Colorado Ballet Society’s Pre-Professional Division and Colorado Youth Ballet are set to bring the best in classical repertoire and contemporary dance to the Front Range region with four performances of Encore, April 16 at 7:00pm and April 17 at 11:00am, 3:00pm, and 7:00pm at the Colorado Springs Christian School, 4855 Mallow Road in Colorado Springs. Act 1, includes the premiere of a breathtaking contemporary dance work, Under the Canopy; Act 2, features Colorado Ballet Society’s Pre-Professional Division dancers in the elegant showcase of A Touch of Class; and Act 3, comprises of youth ballet dancers performing an ideal selection of traditional ballet excepts in Tales from the Classics.
Last year, Colorado Ballet Society had to cancel their annual full-length classical ballet and various end-of-the-year performances when Colorado went into lockdown. Theater doors shuttered, classes moved temporarily online, and hard work and choreography went unseen. While some restrictions are still currently in place, the show can go on!
“Even though this has been a very challenging year,” shares Ballet Society and Youth Ballet founder and director, Patricia Hoffman, “we had a safe, successful, and well-received run of eleven in-person performances of The Nutcracker this past holiday season and are inspired to remain on this trajectory with our spring production and expand our audience capacity with the county’s current guidelines.”
“The dancers have been working so very hard during this unprecedented season and we are extremely proud of them,” continues Hoffman. “While building from their technical foundation, our students strove to new heights and depths in their creativity and capabilities as dancers. Their dedication and perseverance are reflected in this production.”
“Not only is it rare to find student performances that excel in classical ballet and contemporary dance to the level our young artists have here at Ballet Society, but everyone’s lives were turned upside down this last year. Yet these students have found a way to move forward, grow, and excel in their dancing despite all the difficulties and they deserve the opportunity to share their hard work and passion with the community,” insists Laci Landry, Colorado Ballet Society instructor and choreographer.
“After a year filled with many challenges and a great deal of isolation, I think this production will be a time when the community can come together again in a shared love for dance,” says Isabel Harris, senior Colorado Ballet Society student who will be performing the roles of Peacock in Under the Canopy, Level 6-8 dancer in A Touch of Class, and former ballerina, Lucile Grahn, in Pas de Quatre.
“I think it is important for viewers to know that every dancer and faculty member has worked so incredibly hard to put this production together. We have all been working diligently behind the scenes. Practice has not stopped and the work has continued,” explains Gabriella Vidano, senior Colorado Ballet Society student who will be performing as Macaw in Under the Canopy, Level 6-8 dancer in A Touch of Class, and former ballerina, Marie Taglioni, in Pas de Quatre.
“This performance will take the audience on an exciting journey through a rainforest, as well as back in time to experience influential ballets,” shares Alea YunCai Brown, senior Colorado Ballet Society student who will be performing as the Great Egret in Under the Canopy and former ballerina, Carlotta Grisi, in Pas de Quatre.
“This production will be full of beautiful music, costumes, and choreography and will offer a unique variety of styles popular at different times in history,” reveals Harris.
In Act I, audiences will travel to the Amazon Rainforest with Under the Canopy. From musical nightingales to majestic egrets, many unique and vibrant birds live under this luscious canopy. Explore a day in the colorful lives of these quirky and beautiful creatures through the movement of this exotic contemporary work. This piece was originally set to be performed in March of 2020, but has gone unseen until now.
“Under the Canopy was supposed to premiere the weekend the shutdown began last year,” confesses Landry. “I can’t explain how disappointed I was that the show was canceled. The students had worked so hard and spent about 6 months working on the characters and pieces. I am beyond thrilled that we have the opportunity to bring it back to life this year and share it with the community.”
“I am so elated to have the opportunity to restage Under the Canopy. The role of the Great Egret is one of my favorite roles to perform,” explains Brown. “She is always calm even in the midst of commotion and chaos. I think it is really fun to have the opposite emotion than the other birds on the stage.”
