BEHIND THE SCENES: Gala Planning

As Ballet Fantastique‘s intern team dives head-first into planning for the 13-14 season kickoff Gala, they decide to share some behind the scenes thoughts with you about what its been like!

Timeless

From themes, to location, to drinks and hors d’oeuvres, planning for the 13-14 Season Kickoff Gala: TIMELESS has been both crazy and exciting!

Today, all of us interns went to see the secret location for the Gala, which will be only revealed to ticket holders–in due time. Looking at the space made us excited, yet a little bit worried at the same time.

What worries us the most about our location is that even though it is a beautiful space and we are so thankful to be able to us it, it’s pretty much a blank canvas. Meaning, we will have to somehow get most of the decoration ourselves— and set up— on a very small budget. However, some of us interns also agree that it’s even more exciting that it’s a blank slate, so we can transform the unique space into whatever kind of vision we have!

The intern team all agrees that after months of hard work, and many, many phone calls, we are so excited to present each of the luxury silent auction baskets. We don’t want to give away the swanky auction items, but we can say that some of them will be including destination giveaways!

If you want to know more about the theme of the gala, the intern team created a Pinterest board for inspiration! We wanted to go with a “Made in Manhattan” theme where Mad Men meets Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We are talking about red carpets, sounds of vintage vinyl, champagne, and fad hors d’oeuvres.

We want those who attend the Gala to feel special in some way. Whether that be VIP couches, or getting a sneak peek of season previews from the BFan dancers before anyone else sees Donna and Hannah’s newest choreography.

We’re even thinking about coordinating outfits! Find us interns in pretty black cocktail dresses walking around serving hors d’oeuvres on vinyl vintage records! We hope you decide to come celebrate with us the new season in style with BFan’s artists in the era that never fades!

Mark your calendars! Saturday, Oct. 12 at 8 pm.

View the official invitation>>

Save $10 off each ticket before Sept. 30! Get advance discount tickets NOW>> 

 

What’s in a Company Dancer’s Bag?

As Ballet Fantastique‘s 13-14 Season: NEW LEGENDS jump starts with company dancer rehearsals every day for ZORRO® The Ballet, we were curious about what they carried with them to every practice. We asked some of them if we could take a peek in their dance bags and what we found was both fun and helpful, so we decided to should share them with you!

We took a sneak peek in Leanne's bag to see what she carries in her dance bag at all times!

We took a sneak peek in Leanne’s dance bag to see what she thinks is important to carry around at all times!

Leanne’s bag: Ibuprofen, Biofreeze, Thera-band, skirts, warm-ups, point shoes, foot roller, ballet technique soft shoes, sewing kit, deflated bike tire, deodorant, mint foot spray and perfume, ipod, and CD’s.

Caitlin’s bag: Point shoes, flat shoes, massage ball and Tiger Balm.

Ashley’s bag: Point shoes, soft shoes, gray fleece onesie (that her mom made her), toe tape, Thera-Band, toe spacers, leotards, and tights.

Lydia’s bag: Two pairs of flat shoes, two pairs of point shoes, two sets of toe pads, skirt and shorts, tights, deodorant, baby powder, water, and an old granola bar.

Krislyn (If she had a dance bag): Leg warmers, point shoes, foot spray, sewing kit, and a schedule binder.

BFan’s Top 5 Reasons to Come to Zorro!

From the daredevil imaginations of Ballet Fantastique‘s acclaimed producer-choreographers Donna Marisa and Hannah Bontrager comes ZORRO: The Ballet, re-telling the famed legend of the masked Diego de la Vega. There are numerous reasons why someone should come see the show, but this week we asked some of our company dancers what their top five reasons to come see Zorro are! Read on to see what they had to say…

photo: Stephanie Urso

photo: Stephanie Urso

Hannah, executive director, said: “People should come to see Zorro because:

  1. It’s a really fun show and it covers a huge range of space, time and styles.
  2. The dancers are having so much fun– we get to be Native Americans and Spanish aristocrat girls in Barcelona. We even get to be folk dancers in what’s now LA. There’s so much fun that we’re having with showing different styles as actresses.
  3. It’s super high energy and the music is absolutely amazing. These bands are just like nothing you’ve ever heard.
  4. It’s all original choreography,
  5. all-original music and true to BFan’s style as ballet like you’ve never seen it before!”

