Dallas DanceFest has announced its 2017 line up which shows a lot of hometown pride.
Wow! It is hard to believe that this year marks the 4th installment of Dallas DanceFest (DDF) which was created in 2014 under the guidance of arts patron Gayle Halperin and the Dance Council of North Texas. It looks like the festival’s mission of presenting high caliber and well-rounded dance performances will continue this year with a program that features all the major local players as well as the largest showing of pre-professional companies to date and a handful of relatively unknown dance companies from around and outside the Metroplex.
Let’s start with the bigwigs in Dallas dance. For the fourth straight year Bruce Wood Dance Project, Texas Ballet Theater and Dallas Black Dance Theatre will be featured at DDF as well as their smaller counterparts DBDT: Encore! and the Texas Ballet Theater School.
We will also see pieces from some repeat dance companies, including Dark Circle Dance Company, Contemporary Ballet Dallas, Indique Dance Company, Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Dance Ensemble and Houston-based NobleMotion Dance.
DFF 2017 will also feature a number of first timers, including Danielle Georgiou Dance Group, Center for Ballet Arts, Impulse Dance Project, Uno Mas and Grandans. Southern Methodist University Meadows dance student’s Kat Barragan and Arden Leone will also be showcasing work for the first time at this year’s festival.
I am also pleased to see so many familiar pre-professional ballet companies on this year’s roaster, including Ballet Ensemble of Texas (Coppell, TX), Ballet Frontier of Texas (Fort Worth, TX), Chamberlain Performing Arts (Plano, TX), Dallas Ballet Company (Dallas, TX) Royale Ballet Dance Academy (Dallas, TX) and LakeCities Ballet Theatre (Lewisville, TX). I have seen these companies perform a variety of dance styles from classical and neo-classical to more contemporary and jazz movements and I am eager to see how these aspiring professionals handle the pressure of sharing the stage with the more seasoned artists on this year’s program.
We have also seen a surge in the number of dance festivals occurring around Texas over the last couple of years so, it didn’t surprise me to see the Rhythm and Fusion Festival and Wanderlust Dance Project in this year’s line up. If you’re interested in reading more about the rise of dance festivals in Texas then you should read Nichelle Suzanne’s 2015 article for Arts+Culture magazine entitled Talent, Training, Festival & More: Fueling Contemporary Dance in Texas.
The 2017 Dallas DanceFest will take place Sept. 2-3 at the Moody Performance Hall, formerly Dallas City Performance Hall. More information about the festival can be found on the Dance Council of North Texas website.
LakeCities Ballet Theatre offer up a visual feast of vibrant dancing and stellar guest artists in honor of its 25th production of The Nutcracker.
Flower Mound — With stunning sets, exquisite dancing and live musical accompaniment provided by the Lewisville Lake Symphony, it’s no wonder LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s (LBT) annual production of the Nutcracker is one of the top items on people’s to do list every holiday season. This year’s Nutcracker performance was especially festive as it not only marked the company’s 25th anniversary of the holiday classic but was also the first time LBT sold out both showings at Marcus High School in Flower Mound this past weekend. This Nutcracker production also marks a transitional year for the company as many of its senior members graduated last spring, including Sydney Greene, Ali Honchell and Mackenna Pieper, giving members the opportunity to set up to the plate.
For those needing a refresher, the Nutcracker ballet is divided into two acts. The first includes a large party scene where our heroine Clara receives a Nutcracker doll from her Uncle Drosselmeyer. When Clara goes to sleep that night she dreams of a battle between the Rat King and her Nutcracker Prince and also the Kingdom of Sweets where couple’s from different nationalities, including Russia, China and Spain perform for the reigning couple. After the climactic Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier pas de deux, Clara returns to her bed where she awakens from this wondrous dream.
In LBT’s version, audiences are immediately pulled into the story as families heading to the Silberhaus’ annual Christmas party marched down the aisles and up onto the stage. Former English National Ballet dancer Kenn Wells (Herr Drosselmeyer) keeps the audience connected as he gestures to us to help him find the location of the party. Artistic Director Kelly Lannin’s fine eye for details, imaginative choreography and quirky sense of humor are on display throughout the party scene from the inventive adult and children dance sequences to Wells’ well-timed practical jokes and Mayor Silberhaus’ (Chuck Denton) over-the-top facial expressions especially after he ingests one too many holiday spirits. Not everyone may have noticed, but Denton also smoothly orchestrated almost every transition in the party scene from the lighting of the tree and the puppet show to the presentation of the Ballerina and Cadet dolls. Madeline Hanly and guest artist Ruben Gerding perfectly captured the doll’s unyielding forms with their pursed lips, angular arm gestures and jerky upper body movements.
Carly Greene shone in the role of Clara. Her natural grace and infectious personality were enhanced by her poignant pointe work and passionate character portrayal. Unlike other productions where Clara does very little after the first half, Lannin gives Greene many opportunities to flex her technical muscles throughout the show, much to the viewers delight. The only instance I am on the fence about is Lannin’s decision to feature Greene and guest artist Jack Wolff (Nutcracker Prince) at the beginning of the Snow Scene, a spot that is typically reserved for the Snow Queen and King pas de deux. Don’t misunderstand, Greene and Wolff nailed every singlearabesque hold, assisted pirouette and various sustained body movements, but their performance just couldn’t match up to the exciting lifts and complex pointe work that Mackenna Pieper and Shannon Beacham have perfected over the years in their roles of Snow Queen and King. Pieper, who graduated last year, has left some hard shoes to fill and it will be interesting to see who rises to the challenge. Adult member Faith Jones’ super long legs and penchant for beautifully controlled movements would fit the role nicely as would Carley Denton’s commanding stage presence and regal posturing.