“The work is beautiful, colorful, and a little silly,” says Landry. “My goal has been to give the students very unique, yet fun, characters to explore.”
“The music that accompanies Under the Canopy is so beautiful and so powerful; I can’t wait to experience it on stage in combination with the wonderful choreography and the energy of a live audience,” adds Harris.
“My favorite part of portraying these characters is how different they each are,” remarks Isabella Wilson, senior Colorado Ballet Society student who will be performing as a Peacock in Under the Canopy, Level 6-8 dancer in A Touch of Class, and Sapphire Fairy in the Jewel Fairies Suite from Aurora’s Wedding, Sleeping Beauty. “Each of my roles encourages a distinct emotion and style, and presents a different challenge that is a pleasure to bring to life on stage.”
In Act II, discover the range of classical ballet movement with A Touch of Class. Take in the breadth and depth of Colorado Ballet Society’s preprofessional division to the beautiful strains of Tchaikovsky.
“A Touch of Class is a great way to show parents and loved ones, who have not been able to watch class as often this year, exactly what their dancers have been working on,” claims Landry. “It gives a glimpse into the exercises and skills students have been working on in class all year.”
In Act III, experience the international world of ballet’s collection of stories with Tales from the Classics, which includes ideal selections of traditional ballets. Enjoy the magic of Sleeping Beauty; the adventure of Don Quixote; the romance of Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake; and the extravagance of Paquita and Pas de Quatre.
“Tales from the Classics pulls excerpts from many of the beloved ballet classics. It’s a great Act to showcase the Colorado Youth Ballet’s technical and artistic strength,” explains Landry.
“The excerpts from each ballet are truly beautiful and unique in their own ways,” adds Vidano. “We are all very eager to create a fun and memorable experience for all audience members.”
One of the classic ballets the audience will experience in Tales from the Classics, is the celebrated Pas de Quatre which was choreographed by Jules Perrot and danced at Her Majesty's Theatre, July 12th 1845, by the four most famous Romantic ballerinas, Marie Taglioni (1804 - 1884), Carlotta Grisi (1819 - 1899), Fanny Cerrito (1817 - 1909) and Lucile Grahn (1819 - 1907). Although it played for only six performances, it was an overnight success and became legendary. The ballet was immortalized in a famous lithograph of the four star ballerinas of the era.
“When I rehearse the ballet Pas de Quatre, it feels like I am stepping back into the Romantic Era, getting to relive history,” reveals Brown.
“I have not had many experiences with a Romantic style ballet before. I love the artistic demand that it offers,” says Harris.
“The port de bras in the Romantic Style are so delicate and beautiful. Dancing in this style of ballet is my favorite part of bringing these characters to life,” adds Elizabeth Worf, senior Colorado Ballet Society student who will be performing Level 6-8 dancer in A Touch of Class and former ballerina, Fanny Cerrito, in Pas de Quatre. “I am also excited to depict such a historical figure as Fanny Cerrito.”
“Unlike the past fictional characters I have previously performed, Marie Taglioni was a real person,” explains Vidano. “I enjoy imagining what she was like as I portray her and develop her character through artistry and performance quality. We go into depth, researching characters and their personalities. It is really important that I represent her personality and movements as accurately as possible.”
“I love the challenge that dancing Lucile Grahn offers,” reveals Harris. “I have had the chance to research and learn about who this woman was so I can dance her part as authentically as possible. The process of dancing the role of a real person instead of a fictional character is very challenging, but it’s one of the things I love most about this ballet. I love being able to step into someone else’s shoes and experience life through a different lens. I am excited to embody Lucile Grahn on stage to the best of my abilities.”
“It’s always an honor to be able to work with the students to create a piece that showcases all their hard work from the year,” affirms Landry. “I hope they truly enjoy their time on stage.”