Leanne, a company dancer, said:

  1. “The live music.
  2. BFan is the first ballet company to ever do Zorro.
  3. The costumes are amazing.
  4. The dancing is very different and covers many different genres.
  5. It is a really high-intensity show.”

Ashley said:

  1. “It would appeal to both men and women.
  2. We are the first ballet company to ever do Zorro.
  3. The costumes are extraordinary.
  4. The music is going to be epic!
  5. It is our first show with Fabio!”

Justin said:

  1. “Top notch music that you can’t help but groove to!
  2. Premiere show for our new company dancers!
  3. We’re the first ballet company to ever be given rights to do Zorro!
  4. Another set of amazing and eye catching costumes from our team of costume designers/builders.
  5. Helping to keep our art alive, even when major and highly talented companies around the country are collapsing.”

Lydia, one of BFan’s newest company dancers, said:

  1. “I think it is interesting because this is the untold story of Zorro. I just always assumed Zorro was just there and I didn’t know the reasoning behind it all. This is like part one of Zorro!
  2. This is my first show with Ballet Fantastique!
  3. I think it is cool that there is a Zorro corporation and we’ve had permission to perform it. I think that’s kind of a big deal!
  4. It’s the first of its kind!
  5. I think it will appeal to a lot of different types of people just because it has a lot of different versatility!”

Krislyn said:

  1. “The music is super awesome. I’m so excited to work with Incendio again. They are an amazing group to work with. The music is all very precise and makes it a lot easier for us to dance to. I’m super excited about the electric violin!
  2. The story of Zorro is a little different than the typical Zorro tale, so I think it will be fun for people to hear this story.
  3. The costumes are super beautiful and a lot more different than we’ve ever done before. I’ll have wings on my costume!
  4. Again with the story, I think a lot of different kinds of people with like it!
  5. It’s not a classical ballet, it is more temporary, and it will be a lot of fun!”

ZORRO® The Ballet premieres October 18-20 at the Hult Center. Click here to get your tickets now!

INTERN’S NOTEBOOK: Sammy Thom

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All of our trusty interns at Ballet Fantastique’s summer soiree this past July!

When I first walked in the door for my interview at Ballet Fantastique, I met a man with orange pants, a big smile and no shoes. He politely led me upstairs after I removed my own sandals and I sat at a wooden table to wait for my other interviewer. When she appeared she shook my hand, nearly bursting with enthusiasm and kindness, also missing her shoes. I felt instantly comfortable in the studio, channeling my previous years of dance and feeling inspired by the amount of passion in the room. I knew it was where I was supposed to be.

Working with Andrew, Hannah, Donna, my fellow interns and the rest of the BFan family has been one of the best experiences of my undergraduate career thus far. I have had previous internship experience that was disorganized, confusing, frustrating and misleading, but Ballet Fantastique has always found a way to keep me busy and motivated. As an intern, I have a lot of different responsibilities, ranging from bi-weekly office hours doing administrative work, hitting the pavement and getting some face time with current and potential donors, to updating BFan followers on all social media platforms. Lately I have been primarily responsible for renewing corporate trade agreements for fabulous groups and services that supported BFan last season and have agreed to donate again, as well as negotiating advertising placements in our season programs.

My favorite part of being an intern with BFan is that there are never dull moments and always something new to learn. I had never generated a newsletter before, managed an email subscriber list, created a marketing plan, called persistently about a donation request or spoken comfortably with movers and shakers in the community before my experience with BFan. Planning events has been something new for me as well, such as the golf tournament, car wash, summer soiree and our upcoming fall gala.

The hardest part about being an intern has been learning to do something I’ve never done before without a template or set guidelines, taking ownership of that project, and standing by the finished project. Nonprofit work is difficult because you are surrounded by people who aren’t responsible for just one job, but several different tasks all at once. You have to learn how to multi-task, be flexible and willing to do things you may have never thought you’d be asked to do, or heck, even be in charge of. You just have to keep pushing to make yourself better and put out your best work.

I am currently a student at the University of Oregon set to graduate this December, majoring in Public Relations and Journalism. After graduation and my time with BFan ends, I aspire to move to California and make my way into the marketing world to do promotions for film. Until then, I can’t wait for you all to see what we have planned for this fall! I can’t wait!

