Tag Archives: Dallas Metropolitan Ballet

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.

 

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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!

DC Honors This Sunday

Dance Council of North Texas Honors is This Sunday!

Don’t forget the 2013 Dance Council Honors is this Sunday, Sept. 29 at Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT). Honorees include Ann Etgen and Bill Atkinson, Nycole Ray, Solomon Espie, Sharen Bradford and Peggy McCaslin. Honorees’ bios are below.

The event also includes performances by selected Dance Council scholarship recipients and DBDT II as well as a reception and silent auction featuring arts-related items and theater ticket packages.

You can purchase tickets here!

More info about this year’s event is available at www.thedancecouncil.org.

 

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Ann Etgen and Bill Atkinson – Mary Bywaters Award for Lifetime Contribution to Dance

The husband-and-wife team of Bill Atkinson and Ann Etgen is truly a Dallas institution. Each had extensive professional ballet careers in New York, Canada, and South America before coming to Dallas. Etgen was a member of the New York Metropolitan Ballet Company and Atkinson has performed with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Ballet AAA. In addition to maintaining the Etgen-Atkinson Ballet School and directing the Dallas Metropolitan Ballet, Etgen has also served on the Dance Panel of Texas Commission on the Arts and Humanities and both have held offices in Regional Dance America/Southwest (RDA/SW).

Nycole Ray – Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellence

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A Detroit native, Nycole Ray graduated from The California Institute of the Arts with a BFA in dance. She received additional training at the California State Summer School of the Arts, Wayne State University and as an exchange student at the London Contemporary Dance School in England. Ray has performed with the Bruce Wood Dance Project, Walt Disney World Entertainment, Christopher and Friends directed by Christopher L. Huggins, the Lula Washington Dance Theater, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II and the Zadonu African Dance Company. This year marks Ray’s 16th season with Dallas Black Dance Theatre and her 4th season as the artistic director of DBDT II.

 

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Solomon Espie – Larry White Dance Educator Award

An Ohio native, Solomon Espie graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in physical education. He taught for the Columbus Public Schools and was an assistant track and field coach at OSU before moving to Dallas in 1985. It was his daughter who encouraged Espie to take a ballet class at Dallas Black Dance Academy and the experience would lead him to start the Lisbon Elementary School “Character Counts” Dance Company. Currently, Espie serves as President of the Board of Trustees of ARGA NOVA DANCE/Beckles Dancing Company where they have initiated a Resident Artists Program at the W. E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy.

Sharen Bradford – Mary Warner Award for Outstanding Contribution to Dance

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Sharen Bradford is a successful dance photographer whose interest in capturing dance on film began when she received a 35mm camera from her father. Bradford has also studied dance with Dottie Hunt and has a BFA and MFA in dance from Southern Methodist University. She was the Executive Director of Allen Street Photography Gallery and taught photography classes for SMU’s School for Continuing Education. She is also the owner of The Dancing Image and has photographed dance companies, including the Aspen-Santa Fe Ballet, Bruce Wood Dance Company/Bruce Wood Dance Project, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, TITAS and more.

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Peggy McCaslin – Texas Tap Legend

Peggy McCaslin began her training at the age of 10 at the Ballet Academy and is currently celebrating her 42nd year of teaching.  After receiving her BFA from Texas Christian University in 1972, McCaslin taught at The Wilshire Academy of Dance under the direction of Mary Wilcox and Pam Sparks. The studio became the Dallas Ballet Center in 1987 and McCaslin established the DBC Tap Connection in 2002. The Tap Connection has appeared in numerous National Tap Day events and tap festivals, including The Rhythm Junkies’ ‘Everything On Tap’ festival and The Drawbacks Youth Tap Ensemble.