The cast carried the party vibe over into the second half with more lively and technically brilliant performances by both LBT company members and special guests Sarah Lane (American Ballet Theatre) and Daniel Ulbricht (New York City Ballet) as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Denton was fun and flirty as the lead of the Spanish dancers, deftly guiding the rest of the corp, including Chloe Davis, Ashleigh Eaton, Kelsey Rhinehelder and Mikaela Seale through a series of rhythmic hands claps and fast foot work. Jones and Beacham displayed amazing control and dexterity in the Arabian dance especially when Jones bent backwards and held onto her foot while Beacham rotated her in a circle. Guest Artist Andre Harrington got the audience up and cheering with his consecutive back handsprings, while a surprise appearance by former Dallas Cowboys player Isaiah Stanback in the role of Mother Ginger sporting a Cowboys jersey and helmet on top of the large colorful skirt housing eight tiny dancers had the audience in stitches.
Lane and Ulbricht were sublime in the grand pas de deux at the end of the show. They executed the controlledpromenades, ponche arabesques and shifting epaulement phrases in a calm and fluid manner. Lane’s breathy exhales during her multiple pirouettes and various jumping sequences made her moves appear bigger and bolder. Ulbricht’s incredible artistry and athleticism are well known in the ballet world. He eats up the space with his gravity defying jetes and barely makes a sound when he drops to his knee after performing consecutive toursen l’air.
Lannin and her team should be proud of the whimsical and welcoming Nutcracker production they have diligently fostered over the last 25 years. I’m looking forward to seeing how the younger dancers progress into the ballet’s more challenging roles in the coming years.
Get into the holiday spirit with any one of these Nutcracker productions, from the traditional to Nearly Naked, offer across Dallas-Fort Worth. Plus a list of other holiday dance.
It’s that time of year again! In between all the shopping, decorating and baking you have planned this holiday season make sure you set some time aside to check out one of the numerous Nutcracker productions being offered by many of the professional and pre-professional dance companies across Dallas-Fort Worth. For audiences west of the DFW Airport, Texas Ballet Theater will be running Ben Stevenson’s version of The Nutcracker for multiple weekends at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Additionally, Ballet Frontier of Texas and North Central Civic Ballet will be presenting their annual Nutcracker performances at Will Rogers Auditorium.
For residents north of Dallas there are myriad Nutcrackers to choose from, including versions by LakeCities Ballet Theatre in Lewisville, Festival Ballet of North Central Texas in Denton, and Allen Civic Ballet in Allen. The Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, will soon be bursting with holiday cheer when Chamberlain Performing Arts, Dallas Repertoire Ballet, Royale Ballet Dance Academy, Tuzer Ballet and Collin County Ballet Theatre bring their Nutcracker productions here beginning Thanksgiving weekend and continuing till Christmas. The Irving Arts Center is another popular venue for local Nutcracker productions, including versions by Ballet Ensemble of Texas, International Ballet Theater and Momentum Dance Company. And in Dallas the Moscow Ballet returns to McFarlin Auditorium at Southern Methodist University with its rendition of The Great Russian Nutcracker, featuring new costumes and set designs.
You can even hear Tchaikovsky’s full Nutcracker played by the Dallas Symphony, without dancers, if you’re so inclined.
And if you are in need of a change this season, check out any number of the holiday dance shows being offered, including Avant Chamber Ballet’s Holiday Celebration at Dallas City Performance Hall; Epiphany DanceArts Tis the Season at the Eisemann; Texas Ballet Theater’s The Nutty Nutcracker at Bass Performance Hall; and even a burlesque show in Dallas aptly named Nearly Naked Nutcracker. A full list of all the Nutcrackers and holiday productions in the area can be found below.