INTERN’S NOTEBOOK: Taylor Jernagan

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All of the hard-working interns at BFan’s annual summer soiree!

I began my journey as an intern with Ballet Fantastique this summer. Ballet Fantastique was a company that I had never heard of before, but the internship opportunity sounded intriguing. When first starting at Ballet Fantastique, I was in awe of the ballet dancers and the beauty of the company. I didn’t realize that there was so much behind the scenes work that was happening to keep the company rolling smoothly.

This internship is also my first experience with a non-profit organization. It has shown me how much goes into running a non-profit and how hard everyone works that is a part of Ballet Fantastique.

As an intern, I almost didn’t expect that there would be so much to do right away! But there are so many projects going on all the time. It has been great to be given a project and trusted with working on it and finishing it on my own. Yet at the same time, it has also been challenging to be assigned as a leader on a project that involves aspects of PR, event planning, or even BFan that I’m not yet familiar with. Everything has been such a learning experience and it has been easy and hard–all rolled into one.

My favorite part of the internship so far has been setting up and helping plan the Summer Soirée at Domaine Meriwether. I love helping make an event a fun, memorable experience for all of the guests. I am looking forward to the upcoming events that I will be helping plan and set up for Ballet Fantastique. The fall gala (stay posted for more details!) is going to be an extremely fun event to be a part of. I’m excited to learn more about the event planning aspects of public relations.

Some of the other projects I’ve worked on have included:

  • Organizing and mailing out rewards for all of our Italy Kickstarter backers
  • Contacting and making partnerships with community groups for our upcoming ARTreach program
  • Folding and stuffing countless season brochures
  • Posting on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites to gain a larger following on social media

So far, Ballet Fantastique has given me projects that are completely new to me and I am learning more and more each day I am there. This internship opportunity is going to be great for my future and I look forward to what else is in store at Ballet Fantastique.

Italy Tour Travel Journal Days 5-6 (Thursday/Friday)

We’re so sorry that this took us so long to post–Thursday and Friday of show week were absolutely FULL with final show preparations, and after leaving San Benedetto first thing Saturday morning, we had very little internet. What an incredible, formative experience this was!

Here’s how Thursday and Friday shook out:

THURSDAY

We start the day with our new favorite: cappuccino makes my job of re-editing the soundtrack, typing up cues, and burning new CDs MUCH more enjoyable. Antoinella and the amazing hotel staff at Hotel Paneta spoil us rotten, as has become their norm. Alberto’s brother, Antonio, is a total sweetheart and drives to the hotel just to help Donna and me load up our suitcases of sets and backdrops (brought all the way from the US, of course). The car is too small to hold both the suitcases AND us, so we we walk the sunny sidewalks to the Palariviera, a walk to which we’re becoming well-accustomed. Leanne comes along so that we can space the wedding scene from Act II with the students from the Prima Musa Scuola Professionale di Danza. The students, six girls age 9-12, are beautiful and wide-eyed. We do our best to set them at ease as we coordinate the scene we’ve each been working on for the past few weeks, albeit an ocean apart. Meanwhile, the other BFan dancers explore the city a bit and Adam enchants the little Italian kids at the hotel with his cat marionette on the patio (we’ll try to get our hands on his video to share–it’s absolutely adorable and a testament to the fact that art transcends spoken language).

After the wedding spacing rehearsal, Donna and Hannah set to work programming the lights. The LED system is very different from working with gels, which is what we typically use at most theaters in the States. On one hand, they’re faster, because everything is programmable digitally and requires very little manual maneuvering. BUT the colors are all super-saturated and “hard,” either RED-red, YELLOW-yellow, BLUE-blue (Smurf Blue, as Justin says), or GREEN-green…and of course we are doing a classical ballet, not a rock concert. Again, we’ve got the language barrier to deal with as well–so we do our best to set looks that will set the show off. We don’t want the dancers to have to stand around while we program looks, so my job is to keep jumping on stage to show what the lights look like on skin, then down to discuss. (At least I’m burning off the delicious pasta that keeps appearing at every meal–happy sigh…)

The rest of the BFan dancers arrive to take photos with the Academy students and then start to warm  up. We proceed with what was intended to be a cue-by-cue. But as is always the case in the performing arts world, things never go as planned. Chiefly: 1) The lights we had hoped we’d designed to look gorgeous on the dancers don’t look so hot. 2) The tech crew doesn’t know the show and they don’t speak our language, so cues are tricky. 3) We have dancers, but no stage manager, so no one can call the cues to help the tech guys know what’s supposed to happen when.

