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Washington Ballet Studio CompanyWashington Ballet Studio Company


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#1 Mike Gunther

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Posted 25 October 2003 - 03:36 PM

From the program (Friday, October 24, 2003) - "The Washington Ballet Studio Company connects The Washington School of Ballet to the professional company by giving budding professional dancers the essential performing experience and intensive training needed for a career on stage. In its inaugural season, the Washington Ballet Studio Company enganges seven dancers, each of them a Trainee with the Company. In addition to performing in larger repertoire of The Washington Ballet (The Nutcracker, Coppelia), The Studio Company pursues rigorous technical training through daily classes with both The Washington Ballet Company and private Studio Company classes. In addition, The Studio Company plans to tour throughout the city, engaging in education and outreach performances, particularly with schools participating in The Washington Ballet's DanceDC program."

In short, if you're an enormously talented preprofessional who is accepted into this program, your reward is to work twice as hard as you ever thought possible, but you get to dance a lot :) Lucky them, and lucky us who get to see them just before their names go up in lights!

The inaugural program of the Studio Company took place, appropriately enough, in the bare-bones large studio of the WB. You all know the drill: concrete walls (but at least the paint is fresh!), barres on two sides, wall-to-wall mirror on the other, bleachers (holding 100 people max) on the fourth side. I was one of the very fortunate 100 (how did they ever let me in?) who got to see these seven amazingly talented dancers as they begin their transition to major careers.

The evening opened with "Pas de Quatre," choreography by Jules Perrot, reset by Anton Dolin, and perceptively staged for the Studio Company by Victoria Leigh. Dancers Allison Walsh, Maki Onuki, Emily Vonne SoRelle, and Martina Chavez. After a brief pause, we were treated to Septime Webre's beautiful pas de deux, "The Poet Acts," danced by Washington Ballet stars Brianne Bland and Jared Nelson. There followed "Airs Anciens" (music from Respighi's "Ancient Airs and Dances"), choreographed and staged by WB master John Goding, dancers Martina Chavez, Dori Goldstein, Chris Louk, Maki Onuki, Stacey Price, Emily Vonne SoRelle, Allison Walsh. Then came another special treat, as WB star dancer and choreographer Jason Hartley reprised his recent Kennedy Center success in "Nocturne Monologue." The evening was brought to a stand-up-and-cheer conclusion by Jeff Edwards' staging of Balanchine's "Who Cares?" (music by Gershwin), dancers Maki Onuki, Allison Walsh, Martina Chavez, and Chris Louk.

This evening didn't just exceed my expectations, it completely blew them away. It was pre-advertised only as a Studio Company performance, but in addition we got to see three established Washington Ballet Company stars! Seeing these amazing and world-class dancers (Bland, Nelson, and Hartley) in two world-class dances, fresh from their Kennedy Center season openers and this time up close and personal from about two feet away, was an experience that will always stay with me, a completely unexpected and incredibly generous bonus.

The three Studio Company performances, danced exclusively by WB Trainees, stood up proudly, even to the above stars' firepower. "Trainees" is really the wrong word, even though it is their official designation in the company - these dancers are the new stars that we will be seeing onstage, and soon! Among so much new talent it seems almost unfair to single anyone out, but I saw some very strong dancing from Allison Walsh (Pas de Quatre), along with loads of good dancing and some real charisma from SoRelle, Onuki, Chavez, Goldstein, Louk, and Price.

The evening ended on the best possible note, with a rousing and delightful performance of "Who Cares?" You can tell when dancers are authentically happy, especially when you are watching them from two feet away, and these dancers were *really* happy, and so was the audience; I think it was from dancing Balanchine, and from the security of Jeff Edwards' staging, and from their knowing that they had totally nailed this piece!

#2 BW

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Posted 25 October 2003 - 03:43 PM

Wow! Thank you Mike, you're right you were lucky to be there - I only wish I'd been there as well, but I do very much appreciate your posting this. It was obviously a night to remember and and a fantastic opening for this studio company, too. :gossip: :)

I'm looking forward to reading even more. B)

#3 liljules5

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Posted 25 October 2003 - 08:44 PM

Do you happen to know if these studio company members have a salary or is it more like a pre-professional division of the school?

#4 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 04:31 AM

The Studio Company members are paid, and they are given pointe shoes. The pay is not as much as a company member or even an apprentice. It is more like a stipend. But they are not in the school classes. They take company class or a special class for them. They dance in the larger works with the company and they have their own repertoire for separate performances.

#5 liljules5

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 06:40 AM

Thank you! Sounds like a nice set up!

#6 BalletNutter

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 08:06 AM

I, too, had the good fortune to see the performance and I echo Mike Gunther's sentiments. For me personally, Pas de Quatres and Poet Acts took my breath away. I thought they were each exquisite performances by the studio company dancers and Brianne Bland and Jared Nelson. Surprisingly, I was far more enamored with Poet Acts in the WB studios than I was at the Eisenhower Theater. I don't know why -- the proximity to the dancers, their amazing partnering, the new costuming ... not sure ... but I really loved it this time around.

And I agree that having the opportunity to be 2 feet away from the dancers was a treat that my dds and I will not forget any time soon.

