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Dayton, Ohio: Gem City Ballet

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I just wanted to ask a quick question to see if reviews of pre-professional performances were allowed/encouraged here on Ballet Talk.

Gem City Ballet (not affiliated with the company, but take class at the affiliated school) will be performing Sat. Oct 15 at 8:00 pm at Bellbrook HS.

The performance will include "Valse Fantaisie" (Balanchine), "Caprice" (Erin Robbins), "Echoes of Vienna" (Estelle Bean), and "Graduation Ball" (I am not sure of the choreographer.

I am anxiously awaiting this performance, it will be my first time to see a staging of Balanchine works and the resident choreographers always put on magnificent ballets.

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We welcome reviews as long as the event is open to the general public.

Balanchine choreographed two completely different versions of Valse Fantaisie to the same music. I wonder which one this will be. Both are well suited to advanced students.

"Grad Ball" (by David Lichine) should also be a great vehicle for the young dancers. It gives opportunities for acting as well as bravura highlights (two girls in a fouette contest).

So, Skittl, as long as this isn't a private or restricted performance, please return with a review!

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I attended Gem City Ballet's Fall Repertory this Saturday. It was a lovely evening with some fine dancing. Unfortunately, the nature of a pre-pro company performance at a high school auditorium is the family environment. I had a young girl and boy sitting behind me who pointed out the girls they knew everytime they are on stage. Drove me crazy, but I am glad they are being exposed to and enjoying the ballet.

(The program was open to the general public, but the information is not listed on the internet, it is occasionaly reviewed in local papers, but because these are all students I am not going to list names... which will unfortunately make the review seem somewhat incomplete.)

The program consisted of 4 ballet.

The first shown was "Caprice" choreographed by Erin Robbins. The program states that Caprice was honored at the 2003 RDA festival. This was a short, more contemporary piece choreographed to music by Haydn and Mozart. It was the first piece of the evening and while the dancing was technically good, there appeared to be some nerves amongst the performers- a few of whom were in their first company performance. The soloists did not catch my eyes and I found myself watching instead a corps that was very well put together. The principal dancer had a lovely line and looked excellent in her pas de deux, while dancing with the entire group, however, the choreography made her seem lost and as though she was just chasing her partner around. The one male in the performance has improved as a partner and a dancer since last year, but still has a bit of a way to go, both in technique and stage presence.

The second ballet presented was "Echoes of Vienna" choreographed by Estelle Bean. I very much enjoyed the choreography, however my husband said that it seemed to ignore the music completely. He felt that when the music changed tempo the dancing did not and that large beats were sometimes ignored. Once again, I think the corps work was stronger than the soloist work. The corps (of 9) often danced in a block where one line would pick up at a time to join the rest of the group and the timing was perfect. The soloists had 3 adagio sections of developes to the front, side, and back. The balance on most of the girls was somewhat shaky, however, I have seen these girls in practice and it is to be said that they went for beautiful line in a romantic tutu, rather than over the head develope. My main complaint about the piece was the costume, which paired a beautiful black and gold brocade bodice with a romantic tutu of black,yellow and brown, which was distractingly ugly.

The third piece was Balanchine's Valse-Fantaisie (Repetituer Daniel Duell). The piece was danced by 4 females in the corps and a female and male lead. I was completely mesmorized by the way these 6 dancers shined. Every step was quickly and techincally well executed. They were performing as if they were on the stage of Lincoln Center, rather than Bellbrook High School. The choreography (this was my first Balanchine) left me speechless. My husband pointed out to me "That was really good. Every note had a step and it paid attention to the tempo and the accents." I then pointed out to him that this was choreographed by someone who is considered to be the best American choreographer. I don't know how else to describe this piece. The company will be performing "Who Cares" in January and I just cannot wait.

After the intermission, the company performed Graduation Ball. As I said before, the GCB only has 1 male, so a "retired" principal from the company was pulled back in, a young student from the school was asked to perform, and then males were borrowed from various sources including a local performing arts high school, and 2 local universitys.

I was looking forward to this piece, and I found it to be enjoyable but almost to hectic. The headmaster and headmistress (both played by adults, not high school students, although one is a current company member and the other just left last year) offered both superb acting and dancing. All of the girls danced well, but the acting was to over the top. Some degree of exaggeration is needed, but it almost seemed unnecessary.