Solution time. Alberto is a gem and translates like crazy. Justin, who has a degree in theater production, steps in and helps to re-program lights to Donna’s satisfaction. And BFan’s dancers step up to the plate as we divvy up the show: Justin will call cues 1-3, Hannah 2-4, Alberto 5-8, Caitlin 12, Hannah again on 13-14, Krislyn on 15, Hannah on 16-17, Caitlin on 18, and so on. We can do this! We proceed to dress rehearsal like the honorary Italians we’re becoming–about 3 hours behind schedule. Act I runs pretty darn smoothly with our new game plan, but it’s all we can do to make it through this much of the show before we’re to be at the official sponsored dinner at the Excelsior. And we’re sweaty as all get-out. We run the six blocks back to the hotel, take the fastest showers possible, and try to look presentable. The dinner is delicious (of course) and we try to stay awake for all five courses…it’s going to be a long day tomorrow.

FRIDAY

There’s stress in the air—we really, really want to do our best and we’ve not yet had a chance to run the whole show. We head to the theater, warm up (it doesn’t take long in this heat), and leap into our dress rehearsal. The show runs quite well, but again takes longer than planned. Two hours til showtime! And it’s a 4-5 shower day. We race back to the hotel—getting good at this trek—to shower again, refresh hair and makeup, and put on our eyelashes. Then back to the theater. We discover that it’s getting dark and that the lights don’t work in one of the dressing rooms, so we all gather in one at the end of the hallway. The students who will open the show with their “Welcome, America!” suite are already there, in costume and ADORABLE. We’re floored that they’ve visited the Ballet Fantastique website, printed our photos and bios, and are begging for autographs and photos with us. I give the pep talk to the dancers that I’ve been prepping, and we’re ready and excited.

But we have to wait–Alberto explains that in Italy, shows say that they start at 8:30, but that really means 9:00.

The gorgeous red curtains finally open at 9:15 to thunderous applause as the students begin their opening pieces. Backstage, things are a little crazy because there’s a connection problem with the projector, which makes us nervous about our silent film presentation (which opens the show and features Italian subtitles to help our audience understand Shakespeare’s twisty plot). Frederico is dictating button-pressing like mad while he holds the cords together manually and we all cross our fingers and toes. Relief: the film miraculously plays without a hitch. Scene 1 begins with already shouts of “bravo” from our warm audience (what else could we expect from this breathtakingly hospitable city?), and before we know it, Act I is already over. We’re pouring sweat and dash up the flights of stairs to change for Act II. Preston finds me a bazillion ibuprofen (you should see the silly pantomime he does to help the Italian student understand what he’s asking to borrow) because the raked stage sure hurts your joints every time the adrenaline wears off. And…Act II is suddenly here and gone, too. We’re so sticky that the rose petals that conclude the show are plastered to everyone! We take our curtain calls and sign more autographs, then get to the work of packing up our myriad set and backdrop pieces. Justin watches over the folding of the backdrops with our Italian volunteers and I traverse the theater for left-behind programs so that I can bring them home for our wonderful donors and sponsors (these programs are GORGEOUS–Alberto and Adrianna have done an incredible job). It’s 11 pm by the time we limp back to the hotel, exhausted and SO happy.

And the hotel has a midnight “snack” (read: feast) for us.

We love Italy.

Backstage with Hannah: Casanova is coming…

Well, we’re in the throes of Casanova (T minus 8 days to opening night).  And ohmygoodness, this is FUN.

As a dancer and co-choreographer/producer, I’m feeling beautifully steeped in this decadent era (18th-century Venice).  It’s just so full.  

Casanova

The words: In the process of creating this new ballet, Donna and I have been reading biographies of Giacomo Casanova—as well as his own writings, of course.  (Aside: Cad, yes—as mum says, “sometimes I feel like I need to take a shower after I read this stuff!”—but the man was a charming and intelligent writer.  In fact, some of his lines were just so good that they inspired us to add a bit of narration in the “voice of Casanova” to the ballet, threading through his misadventures.)  We’ve been reading about Venetian customs and Carnival, and dear friend and history buff Genna Speer also insisted that I read a slim little novel by Georgette Heyer, Powder and Patchto pick up on some playful period details (highly recommended to our more serious audience members).