Ms. Leigh: Beautiful work with the young trainees ... all was perfect, most particularly the costumes and hair. A slice of heaven to have an opportunity to see this classical piece so wonderfully done.

#7 Watermill

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 09:01 AM

Congratulations to Washington Ballet for launching an essential component for a ballet company: a trainee program that provides soloist level performance opportunities. And for subsidizing it, instead of requiring parents to continue shouldering the financial burden. And what a treat it must have been to behold the company dancers so up close. It's amazingly different than in a large auditorium, isn't it? They're so used to projecting their dance to 3000 people. When it's for only 100 it can be positively dizzying!

Which Pas de Quatre was this? From Swan Lake?

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 09:24 AM

Watermill, the "Pas de Quatre" was the version of the Romantic divertissement for super-ballerinas as revived by Anton Dolin. Victoria Leigh staged it, so if you have questions about it, I'm sure she can respond!

Mike, thank you again for writing such a wonderfully detailed report. I couldn't go to that program and was very glad to read about it.

#9 kiki

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 09:49 AM

This really does sound wonderful!! If I may ask, what is the age range of these dancers and were they taken from the WBS or WBS Summer Program?

#10 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 10:13 AM

The age range is 18-22, mostly 18-19. One is a college graduate from Chicago who also did two years in Level 8 at Houston, and one, who was a WSB student did two years in college and then one with Nevada Dance Theatre. One is from Japan, one from NCSA, one from Maryland Youth Ballet and another from San Antonio who also studied at Maryland Youth. Another female, not dancing right now due to injury, is a graduate last spring from WSB, and the male dancer was a WSB student for two years. None were accepted from this past summer's SI, although they do plan to do that if there is someone they would like to keep. The other male who was supposed to be in the program was from Cleveland but stayed in our program last year after the SI here in '02. This year, in the middle of the summer, while at ABT in NY, he decided to quit dance and go into religious studies. I believe we have a second male dancer starting in the program in January, but not sure. I heard that the other day from the dancers.

Thank you all for your very kind words about this program! I think it was a very good start to the Studio Company, and certainly an ambitious one for such a small group! Three of my Pas de Quatre dancers were in all 3 ballets, which was quite a marathon, especially with the costume and hair changes. Getting out of the Pas de Quatre hair takes as long as getting it done in the first place! The interludes between ballets could have used another pas de deux :) I believe for today's performance we have a pianist to play a musical interlude during the changes, as the Poet pas after Pas de Quatre and one solo between the second and third works were not quite long enough. (Second show is this afternoon at 4:30. It is primarily for the Cecchetti Council, which is holding it's annual event in our studios all day today.)

#11 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 10:25 AM

Watermill, this Pas de Quatre is "Le Grand Pas de Quatre", the one created in 1845 for Marie Taglioni, Lucille Grahn, Fanny Cerrito, and Carlotta Grisi. It was presented first in London and was produced in order to bring together four of the world's leading ballerinas of the time in one work. The music is by Cesar Pugni, and the choreography was by Jules Perrot, who was also the husband of Grisi.

It was reconstructed by Keith Lester in 1936 for the Dolin Ballet, and then a different reconstruction by Anton Dolin, in 1941 for Ballet Theatre. The version I learned and danced a number of years ago was this version. I have staged it a number of times, and absolutely love doing it as it is just a very special work, as well as a history lesson for the dancers, and a major challenge to teach them the style of that period. :)

#12 DON HO

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 10:45 AM

I have to join the chorus and sing the praises of the Studio Company performance. It was truly fabulous. I brought my D who was inspired beyond words. The entire program was outstanding, however the highlight for us was the Pas de Quatre. Miss Leigh's attention to every historical detail of the piece was most impressive and gave us a lessonin dance history. Thanks to all!

#13 Watermill

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 12:10 PM

Victoria, how was this performance possible so early in the season?
When did rehearsals begin?

#14 Mel Johnson

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 03:59 PM

I don't believe I'm betraying a confidence when I tell you that this program was put together in about a month. I doubt if Pas de Quatre had more than six rehearsals. One thing trainees learn from events like this is that as a pro, you are expected to learn and produce FAST!

#15 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 26 October 2003 - 05:03 PM

Watermill, it really was sandwiched in when we could have them for an hour or so. I did start Pas de Quatre early, back at the end of Aug. and had several rehearsals the first week. But after that it was here and there. Jeff Edwards also started on Who Cares at that time, but John Goding did not do his ballet with them until the last two weeks. So, with John having more time the last two weeks, Jeff and I had less. In between the end of Aug. and the last two weeks there was a KC season and then massive all day rehearsals for setting Midsummer, which goes in January but the person setting it was here in October, so, that is when it got staged. That really cut back on rehearsal time for the Studio Co., and of course I was also teaching my regular schedule, so did not have a lot of time that I could give them either. I had a total of 4 rehearsals between the KC performances and the dress rehearsal for this production last Thursday. (Just checked back through my date book and I had 6 rehearsals prior to the KC season, and then the 4 after. Some of them were one hour and a half, others one hour, and one was 45 minutes.)


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