Nov. 20-21 Ballet Frontier of Texas presents The Nutcracker with choreography by Chung-Lin Tseng at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. $40-$50. Call 817-689-7310 or visit www.balletfrontier.org
Nov. 20-22 Moscow Ballet return to Dallas with its rendition of The Great Russian Nutcracker at Southern Methodist University’s McFarlin Auditorium. This year’s production features new costumes for Act I by designer Arthur Oliver and two new backdrops by Academy Award Nominee Carl Sprague. $28-$88. Call 800-745-3000 or visit www.tickmaster.com
Nov. 27-29 Chamberlain Performing Arts annual showing of The Nutcracker featuring New York City Ballet Principal’s Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $15-$100. Call 972-744-4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com
Nov. 27-29 Momentum Dance Company brings the holiday tale to life with choreography by Jacquelyn Ralls Forcher at the Irving Arts Center. $15-$25. Call 972-252-2787 or visit www.irvingartscenter.com
Nov. 28-29 LakeCities Ballet Theatre celebrates its 25th annual production of The Nutcracker which features live music from Lewisville Lake Symphony and guest artists Sarah Lane of American Ballet Theater and Daniel Ulbricht of New York City Ballet. $20-$45. Call 972-317-7987 or visitwww.lakecitiesballet.org
Dec. 4-6 Dallas Ballet Company presents The Nutcracker featuring guest artists April Daly and Miguel Blanco from Joffrey Ballet at the Granville Arts Center in Garland. $23-$24. Call 972-205-2790 or visit www.garlandarts.com
Dec. 5 Local dancers Harry Feril (Bruce Wood Dance Project) and Yulia Ilina (Avant Chamber Ballet) join theInternational Ballet Theater for its production of The Nutcracker Sweet at the Irving Arts Center. $28-$38. Call 972-252-2787 or visit www.irvingartscenter.com
Dec. 5-6 Ballet Ensemble of Texas, under the direction of Joffrey alum Lisa Slagle, presents the holiday classic at the Irving Arts Center. $25-$30. Call 972-252-2787 or visit www.irvingartscenter.com
Dec. 5-6 Rowlett Dance Academy presents its 14th annual production of The Nutcracker at Garland High School. $10. Call 972-475-8269 or visit www.rowlettdanceacademy.com
Dec. 5-6 Royale Ballet Dance Academy offering of The Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $20-$25. Call 972-744-4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com
Dec. 5-6 North Central Civic Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. $30. Visit www.nutcrackertickets.com
Dec. 5-10 New York City Ballet brings George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker to the big screen in various movies across the DFW Metroplex. $16-$18 Adult. Visit www.fathomevent.com
Dec. 11-27 Texas Ballet Theater takes the stage with Ben Stevenson’s version of The Nutcracker at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Call 877-828-9200 or visit www.texasballettheater.org
Dec. 11-13 Dallas Repertoire Ballet brings its rendition of the beloved holiday tale to the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $22-$42. Call 972-744-4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com
Dec. 12 Colleyville Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker for one-night only at the Irving Arts Center. $25-$30. Call 972-252-2787 or visit www.irvingartscenter.com
Dec. 12-13 Festival Ballet of North Central Texas showing of The Nutcracker at Texas Woman’s University, Margo Jones Performance Hall in Denton. $11-$36. Call 940.891.0830 or visit www.festivalballet.net
Dec. 19-20 Tuzer Ballet presents The Nutcracker with guest artists Rie Ichikawa (Boston Ballet) and Zack Grubbs (Cincinnati Ballet) at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $15-$50. Call 972-744-4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com
Dec. 19-20 The Allen Civic Ballet presents its annual production of the holiday classic with live musical accompaniment by the Allen Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra at the Allen High School Performing Arts Center in Allen. $15-$25. Visit www.allencivicballet.org/nutracker
Dec. 19 The Art Ballet Academy presents The Nutcracker at Mansfield ISD Center for the Performing Arts, Mansfield. $16. Visit www.abacademy.com
Dec. 22-23 Collin 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. $22-$77. Call 972-744-4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com
OTHER HOLIDAY DANCE
(including non-traditional takes on The Nutcracker)
Nov. 19 Avant Chamber Ballet returns to White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake with its holiday production of Nutcracker: Short and Suite. This one-act Nutcracker presented by Apex Arts League includes new choreography by Katie Cooper and music by Tchaikovsky. $15-$20. Call 800-481-8914 or visit www.apex-arts.org
Nov. 27-29 The Dallas Symphony Orchestra plays Tchaikovsky’s complete The Nutcracker (no dancers), and featuring the Children’s Chorus of Collin County, at the Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas. Call 214-692-0203 or visit www.mydso.com
Nov. 27-Dec. 27 MBS Productions presents its annual hit The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents a Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker, in which a church has to do a last minute substitution of its dancers for The Nutcracker, at the Addison Theatre Centre’s Studio Theatre. $29. Call 214-477-4942 or visit www.mbsproductions.net
Dec. 6 8&1 Dance Company closes its third season with In The Spirit, featuring live music and heart-warming chorography at the Quixotic Word in Dallas. Visit www.8and1dance.com
Dec. 6 Dallas Youth Ballet presents a Rockefeller Christmas Spectacular at Dallas City Performance Hall with special guest Arron Scott from American Ballet Theatre. $20-$75. Visitwww.parkcitiesstudios.com
Dec. 10 Avant Chamber Ballet’s Holiday celebration at Dallas City Performance Hall incudes Katie Cooper’s Sleigh Ride and Nutcracker: Short and Suite. $20-$30. Visit www.ticketdfw.com
Dec. 11-12 Bruce Wood Dance Project presents a Christmas Cabaret benefit with Broadway stars Aaron Lazar, Liz Callaway and Joseph Thalken, at the BWDP Studio, 3630 Harry Hines Boulevard, Suite 36, Dallas. $350-$1,000. Call 214-428-2263 or visit www.brucewooddance.org
Dec. 12 Ballet Concerto presents its annual A Holiday Special at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. The program includes Winter Wonderland, The Princess and the Magical Christmas Star, O Holy Night and A Cool Yule. $8 for daytime performances and $12-$25 for the evening performance. Call 817-738-7915 or visit www.balletconcerto.com
Dec. 12 Contemporary Ballet Dallas offers their spin on Charles Dickens’ classic tale with Boogie Woogie Christmas Carol at McFarlin Memorial Auditorium on the Southern Methodist University campus. $18-$30. Visitwww.contemporaryballetdallas.com
Dec. 18 Texas Ballet Theater brings The Nutty Nutcracker, its PG-13 spoof of The Nutcracker, to Bass Performance Hall for one night only. $40-250. Call 877.828.9200 or visit www.texasballettheater.org
Dec. 18-19 Epiphany DanceArts celebrates the holiday season with its production of Tis the Season at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $17-$27. Call 972-744-4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com
Dec. 19 Broads & Panties presents Nearly Naked Nutcracker: A Burlesque Ballet featuring aerial performances, circus arts, ballet and burlesque at Trees in Deep Ellum. $20-$44. Visit www.treesdallas.com
Dec. 19-20 Denton City Contemporary Ballet presents A Gift for Emma at Margo Jones Performance Hall at Texas Woman’s University, Denton. $15-25. Call 940-383-2623 or visit www.dentoncitycontemporary.org
Dec. 19-20 ImPULSE Dance Project celebrates the season with Snow at the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater. Program includes works by Artistic Director Anastasia Waters and company members Krista Langford and Kristin Daniels. $17. Visit www.impusedanceproject.org
This was the first ballet I brought my daughter to and she did great. She is 2 1/2 and sat through the whole first half. The second half was a little scary so my husband took her into the lobby. I recommend this show for anyone with little kids.
