and is being hosted by Dallas Ballet Company and its Directors Brent and Judy Klopfenstein. The couple has been a source of inspiration for hundreds of aspiring ballet dancers in the Dallas area.

The event includes master classes, an emerging choreography concert, showcase

Photo:  David Harris/ Time Frames Photography
Photo: David Harris/ Time Frames Photography

performance and a closing gala which will take place at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX.

Tickets for the performances are $30 and are available through the Eisemann Center and Dallas Ballet Company.

Twenty-three dance companies from a five-state region are expected to come, including locals like Ballet Ensemble of Texas, Collin County Dance Theatre, Dallas Metropolitan Ballet and Dallas Ballet Company. I have seen all of these companies perform and I am excited to see what they have in store at RDA/SW!

Hope to see you there!

Collin County Ballet Theatre Announces Spring Season

unnamedCollin County Ballet Theatre’s (CCBT) 2014 Spring Season begins with the company’s annual fundraiser, Gala a la Rouge, Feb. 15, 2014 from 6:30 -10:30pm. It will be an evening of wine, song, dance and much more!

The Spring Season continues on March 29, 2014 with Voices of Spring, CCBT’s repertoire concert featuring an array of styles of dance and artistry.

And the season closes on May 10th with the new Young Choreographers Showcase which gives opportunities to aspiring choreographers.

All three events will be held at the Plano Courtyard Theatre.

For more information visit www.ccballet.com.

Q&A: Emilie Skinner of Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet

Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet Co-Founders Victoria Dolph (left) and Emilie Skinner (right)
Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet Co-Founders Victoria Dolph (left) and Emilie Skinner (right)

The co-founder of Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet talks about collaborating with local dance companies and guest artists for its upcoming Spring Mixed Repertoire Concert.

Plano — Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet (DNCB) continues its mission to establish a supportive, healthy environment in which dancers, artists and musicians can express their passion for the arts with its upcoming Spring Mixed Repertoire Concert, April 14 at the Courtyard Theatre in Plano. The program includes new works by DNCB,Collin County Ballet Theatre (CCBT), Danielle Georgiou Dance Group (DGDG) and guest choreographers Anna Ward and Michael Scott.

Growing up, Emilie Skinner trained with Gilbert Rome and Victoria Vittum in Houston. She has performed roles in The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and Swan Lake with the Houston Repertoire Ballet. And while her primary training has been in ballet, Skinner also has training in modern, jazz and contemporary dance.

Since graduating from the University of North Texas with a BA in French and a minor in art history, Skinner has been teaching, performing and choreographing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In addition to her role as co-founder of Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet alongside Victoria Dolph, Skinner also performs with Contemporary Ballet Dallas.

Theater Jones asked Emilie Skinner about the inspiration behind the Spring Mixed Repertoire Concert, the benefits of working with local dance talent, and what DNCB has in store for the future.

TheaterJones: What was the inspiration for this year’s Spring Concert?

Emilie Skinner: With the exception of our principal dancer, Lea Essmyer, we have a whole new group of dancers this spring, and we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to bring fresh, new choreography to the stage. Apart from one of my pieces most of the works are more contemporary, which is rather atypical of us. We really wanted to explore and extend our choreographic boundaries in order to show the versatility of our company. Up to this point the majority of our work has been largely classical in style.

What specific works will your company be presenting? Any premieres? Who are the choreographers?

Victoria Dolph has set two new contemporary pieces to the music of Balmorhea, a local band from Austin, and I have three new pieces to present, one of which I am extra enthusiastic about. What a Doll! set to music by Fats Waller is a collaboration between DGDG’s Danielle Georgiou and myself. This piece comments on the increasingly bizarre norms of our society due to the mainstreaming of social media and mounting lack of personal connections, which can result in complete social incompetence. Despite its meaning the piece is fun and quirky and we hope to make the audience LOL.

Courtesy of DNCB
Courtesy of DNCB

We are also featuring three guest companies and works by guest choreographers Anna Ward and Michael Scott. Michael Scott’s piece is a romantic pas de deux performed by company members Jaclyn Brewer-Poole and Brandon Chase McGee. Anna Ward’s piece is set to music by Native American singer Buffy St. Marie and exhibits a primitive nature layered on top of classical choreography. It is conceptually based on a community which has been all but erased from our society, but remains the axiom of the Native American culture.

Have you worked with Collin County Ballet Theatre or Danielle Georgiou Dance Group previously?

Yes, we have worked with both companies. We have performed as guest artists for CCBT and the directors, Kirt and Linda Hathaway, graciously donate rehearsal space to DNCB weekly. My partner Victoria Dolph also teaches and choreographs for the Hathaway Ballet Academy.

We had the pleasure of working with DGDG last spring when they guested as our “moon people” for the premiere of Kaguya-Hime at the Bishop Arts Theatre Center. This section of the ballet was choreographed by Danielle Georgiou and inspired by the Butoh style which originated in Japan in the early 1950s. Ms. Georgiou has also invited DNCB to perform at events such as the HARAKIRI: To Die

For performances at CentralTrak last May and, as I mentioned earlier, is collaborating with us on the upcoming performance on the 14th. We have a great deal of respect for the aesthetics DGDG regularly brings to the stage.