During a regular dance season, performance dates and themes are already planned before students even return to the studio in August, after summer break. However, when Colorado Ballet Society began its 2020-2021 season, class capacities were uncertain and performance opportunities weren’t guaranteed. Even though the county began allowing in-door events, venues weren’t booking. This production will no doubt be beneficial to a community who hasn’t experienced a performing arts event in a while. However, we can’t forget how important this performance is to the artists themselves.
“For many of these dancers, they have not had the opportunity to perform since the shutdowns and for those who have performed, it’s been in a much smaller capacity and less frequency than they are used to,” explains Landry. “I hope this return to the stage will reignite a love for performing and dancing in them.”
“This performance means a lot to each and every dancer, whether it is a final performance or a long-awaited return to the stage,” says Harris.
“It means the world to me to be able to perform this year!” exclaims Worf. “When I perform, I feel free and full of joy so when I was not able to perform last year, I felt really unhappy and stuck. My character is interactive with the audience--she really likes to draw them into her performance and truly perform for them. I am elated to be able to dance again for an audience and to actually be able to hear them applaud.”
“Considering the circumstances of this past year, I feel very blessed and so very thankful to have the opportunity to dance in this production this year. Performing in front of a live audience is truly an amazing experience. I very much enjoy connecting with the audience through my movements,” shares Vidano. “I'm most excited to perform with my fellow classmates this year. They are all such talented and hardworking girls. I couldn't have asked a better group of beautiful friends to dance with.”
“As a senior, this performance is one of my last with Colorado Ballet Society, and after 11 years at CBS, there is a lot of emotion encompassed within it,” reveals Wilson. “I am so excited to dance alongside the friends I have made over the years, present my hard work to my family, and most importantly have fun. The joy I experience while on stage is a memory I will treasure forever.”
“I’m very excited to perform Pas de Quatre alongside some of my closest friends and to share one last performance all together before we each step into the next seasons of our lives,” adds Harris. “It will also be a bittersweet moment for me to have my final performance with Colorado Ballet Society alongside my closest friends.”
“This past year has been extremely challenging and dance has helped me through this uncertainty,” shares Wilson. “Dancing in this production demonstrates how I have grown and changed over the last year. This performance is my ‘Encore” --it started as an uncertain possibility but is now a performance that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
Dance education is a rewarding experience even for students who choose non-dance careers. They develop skills which they carry throughout their lives including self-motivation, discipline, poise, grace, and an appreciation for the arts. Even through the uncertain times, Ballet Society has never wavered in doing what it does best--promoting balance. Excellence is always their goal, but they are first and foremost focused on the physical and emotional health of their students.
“Ballet Society, through the leadership of Ms. Patty, has worked so hard to bring as much normalcy, safety, and opportunity to these dancers as possible through an unprecedented and hard time,” reveals Landry. “We always strive to bring the best technical, emotional, and practical support to the students, no matter the circumstances.”
“My dance education has taught me how to work hard in anything and everything that I do. It has given me determination that will help me in my career, whether I am dancing or not,” shares Worf, who will be taking a gap year to train and refine her technique while she auditions for Christian Ballet and Contemporary companies in and outside the United States. “I have also discovered that dancing has become an outlet for me to express emotions that I didn’t even know existed. It has helped me cope with the constant changes during this past year. I have learned to enjoy dancing even more now and not take this gift for granted, because one day I may not be able to dance ever again--so for now, I want to enjoy it as much as I can.”
“This season has shown me how much I am dedicated to dance. It has pushed me to dig deep down inside myself to explore who I really am as an artist and person. I have also been able to focus my dreams and goals for the future during this unexpected season,” explains Brown, who will be attending the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in fall where she plans to study dance with a concentration in classical ballet. “My dance education has taught me so many things about discipline, work ethic, professionalism, and many other attributes necessary to thrive in life. I am eternally thankful for my wonderful dance education from Ms. Patty and Colorado Ballet Society! I look forward to continuing my development as a person and artist as I move to the next level of dance education.”