LakeCities Ballet Theatre sucks audiences in with brilliant dancing and dramatic special effects at its 10th annual Le Ballet de Dracula in Lewisville.
Lewisville — After a decade, it’s natural for a ballet to start to lose some of its luster. But that’s not the case with LakeCities Ballet Theatre‘s Halloween spook-tacular, Le Ballet de Dracula, which played to a sold-out crowd for the troupe’s 10th-anniversary show on Saturday at the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theatre.
Having seen this production many times before, I can honestly say the ballet gets visually and technically stronger every year thanks to Artistic Director Kelly Kilburn Lannin’s fine choreographic detailing and continous production enhancements, including set designs, costuming and special effects that always seem to bring audiences to the edge of their seats.
The show’s popularity can also be attributed to Tom Rutherford’s well-conceived narrative and creative mash-up of characters including Ratcliff (the quirky sidekick), weolas (batlike creatures) and a dozen vampire brides.
Loosely based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, LBT’s version illustrates the love triangle between Aurelia, Marius and Dracula in two well-balanced acts. In the first half the villagers, gypsies and Romanians all come together to celebrate the engagement of Aurelia (Carley Denton) and Marius (guest artist Steven Loch of Pacific Northwest Ballet).
The company members demonstrated great animation and agility in the specialized group dances, which featured various movement styles, including soft-shoe ballet, pointe, jazz, modern and even some folk dance. The Romanian dancers’ rhythmic foot stomps and traveling shuffle steps were accompanied by simple arm gestures and crisp formation changes.
The gypsies, led by Denise Clarkston, used an array of hip isolations and open-armed twirling phrases to depict their rebellious nature. Aurelia’s friends (Chloe Davis, Kristina Lorelli, Carly Greene, Julie Fenske, Madeline Hanly and Julia Tiller) proved why LBT is one of the most sought after pre-professional ballet companies in the Dallas area with their exacting pointe work, beautiful musicality and commanding stage presence.
One of the newer additions to the show was a musically enchanting pas de deux with company member Michelle Lawyer and guest artist Dan Westfield pf Ballet Frontier of Texas. Lawyer’s lithe frame and nimble point work balanced out Westfield’s wider frame and explosive jump sequences.
In the partnering sections each pulled from the other’s strengths and suddenly Lawyer’s sautés were as high as Westfield’s, and his arms placement and fourth lunges were just as soft as Lawyer’s. The exchanging of the tambourine throughout the pas de duex was perfectly timed and added a new musical layer to the dance.
Carley Denton’s role as Aurelia was well-earned. Her flexibility and stamina has improved over the last year, demonstrated through her various sustained body positions and lightning-quick pique turns. She has also found the key to releasing the tension in her shoulders with the help of certain breathing techniques.
Steven Loch continues to breathe new life into the role of Marius with his limitless energy and technical fortitude. The couple’s pas de deux was a lovely display of unending lines and counterbalance poses topped with Denton’s six continuous pirouettes into a luxurious body dip at the end.
The maypole dance that Lannin incorporated about six years ago remains one of the highlights of the first half. In this scene 12 dancers frolicked around a 15-foot pole, creating an intricate weaving pattern with the brightly colored streamers they carried. Rhythmic clapping accompanied the dancers’ spritely skips and gallop steps.
The mood changed drastically when Dracula (Shannon Beacham) and his minion Ratcliff (Asia Waters) arrived to lure Aurelia away from her family and Marius. Over the years Beacham has perfected the role of Dracula, from his menacing walks and nuanced cape flicks to the overly dramatic facial expressions.
Smoke machines and special lighting techniques succeeded in creating the illusion of Dracula appearing out of thin air. The dim lighting, ominous music and ghostly appearance of Dracula’s brides in the second half evenly matched the dancers’ loose, hanging arms, soundless bourrees across the floor and vacant expressions.
Julia Tiller (Marcela) set the tone at the beginning of the scene with her solid pointe work and expansive arm-gesturing. The fight scene between Loch and Beacham started off spotty with some lengthy pauses between their physical exchanges, but they quickly found their rhythm. Mindful of the young ones in the audience, the really heavy moments were lightened by Waters’ constant wandering and clumsy interactions with the brides.