What do you enjoy most about working with other local dance companies?

It is extremely important to us to create opportunities for companies who share our passion for the arts to perform and express themselves. Dallas is full of small, independent dance companies who have a lot to offer, and the best way to generate growth of the dance community and produce quality art is through collaboration. I love seeing what these companies bring to the stage. We are never disappointed.

What challenges can occur when working with guest companies?

Although we have yet to run across this issue (luckily), I always worry about having to pull a guest piece due to artistic differences or for any other reason. We try to work with companies who share similar goals with DNCB in order to avoid uncomfortable situations such as this.

What piece(s) are you most looking forward to seeing?

I suppose I am anticipating seeing my pieces the most and to see what kind of feedback I receive just for my own personal reflection and growth as a choreographer, but I am really excited to see the whole show come together. With all new works there’s no way to foresee how the audience will react or what kind of review we will get, which is both exciting and a little scary.

Courtesy of DNCB
Courtesy of DNCB

What would you like the audience to take away from the performance?

I would love for them to come away with a sense of satisfaction; for them to feel they witnessed a full range of dance and passed an evening well-spent supporting the arts.

What can we expect to see from Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet in the future?

We’ve been around for just about a year and half and already I feel we have proven ourselves to be a well-rounded company. We started off performing short pieces at the MAC, Texas Theatre and CentralTrak and premiered our first original ballet, Kaguya-Hime, last spring. We have a strong group of dancers that is continuously growing. We plan to continue creating new works and perhaps take on another new full length in the not-so-distant future. We are gaining momentum and only hope to keep developing, creating and performing in order to fulfill our mission as a company.

This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

Holiday Cheer

Collin County Ballet Theatre delights audiences with its entertaining version of The Nutcracker.

Guest Artists Alexandru Glasucov and Melissa Zoebisch. Photo Courtesy Collin County Ballet Theatre
Guest Artists Alexandru Glasucov and Melissa Zoebisch. Photo Courtesy Collin County Ballet Theatre

Richardson — There’s nothing like Tchaikovsky, a Kingdom of Sweets and a Nutcracker Prince to get you into the holiday spirit. Collin County Ballet Theatre‘s 12th annual production of The Nutcracker Friday evening featured all this and glitzy costumes, cheeky choreography and some standout performances by guest artists and a few company members.

CCBT’s collaboration with the Plano Symphony Orchestra, led by guest conductor Leslie B. Dunner, was enthusiastically received and acoustically well-suited for the Hill Performance Hall at the Eisemann Center in Richardson.

The tale begins at a Christmas Eve party at the home of Mayor Silberhaus where our heroine Clara (Tiffany Lee) receives a nutcracker doll from her kooky uncle Drosselmeyer (Robert Stewart). Later that night while Clara is sleeping she dreams of a land of snow and sweets where her Nutcracker Prince and other magical creatures come to life.

The opening party scene of The Nutcracker sets the tone for the whole production, so it’s vital to keep it entertaining and quick-paced. Artistic Directors Kirt and Linda Hathaway did both. Each dance sequence was about a minute and the performers transitioned smoothly from one dance to the next.

The children’s choreography was cute and included basic ballet steps likes balances, chasses and sautés on soft shoe. Lee’s (Clara) pointe work was delicate and precise, but it was Kade Cummings’ (Fritz, Clara’s Brother) charisma and poise that stole the scene.

It was nice to see some familiar faces in Act 1 including Ruben Gerding as the Nutcracker Prince and Chung-Lin Tseng as the Snow King. Gerding is perfectly suited for the princely roles. He’s charming and graceful and takes good care of his female partners. Tseng ate up the stage with his grande jetes and double tour en lairs. Against a gray background Tseng and the Snow Queen (Ashton Leonard) gave an angelic performance. The couple’s controlled partnering and effortless lifts aided in covering up some of the timing issues among the Snowflake dancers.

Act 2 introduced us to the Kingdom of Sweets and the beloved Sugar Plum Fairy (Melissa Zoebisch) and Cavalier (Alexandru Glusacov). Maybe it was opening night jitters that had Zoebisch stumbling out of double pirouettes on pointe, but you can’t deny her impeccable epaulement (body positions) and leg extensions. Zoebisch’s confidence lifted when she partnered with Glusacov. Together they were rock steady and executed the Grand Pas de Deux beautifully.

The second Act also contained some fine dancing from the Chinese Tea (Michaela Raley, Kade Cummings and Sarah Smith) and the Trepak (Jose Checca). The audience loved Checca’s over-rotated toe touches and gravity defying leaps. The Merlitons (Jessi Gorman, Alexis Ludwig, Madeline McMillin and Courtney Miller) were also well rehearsed and didn’t falter in their fouette turns on pointe.

Even with a few minor missteps Collin County Ballet Theatre still pulled off an extremely entertaining and quick-moving performance that children of all ages can enjoy.

Repeat performance Dec. 22 at 3 and 7 p.m. at Heritage High School in Frisco.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.