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From the company:

Oregon Ballet Theatre (Christopher Stowell, Artistic Director) announces its 2004 - 2005 company roster. The company has increased to 21 (from 20) and five new dancers have joined the company. The apprentice core had grown by more than 50% -- from eight last season to 13 this year. Four of the 13 trained at the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre (Damara Bennett, School Director).

Dance critic Martha Ullman West calls the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre "astonishingly good" in her 03-04 season review of the company, which appears in the October 2004 issue of Dance Magazine. All the dancers critiqued in the review remain with the company and Leann Underwood, then an apprentice now a company member, was also singled out for praise.

The 2004 - 2005 company comprises:

Candace Bouchard

Matthew Boyes

Kester Cotton

Paul De Strooper

Ansa Deguchi

Damian Drake

Katie Gibson

Yuka Iino

Gavin Larsen

Mia Leimkuhler

Valerie Limbrunner

Daniela Martin

Kathi Martuza

Anne Mueller

Alison Roper

Artur Sultanov

Tracy Taylor

Scott Trumbo

Leann Underwood

Karl Vakili

Holly Zimmerman

The new dancers are:

Candace Bouchard

Ansa Deguchi

Damian Drake

Valerie Limbrunner

Leann Underwood, and

Holly Zimmerman.

Three of those five -- Mlles. Bouchard, Deguchi and Underwood -- were apprentices last year and Ms. Underwood trained at the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre. Ms. Limbrunner was a guest dancer at OBT last year; Mr. Drake joins the company from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Ms. Zimmerman from Kansas City Ballet.

The company is increasingly international as OBT now includes two dancers from Japan (Ansa Deguchi and Yuka Iino), a Russian (Artur Sultanov) and a Canadian (Paul De Strooper). The company also includes two Oregon natives: Kester Cotton and Valerie Limbrunner. Tracy Taylor is a founding member of the company, having been with OBT since its inception in 1989.

The dancers are already well into rehearsals for "Movement as Metaphor," OBT's season opening program, which runs October 9 - 16 at Keller Auditorium. The program includes:

- Swan Lake, Act III, adapted by Christopher Stowell from Marius Petipa's 1895 original, to Tchaikovsky's magnificent score. Includes the breathtaking Black Swan pas de deux with its famous 32 fouettes. Company Premiere.

- Orpheus Portrait by Kent Stowell set to achingly romantic music by Franz Lizst. Company Premiere, first time this piece has been by a company other than Pacific Northwest Ballet.

- Concerto Barocco by George Balanchine set to Bach's virtuosic Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor. Set by Francia Russell, who, in 1964, became one of the first ballet mistresses chosen by Balanchine to teach his works around the world.

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Well, you know you're in trouble when the press writer refers to the "apprentice core". Just how painful will the "achingly" romantic Lizst be? Shall I bring aspirin? And I can't wait to count those famous 32 fouettes out loud with the rest of the audience! If she only does 31 can I get my money back? While I'm at it: five "new" dancers? Only 2 are new: Ms. Zimmerman & Mr. Drake.

Does Christopher Stowell read this stuff before it goes out?

As to company size, I was trying to figure out how they increased from 20 to 21 when I had counted 21 for both years. Now I get it: Valerie Limbrunner was not considered a company member last year. Not sure what "guest dancer" means: usually it refers to a principal dancer joining the company in a particular role. Miss Limbrunner danced most corps roles and some soloist roles along with company members throughout most of the year. Anyway, my point still stands: no expansion of company, just an increase in apprentices. I would not brag too loudly about the larger number of apprentices: What's so impressive about a more than 50% increase in dancers whom you do not pay? It basically means the company has chosen to fill the stage with non-professionals, but your ticket price is still the same.

Listen, I know what OBT is up against and that they could have a 30 member company if they paid lower quality dancers a lot less. I am a stong supporter of Christopher Stowell: I can't imagine anyone proving themselves so capable an Artistic Director in their rookie year. I think his vision for OBT is exciting and of the highest artistic standards that he can afford. Let's focus on that and leave off with fudging the meager numbers of a small company.

And please have some ballet-savvy staff member review these press releases.



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