The divertessements (is that the right word) ranged from very well done, to unnecessary. I greatly enjoyed the head girl's solo and the drummer boy's solo was nice, although the costume a bit silly. The Poet's pas de deux, which was done by a guest artist, was beautiful.

The foutte competition was great, with well executed fouttes that stayed in place. I think the numbers they did ranged from 6 to 8. When they mirror imaged each other, the girl who switched to her left foot did travel quite a bit.

I found the "Circus Act" divertessement to be unenjoyable and not well prepared. They didn't seem to be dancing.

Perhaps the best part of the entire ballet was the character dancing by the headmistress and the entrachet sixes by the guest artist. Amazing! The rest of the men were doing grande echappe (I think that is the word- looks like a frog jump) in the back- a wise choice for dancers who range from no ballet to advanced ballet training.

Thanks for reading my review. It may be a bit futile to post a review without the names, but I would like the dayton area ballet talkers to know about this "gem" of a company, and also to practice being able to review ballets so I can be a more confident poster here at BT.

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I to am very glad that students outside of SAB perform Mr. Balanchine's ballets. Now that I have seen one, I understand what the fuss is about. I can't go to professional companies very often, and am eagerly looking forward to "Who Cares" in January. (The company also performed Concerto Barocco in 2003.)

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Sounds like pretty ambitious, varied, and interesting programming to me. And fun. I enjoyed reading about it. This year I attended my first school performances since a few at SAB long ago -- at Boca Ballet and Ballet Florida. I was really delighted about how dedicated and involved everyone was and how wonderful the experience could be.

(And my usual Old Grump, "shut up and appreciate the art" attitude about audience behavior was lifted, miraculously and without any effort on my part, for both performances.)

Maybe we should have a policy of mentioning at least the lead student dancers, since some will (we hope) go on to professional careers, and it's always nice to be able to say: "I was there when ....".

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"Maybe we should have a policy of mentioning at least the lead student dancers, since some will (we hope) go on to professional careers, and it's always nice to be able to say: "I was there when ...."."

I hope someone higher up will give us a policy statement. In particular, being unpaid, pre-pros, it might be unfair (unkind) to permit negative comments: at this level there is a right to fail in private, and since young people generally have this internet thing mastered, no doubt the performers and their friends will find any mention of them. Of course favorable comments are another matter!

It is great to read reviews like Skittl's, a breath of fresh air and a beam of hope for the art! And I can't wait to read the review of "Who Cares." Skittl, do you know who will set "Who Cares?" It must have been fun for the dancers having Danny Duell, who was a popular star at NYCB not so long ago, prepping them for "Valse Fantasie." "Who Cares" is going to give a lot of dancers a really great opportunity to shine. In four decades of NYCB-going, it is still fresh and a joy to see.

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I hope someone higher up will give us a policy statement.  In particular, being unpaid, pre-pros, it might be unfair (unkind) to permit negative comments: at this level there is a right to fail in private, and since young people generally have this internet thing mastered, no doubt the performers and their friends will find any mention of them.  Of course favorable comments are another matter! 

Our policy is that public performances by pre-professional companies may be reviewed and the pre-professional dancers can be mentioned by name, if the rules of courtesy are followed. We encourage reviewers to apply reasonable, age- and level-based standards to criticism -- i.e., do not expect that a pre-professional student will dance at the standard of Suzanne Farrell or Margot Fonteyn -- and where the standards aren't high, to keep in mind the responsibility borne by adults who decide the casting, the coaching, and the selection of ballets for which the dancers aren't ready or are ill-prepared. A mention that a company is not quite ready for the challenge of Ballet X, or that the school does not provide the training needed to perform Ballet Y in the correct style, or there isn't enough depth to perform Ballet Z, is more productive than saying, "Jeez, did you see that Jane Doe fall off point seventeen times in the first movement of Concerto Barocco?", unless your goal to be seen as the type of person who kicks small animals.

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Thank you Skittl for the information. Judith Fugate starred in Who Cares for years at NYCB, her specialty being "Fascinatin' Rythm." The company that she and her husband run also performs the Concert Version of the ballet (the full scale version uses a large number of men), so she's a wonderful expert to have. As a young girl she starred in Mr. Balanchine's Nutcracker in the role of Clara (called Marie or Masha by Mr. B) for four years and later became the first Marie to dance the great role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. She is a beautiful dancer, both delicate and fast. Mr. Balanchine used to call her "Sarah Bernhardt!"

Here is an interview with her not long after she retired from NYCB:


Please keep us informed on how it goes.

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