The music: We’ve been listening to endless concerti, both from composers we already knew and loved (e.g., the prolific Venetian Vivaldi is of course key to our ballet), and from those we were less familiar with, like Jean-Philippe Rameau.  Underpinning every decision was to choose music that would sound familiar, that would resonate, but that wouldn’t sound too familiar.  THERE IS NO RITZ CARLTON ELEVATOR MUSIC IN THIS BALLET.  A bit of my favorite discoveries: We stumbled in a You Tube search across this AWESOME version of his “Rondeau des Indes Galantes” by the Louvre Symphony Orchestra with authentic period instruments (WATCH—it rocks).  And some darn beautiful stuff that won’t make it into this ballet (e.g., the piano duo Anderson and Roe’s haunting arrangement of Vivaldi’s “Sento in seno ch’in pioggia di lagrime”/”A rain of tears“—if you haven’t listened to it yet, do), but that we’re filing away for a later project.  Even now, with our ballet score long-chosen, I’m listening to baroque music incessantly (e.g., literally right now), since I’m a snob about having perfect intermission music.  In short, the music from this era and from our Casanova score alike are so gorgeous that I can’t stop listening.  You just can’t get sick of it.  The downside is that this is our one ballet this season without live music, but the upside is that it would be a little hard to get the Louvre Orchestra or four harpsichords on stage at the Soreng; the experience we’re building is a total immersion in how stunningly lovely—and genius—music was during this time.

See the rounded shape of Alanna's arm in this shot from Giovanni Bruni's pas de deux with Paulina (Casanova has just swooped in and is plotting his next move.)

See the rounded shape of Alanna’s arm in this shot from Giovanni Bruni’s pas de deux with Paulina (Casanova has just swooped in and is plotting his next move.)  Photo: Steph Urso Photography

The movement: We’ve been studying baroque dance steps and watching authentic re-stagings of early ballet movement (recommended: Le Roi Danse).  We’ve enlisted the help of a number of experienced fencers for our dance-duel scenes with single rapier.  (Yes, I have BRUISES—this stuff is hard.)  Donna and I are fiercely committed to challenging the company to have exquisitely nuanced musicality and especially arms and hands, and she’s making explicit decisions about some of the aesthetics, for example, there is very little traditional elongee in Casanova (where the dancer extends his/her arm, palm down); instead, she’s having us invert all of these shapes with palms up in a more traditional baroque style.  There are cabrioles up the wazoo (this step was a big deal back then), and we don’t use as much epaulement with our feet, though there’s lots with our upper body.  The movement has twist and is all about arms, so as a dancer, my body is LOVING it.

Ok, so we probably can't get this kind of height, bu the idea is what we're going for...

Ok, so we probably can’t get this kind of height, bu the idea is what we’re going for…

The costumes/set: Then, there’s the costumes…we’ve been studying fashion of the time (see our Casanova Pinterest page to peruse the designers’ inspiration board).  The costumes are maybe the most gorgeous we’ve ever created (see a sneak peek on our Facebook page)—they are  a contemporary spin on “baroque.”  So, for example, we have these drop-dead cascading lace sleeves that fall from the elbow, but instead of connecting at the shoulder, they’re independent pieces that start at the women’s biceps so that we have more free movement.  Then the skirts are built on a basic tutu from our professional costumer in LA, Primadonna, which we decided to do in ivory as if it’s a petticoat.  Onto these tutu bases, demi-“bustles” are being overlaid, each woman’s slightly different, to get the dramatic curve out at the waist but without a floor-length skirt to get in the way of our dancing.  We’ve been on the hunt in Springfield antique stores for the perfect jewels for Casanova’s women, making our Casanova (Elijah Labay) practice in his wig to make sure that his new ponytail doesn’t get taken off in any of our lifts, and using our hair extensions that were the beehives for Cinderella to build the ladies’ hair higher in a style evocative of baroque, but again, still danceable.  All I can say is bless Allison Ditson, Rita Perini Vance, Katie Liane, and Beth Scott for their incredible, incredible artistry.

In sum, we’ve got gold paint on our hands (furniture that had to get taken up a notch), baroque music in our ears, and Casanova on our mind…

See you next weekend!

CASANOVA TICKETS/INFO