Wildly creative, meticulously produced and cleverly choreographed, LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s Le Ballet de Dracula is sure to continue entertaining audiences for the next 10 years.
LakeCities Ballet Theatre closes its season with fresh moves and dexterous classical technique during its spring performance.
Lewisville — Don’t let the name fool you. LakeCities Ballet Theatre (LBT) is much more than a pre-professional ballet company, and they proved that Saturday night with Music In Motion at the MCL Grand Theater in Lewisville, ending their season on a high note. Known for their exuberant story ballets and exquisite technique, it may have surprised some to see the company attacking other dance styles such as modern, jazz and contemporary with the same boldness they do classical ballet.
The show opened with a flirty, baroque-fashioned pointe number choreographed by LBT staff member and Juilliard alum Deborah Weaver called Les Oiseaux de Ville. Weaver’s trained ear picked up on all the instrumental nuances in Aram Khachaturian’s composition which added new vigor to the art form’s unchanging technique. For example,pique arabesques finished with flexed palms and bourrees executed with fluttering hands drew attention to the music’s various instrumental phrases. The gold-laced, fingerless gloves which matched the 12 dancers’ gold and white knee-length tutus boosted the visual appeal of these movements. Weaver’s expanding and contracting formation changes and explosive cotangent sequences were also visually stunning.
Shannon Beacham’s Urban Perfume was the biggest surprise of the evening. Set to music by Sven Helbig this contemporary jazz number, performed in soft shoe, featured daring leaps, aggressive runs and simultaneous head and body isolations. The piece started with the six dancers stepping into second position with a contracted torso and arms thrusting down and away from the body. The phrase was repeated as the dancers switch places. As the music built the running became more frantic till the dancers exploded into fouette arabesque leaps and head-whackingbattements. Beacham’s time with Texas Ballet Theater and the Bruce Wood Dance Company showed through his quirky, yet controlled body movements and the opposing tempos he assigned each dancer during certain sections. The dim lighting and shimmering biketards added to the suspense of the piece. Even through the ending was a little underwhelming with the dancers simply running off stage, the core material of the work was still edgy and inspiring.
Pulling double duty as choreographer and performer, Beacham and his wife Christa were phenomenal in their roles as Romeo and Juliet in the ballet’s balcony Pas de Deux. Every caress and assisted lift exuded passion. The trust between the two was undeniable as Christa catapulted herself into Beacham’s arms only to be pressed up into a standing position above his head. The traveling steps for the pair may have been simple but the assisted pirouetteturns and alternating ponchearabesque holds were anything but. Sergei Prokofiev’s heart-wrenching composition only enhanced the couple’s star-crossed love for one another.
LBT 2 Director Shannon Tate’s Where the Sun is Silent challenged the dancers with its modern verbiage and dramatic storyline. Dressed in black liturgical dresses the 10-member group started clumped together arching back and reaching in different directions. The movement encompassed various modern dance techniques, including Martha Graham’s signature contractions and back hinges as well as Lester Horton’s lateral T’s and general ferocity.
The first act ended with LBT Assistant Director Nancy Loch’s rock ballet Move It! which the company premiered in 1998. Dressed all in black with music by Church of Rhythm this funky pointe number transported the audience back to the 90s’. This 17-person ensemble moved with The Rockettes precision as they shifted into a straight line and moved clockwise around the stage on pointe. The walking which made up a majority of the piece was accompanied by hand gestures resembling Madonna’s 1990 Vogue video.
In the second half LBT revealed what they do best in Joseph Mazilier and Marius Petipa’s Paquita. Known as one of the most technically challenging 19th century ballets, Paquita demanded serious control, technical brilliance and unending endurance from the LBT dancers. The first thing audience members noticed was that in many sections the corps mirrored the movement of Principal Dancer Mackenna Pieper. While one or two arabesque holds where not quite aligned with the rest overall the corp gave a strong unified performance. Ali Honchell, Michelle Lawyer and Beacham excelled in the multi-tempoed Pas de Trois. The female’s solos were filled with complex entrechats (a weaving jump from fifth) with multiple beats, double pique turns and grand jetes which they handled with poise. And Beacham seamlessly maneuvered both dancers through a series of composed arabesque and attitude holds.
Guest Artist Steven Loch was a powerful force in the pas de deux, but the shining star of the evening was Pieper as Paquita. Tall and leggy Pieper gave each slow developpearabesque its due. Pieper also managed the quickpirouettes and cabriole soutenu sections with exemplary control and fiery spirit. Overall Paquita was a great match for LakeCities Ballet Theatre. The ballet’s detailed classicism, specifically the proper epaulement (upper body positioning), is one of the many skills Artistic Director Kelly Lannin has drilled into her dancers’ bodies with great results.
LakeCities Ballet Theatre delights audiences with its whimiscal rendition of The Nutcracker accompanied with live music.
Lewisville — As critics sometimes it seems like we are always looking for the weak links in a performance. So it’s always a pleasant surprise when that task proves difficult, as it did Saturday night at LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s (LBT) 24th annual production of The Nutcracker to a sold-out audience at Marcus High School in Flower Mound. In keeping with its family-focused tradition, LBT’s Nutcracker weaved intricate storytelling with spectacular set designs and fanciful choreography that all audience types could appreciate.