“During this season I've learned the importance of perseverance and hope. I have had to put my life into perspective, knowing that things will get better. If I push through the difficult seasons in life, I know that everything will be okay with prayer, knowing God is in control,” says Vidano, who plans to continue to pursue ballet professionally. “The dance education that I have received from Colorado Ballet Society has been top-notch. It is rigorous. It has taught me diligence, perseverance, and grace. They focus on both technique and personal character. I have learned so much and grown in so many ways with the help of the faculty and dancers at the studio. I will definitely carry the many life skills along with me as I move on.”
“I would like to thank Ms. Patty for challenging me and for caring so deeply for all of us,” continues Vidano. “She is a constant source of wisdom and experience and has helped me realize my goals and dreams over the past years. She is an incredible mentor and has truly inspired me to strive for excellence.”
“During this unprecedented season, I have learned that although life can settle into a routine, it is ultimately unpredictable. I have learned to experience every moment and enjoy it presently without expectation for the next. I am a person who likes to have things planned out, but this year has taught me to adapt to sudden changes and keep my eyes fixed on what truly matters when things get confusing or overwhelming,” shares Harris, who plans to attend the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York City next fall, but is still auditioning with a few ballet schools across Europe--after spending a year at a ballet school, she hopes to enjoy a career in a professional ballet company. “Colorado Ballet Society has taught me the value of persistence and hard work as well as the importance of building relationships and having respect along with love for those around you. I will carry these lessons with me into the rest of my life, whether that is in dance or something else.”
“Dance has made me the person I am today and I cannot even begin to imagine who I would be without it. The purpose dance has held in my life has changed throughout, but most importantly dance has taught me my own strength, proving I can do anything I put my mind to,” proclaims Wilson, who will be attending university on a pre-health science track and aspires to spend the rest of her life helping others by becoming a doctor. “Throughout this crazy and unprecedented season, I have seen the strength and resilience of the dance community through its adaptability and persistence. I hope to emulate this resiliency in my everyday life.”
Encore will be an incredible experience and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the dancers, faculty, and staff at Colorado Ballet Society. Performances are extremely rare right now, but we must not forget that the arts need the community’s support in order to continue and succeed.
“It is more important than ever to support young artists and encourage them. They need to know that the arts matter and their work is appreciated and valued. The best way to show them that is to show up for them,” declares Landry.
“We’ve created a truly family-friendly event!” adds Hoffman. “We have an exemplary selection of traditional and contemporary ballet. With a large auditorium where a limited audience can spread out, it will be the ideal outing for the whole family!”
Figure 1: 2020-2021 Colorado Youth Ballet Members | PC: Ted Mehl of A Better Image Photography
Figure 2: Gabriella Vidano and Isabel Harris | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 3: Trinity Isidore rehearsing Nightingale | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 4: Alea YunCai Brown rehearsing the Great Egret | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 5: Level 6-8 Colorado Youth Ballet Members, including Gabriella Vidano, Alea YunCai Brown, and Isabella Wilson | PC: Ted Mehl of A Better Image Photography
Figure 6: Carlotta Grisi, Marie Taglioni, Lucile Grahn Fanny Cerrito in Pas de Quatre| The Digital Public Library of America
Figure 7: Isabella Wilson performing Waltz of the Flowers| PC: Ted Mehl of A Better Image Photography
Figure 8: Elizabeth Worf | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 9: Gabriella Vidano in class with guest instructor Eva Draw| PC: Kayla Coburn Figure 10: Isabel Harris | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 11: Former Colorado Youth Ballet Members performing Jewel Fairies Suite from Sleeping Beauty | Ted Mehl of A Better Image Photography
Figure 12: Trinity Isidore rehearsing Under the Canopy | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 13: Gabriella Vidano | PC: Ted Mehl of A Better Image Photography