The audience was instantly pulled into the action as the families attending Mayor Silberhaus’ Christmas party entered the scene through the aisles acknowledging us as they passed by. Our eyes were then drawn to the richly-decorated stage where the Silberhaus family (Mayor, Frau, Clara and Fritz) are preparing for the festivities. Artistic Director Kelly Lannin’s quick wit and discerning eye kept the story moving and prevented clutter on stage. Traffic jams were avoided with subtle stage entrances/exits and regimented formations. With so many performers onstage, movement was kept to clean chaines, piques and traveling triplets. The adult couples performed tricky waltz steps and nuanced arm movements with a grace you don’t typically see from these characters. Special Guest Ken Wells (Herr Drosselmeyer) got the audience involved as he almost fell into the orchestra pit while seeking out the Silberhaus’ house. He was more senile than mysterious in his actions which suited the younger audience just fine. The festive atmosphere in the auditorium was heightened by Adron Ming and the Lewisville Lake Symphony’s competent rendering of Pyotr Ilyrich Tchaikovsky’s classic score.
What stood out in the first act was the performers’ commitment to their roles. While Claire (Julie Fenske) and her friends danced a sweet adagio number with their dolls the adults stood in the background gesturing to one another while the maids discreetly drank from the wine glasses and the nanny chased Fritz and his friends. Mayor Silberhaus’ (Chuck Denton) over-the-top facial expressions and spirited gesturing set the bar for the other individuals on stage. However, while the heavily layered petticoats and colorful dresses were authentic of the time period, they also made it difficult to see the young dancers’ feet.
LBT’s battle scene is one of the best in the area. Cheeky mice carrying wounded comrades off in stretchers, Drosselmeyer chasing a mouse with rodent repellant and a diva Rat King (Robert Stewart) requiring a plush couch for his death bed are just a few memorable moments. Newcomer Jack Wolff as the Nutcracker Prince was another pleasant surprise. This 14-year-old from Houston is the whole package. Great flexibility, stamina and a commanding stage presence, Wolff is definitely going places. He and Fenske also made a darling couple.
With extremely supple feet, pliable back and innate body movements it’s hard to believe Mackenna Pieper (Snow Queen) is only 15 years old. The energy exuding from her fingertips in a ponchearabesque and the ease in which she executes a one-arm assisted slow pirouette is not something you expect from one so young. With a trusting partner such as Shannon Beacham the Snow pas de deux processed seamlessly. And while the snowflakes fast pointe work was exacting and exciting it was sometimes overshadowed by the powerful sounds of the orchestra chimes.
Guest Artists Sarah Lane (American Ballet Theatre) and Daniel Ulbricht (New York City Ballet) breathed new life into the roles of the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier which has previously been performed by ABT’s Julie Kent and Sascha Radetsky. Lane and Ulbricht executed movement with a powerful punch that kept audiences in suspense. Lane’s incredible control and meticulous arm placement made her lines and spins appear unending. Ulbricht is a fireball on stage. His exploding grande jetes are unworldly and his double tour en l’air into a double pirouette down to the knee was perfection.
The other LBT couples in the second half did a commendable job of matching Lane and Ulbricht’s energy and poise. Ali Honchell and Guest Artist Ruben Gerding (Spanish Chocolate) were a whirlwind of petite jumps, spins and assisted lifts. The Arabian dance was everything viewers have come to expect. Beacham contorted Faith Jones into various shapes before slowly rotating her in a circle. Jones’ Gumby-like frame enabled her to pull her extensions behind her head and practically bend her body in half when arching back in Beacham’s arms. Andre Harrington once again displayed his acrobatic prowess in a number of back handsprings and forward tucks as the Russian Baba. The Chinese were sassy and forceful with their pointe work while Mother Ginger (George Redford) and the Polichinelles were lighthearted as they danced rudimentary steps in soft shoes.
The Walt of the Flowers coupled delicate pointe work with continuously shifting patterns and lively performances by three pairs; Julia Tiller and Beacham, Michelle Lawyer and Blaine Quine and Honchell and Gerding. The group’s movements appeared blurry at some points due to the red lighting reflecting off their pink costumes, but that can be adjusted. The overall effect was still dreamy and ornamental.
Artistic Director Kelly Lannin on LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s upcoming performance, Treasures: 30 Years of Dance, and the company’s influence on the Lewisville community.
Lewisville — “My goal has always been to build a ballet company that the City of Lewisville can be proud of,” says LakeCities Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Kelly Lannin. Now with 30 years under its belt, a number of students going on to dance professionally, and a Nutcracker production that draws large crowds every year, LBT has surpassed even Lannin’s expectations. “I can’t believe it has been 30 years. Time just flew by.”
Originally from El Paso, Lannin trained at Ballet El Paso before attending Texas Woman’s University where she was the recipient of the Mary Agnes Murphy and the Anne Duggan Dance Scholarships. While at TWU Lannin performed with Dance Repertory Theatre and the DRT Touring Ensemble. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in dance in 1983, she moved to Lewisville to begin her teaching career. Lannin was a charter member of the Lewisville Dance Ensemble (1984) before taking over as artistic director in 1989, and changing the name to LakeCities Ballet Theatre.
The name change was done to give the company a more professional aire, according to Lannin. Instead of an ensemble she wanted to create a regional ballet company that would one day present multiple full-length ballets. A feat, she says, that took a lot of time and patience. “The first decade was about training the dancers and getting the community excited. The second decade we decided to contract with the Lewisville Lake Symphony for The Nutcracker and for the last decade we have been working hard to challenge our dancers in a variety of ballets and dance styles.” Today, Lannin has successfully directed and staged a number of productions, including The Nutcracker, Le Ballet de Dracula, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Coppelia, The Little Humpbacked Horse, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland,Peter and the Wolf and Carmina Burana, just to name a few.
And while Lannin says the dancers’ level of commitment hasn’t change over the years the level of competition within the ballet field continues to rise. “The level of training has just gotten better. Taking class three days a week isn’t cutting it anymore.” She adds that today’s ballet dancers also have to compete with dancers from other countries for those coveted ballet jobs. “These dancers from other countries like China, Japan, and Cuba are incredibly talented and have really upped the ante.”
Another challenge Lannin continues to face deals with funding. “Finding money and then figuring out where to spend it will always be a challenge. Thankfully we have a great parent base that we can always count on whenever we need volunteers. We have some parents who continue to volunteer even after their kids graduate and for me that is the biggest reward.”
Lannin says the arts scene in Lewisville has also come a long way over the last 30 years. “Before LBT Lewisville didn’t really have a dance community. I think there were two local dance studios and that’s it. We basically had to build an audience base from scratch.” The Greater Lewisville Arts Alliance, Lewisville Lake Symphony and LBT all came into being around the same time and continue to support one another today. “We remain very close as we are still run by the same group of people. And when the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater opened in 2011 it gave all of us a place to call home.”
It’s at the MCL Grand Theater where LBT will be celebrating its 30th Anniversary April 25-26, 2014 with a Spring Gala performance entitled Treasures: 30 Years of Dance. Lannin will present some of her favorite works from past years, including Carmina Burana, Pas de Deux from Le Corsaire and Satanella. The program also features new works by choreographers Shannon Beacham, Deborah Weaver and Shannon Tate as well as an alumni number.
LakeCities Ballet Theatre (LBT) continues its 30th anniversary season with its annual production of The Nutcracker ringing in the holiday spirit with strong dancing and live music.
This engaging and well-rounded performance, on Nov. 30 at the Marcus High School Auditorium in Flower Mound, Texas, featured creative storytelling, challenging choreography, amazing guest artists, and elaborate costuming and set designs. And topping it off, LBT invited the Lewisville Lake Symphony, led by Adron Ming, to perform Pyotr IIyich Tchailkovsky’s classic composition.
Upon entering the auditorium, one immediately noticed the twinkling lights and Christmas trees adorning the sides of the stage, as well as the Lewisville Lake Symphony tuning up for the opening party scene. Choreographing a scene like this –– with all the props and people required –– can sometimes be a real challenge.
LBT Artistic Director Kelly Lannin eliminated potential overcrowding by having performers enter the stage from the audience. Her organizational skills also showed in the performers’ military-precision formations and smooth transitions from the children’s dance to the adults. The movement Lannin used highlighted the company’s beautiful lines, proficient pointe work and confident poise. Even the youngest dancers knew how to lift out of their spine and work through the ankle when pointing their toes.
It’s during this party scene that sweet Clara (Carley Denton) receives her beloved nutcracker from her Godfather Drosselmeyer, played by the charming Kenn Wells. At 15, Denton is a more mature Clara, but she’s still able to capture the childlike essence of the character with the added bonus of more advanced technique.
The battle scene between the Nutcracker Prince (Ruben Gerding) and the Mouse King (Robert Stewart) was clean and clever. The sword play between Gerding and Stewart came across very natural and the audience thoroughly enjoyed the little comedic moments, including the Mouse King’s exaggerated dying scene.
The transition to the dreamy snow scene was well done and enhanced by dim lighting, wispy white tutus, and feather-soft movement. The dancers appeared to float across the stage in a series of fast leaps and turns. Even though the Snow King (Michael Eaton) and Snow Queen (Amanda Evans) had a couple of moments of disconnect during their pas de deux, it didn’t have a huge impact on their overall performance.
In the second act, choreographic and production surprises kept coming with the introduction of Julie Kent and Sascha Radetsky, courtesy of American Ballet Theatre, as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Kent is the epitome of grace and elegance while Radetsky has a commanding stage presence. When sharing the stage with seasoned, world-class pros, such as Kent and Radetsky, it is imperative the other dancers try to match them in energy and movement quality. That was not a problem for LBT. The Spanish Chocolate dancers: Amanda Evans, Kendall Galey, Logan Lockhart, and Sophie Van Den Handel have been dancing together for years, and it shows in their timing and concise movement. Even though they’re at different heights and builds, their grande battements and arm placements were uniform.
The Arabian Coffee piece (Faith Jones and Shannon Beacham) was what one would expect: controlled over-the-head lifts and slow contorted shapes. The Chinese Tea section was slightly outshined by the live accompaniment, but the Russian Baba (Guest Artist Andre Harrington) made up for that with powerful tumbling skills that climaxed with the music.
The Waltz of the Flowers featured intricate weaving patterns and a beautiful partnership between Kendall Galey (Dew Drop Fairy) and Guest Artist Steven Loch. They both have infectious smiles and lovely technique. Kent and Radetsky’s effortless grande pas de deux was divine and the perfect note to end the show.
If LBT keeps moving in this direction, there’s no doubt it will be around for another 30 years.
LakeCities Ballet Theatre closes its 2012-13 season with a well-executed version of Coppelia.
Lewisville — The LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s presentation of CoppeliaFriday night at the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater encompassed everything the company strives for: crisp technique, an innate sense of musicality and authentic storytelling.
Originally staged in Paris in 1870 by Arthur Saint-Leon with music by Leo Delibes, Coppelia tells the tale of soon-to-be-married Swanilda and Franz. Franz’s obsession with Coppelia who sits in the upstairs window of Dr. Coppelius’ house creates a rift with his future bride, but Swanilda is just as curious about the motionless girl. When opportunity knocks, Swanilda and her friends sneak into the house only to discover that Coppelia is actually a doll. When Dr. Coppelius returns Swanilda switches places with Coppelia to avoid getting caught. She then convinces Franz that she is really the one he loves and they live happily ever after.
Madison McKay played a delightful Swanilda. Her solid technique and intricate point work only enhanced her character’s strong, yet loveable personality. Even though her fast foot work appeared labored at times, her graceful lines and natural stage presence overshadowed all of that.
The chemistry between McKay and Pacific Northwest Ballet corps member Steven Loch (Franz) was evenly balanced. Both are powerful dancers with amazing stamina, which only enhanced the audiences’ anticipation for their pas de deux at the end of the show. We were not disappointed. Loch ate up the stage with his grande jetes and double tours en l’air while McKay dazzled with her pique turns sequence.
Guest artist Nigel Burgoine tied the whole performance together with his kooky and over-the-top interpretation of Dr. Coppelius.
Kelly Lannin and Allan Kinzie’s choreography throughout the show really played to the Company’s strengths. The group pieces in Act 1 and 3 contained a lot of fast movement taking the dancers through a maze of weaving patterns and direction changes that were both unexpected and visually pleasing. The choreographers also mixed in some adagio sequences to display the older company member’s superb control and seamless leg extensions.
The scene in Dr. Coppelius’ house opened with a view of 12 beautifully costumed, perfectly still performers posing as dolls. While the story was captivating, the audience’s attention was drawn most to the still dolls in anticipation of a grand sequence that never really happened. While there were tastes of each doll’s quirky personality and staccato way of moving with each one occasionally coming to life, we wanted to see more.
Overall it was a very well-executed performance by LakeCities Ballet Theatre. The practically flawless technique, well-thought out and clean choreography and the understated, yet effective lighting and detailed set design made for a very enjoyable evening.
LakeCities Ballet Theatre delivers tricky technique and spooky surprises in Le Ballet de Dracula.
Lewisville — No one can resist a scary story involving weolas (bat-like creatures), vampire brides and Dracula. LakeCities Ballet Theatre drove this point home during its first sold-out performance of Le Ballet de Dracula Friday night at the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater.
The story, created by Tom Rutherford, takes place in a small Transylvanian town where the villagers are celebrating the engagement of protagonists Marius (Ruben Gerding) and Aurelia (Bridget Polei). The luminous sets and festive period costumes in harvest hues emphasized the joyous occasion; as did the choreography by LBT Artistic Director Kelly Kilburn Lannin.
Marius and Aurelia’s hopeful pas de deux was an ode to young love. Gerding and Polei’s dark features and casual elegance made them well-suited for one another. Gerding’s lifts were effortless and Polei’s assisted triple pirouettes and ponche arabesques were rock solid.
Along with classical ballet technique, Lannin also incorporated folk dance and contemporary as seen in the Romanian dancers and Gypsies dance segments. All these techniques came together for the climatic Maypole dance. Romanian dancers stomped, Gypsies strutted and Aurelia’s Friends floated their way around the Maypole, weaving in and out of each other holding bright-colored ribbons as they went. Happy to say no one faltered during this tricky pattern sequence.
The party took a dark turn when Count Dracula (Shannon Beacham) arrived with his minion Ratcliff (Asia Waters) to claim Aurelia as his bride. The dim lighting and ominous music set the scene for Beacham’s arrival. Every step and hand gesture appeared calculated adding to Dracula’s mysterious aura. He stayed only long enough to hypnotize Aurelia during an erringly-moving pas de deux before stealing her away in the night.
Menacing fog and a dungeon setting welcomed us to Dracula’s Castle in Act II. Underneath the fog rested the Brides of Dracula including head bride Marcela (Alexandria Loy). Shrill music filled the air as reaching hands appeared through the fog. Dressed in white flimsy gowns and tattered veils, the Brides gradually awoke. Marcela led the 14 other brides through a graceful yet disturbing pointe routine heightened by the brides’ hissing sounds and unblinking gazes. The performers’ classical training was evident in their controlled pointe work and body placement.
The pivotal fight scene between Dracula and Marius was cleaner than in previous years. The timing of the punches and lifts were better, and the actual staking of Dracula was broken down to enhance dramatic effect.
From the unique story and challenging choreography to the fresh sets, clever lighting and creative costumes and make-up, LakeCities Ballet Theatre has reached new highs with its seventh annual production of Le Ballet de Dracula, which has repeat performances at 2 and 7:30 p.m. today.