The young dancers of Ballet Fantastique: Dancer interviews from backstage

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Trainees Emily Wilhite and Camille Morgenstern Photo Credit: Stephanie Urso Photography — http://stephuphotography.com

Event Coordinator Intern, Kristen here again! This last weekend, we had a splendid performance by our Academy dancers in the Home for the Holidays jazzy ballet concert at the Wildish Theater. After the performance I interviewed three very talented ladies, Brenna (age 5), Naomi (age 10 1/2), and Emily W. (age 22).

Brenna, age 5

BFan: What was your favorite part of the performance?
B: The Whole Thing!!!

BF: Were you nervous?
B: No

BF: What did you do to calm your nerves?
B: I smiled!

BF: What do you love most about ballet?
B: Because I get to go to performances.

Naomi, age 10.5

BF: How often would you dance in a day or week?
N: About four days a week.

BF: What are your favorite steps/moves to perform?
N: I love a lot of them, but I would have to say jumps, pas de bourrée, and frappé!

BF: What gives you inspiration to train so hard?
N: Seeing the older girls gives me inspiration. They are so good, I want to be like them.

Emily W., age 22

BF: What are the most important things you do to get ready for a performance?
E: One, obviously warm up, so I do not pull something on stage. Two, I always take a moment to breathe, to just avoid the noise and loudness.

BF: How long have you been dancing and when did you start?
E: Hmm, about 9 years ago, if I am doing the math right. I started my freshman year of high school.

BF: What is the hardest thing about ballet?
E: For me personally, to get my arms correct. In ballet, you need to have a fluid line. It is not just one position to achieve, that is the hardest for me.

We’re proud of you, ladies!  Great work on stage up there.

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Guest Blog Post-A Review of Cinderella

After the amazing success of our last performance Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet, we thought it would be great to bring back guest blogger Megan Hobbs to tell you all what she thought of this one-of-a-kind performance.  Megan is a huge fan of Ballet Fantastique (she was lucky enough to catch both shows) and seems to sum up perfectly what it’s like to be sitting in the audience at one of our shows.  So without further ado, here are Megan’s thoughts on Ballet Fantastique’s latest performance (and as always, feel free to share your thoughts with us as well–we love hearing from you!)

THOUGHTS ON BALLET FANTASTIQUE’S CINDERELLA: A ROCK OPERA BALLET FROM MEGAN HOBBS:

Almost everyone knows the story of Cinderella, but I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen it brought to life quite like the recent performance by Ballet Fantastique. In this creative new take on the classic fairytale set in Sunnydale, California in 1964, the stepmother and stepsisters sport adorable polka-dot dresses and bouffant hairdos.  They learn to dance the “mashed potato” and dream of marrying the prince to the tune of “Mr. Sandman.”  The dancers’ performance was packed with oomph and style, and made the audience sit up and pay attention from the time the chords to the first song were played. This was Cinderella with attitude.

One of the many unique aspects of this show was the collaboration between the dancers and the live band that accompanied them onstage, The Agents of Unity. It is actually difficult to say who accompanied whom, because the musicians shined just as much as the dancers did. These two extremely talented groups complimented one another perfectly, creating a palpable energy that could be felt by the audience and the performers alike. Throughout the performance, Eugene’s Ambassador for the Arts, Fred Crafts, narrated the story by acting as radio DJ and announcing the goings-on in Sunnydale.

The show opened with “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” where the stepsisters, played with plenty of personality by Ashley Bontrager and Krislyn Wessel, fought over a cute scarf and ordered Cinderella around.  The back-and-forth sister relationship was hilarious, and the two teased and picked on each other while still dancing gracefully on pointe. Meanwhile, Cinderella twirled around them with a mop, danced by Allana Fisher. Fisher’s stage presence fit the character of “Cindy” perfectly: all her movements were smooth, poised, and demure. I was also amazed at her endurance by the end of the show, as she was in nearly every piece. Next, enter Amelia Unsicker with a martini glass and a shimmy, in the part of Cindy’s stepmother. As always, Unsicker brought tons of attitude and flair with her onto the stage and got a lot of laughs from the audience with her antics.  She did a great impression of a 1960’s housewife, alternately flouncing and stumbling (again, always gracefully) around the stage. She held her martini glass in one hand and a long cigarette holder in the other, primping and pushing her daughters at the prince anytime she got the chance.

The band fired up “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes while the fairy godmother of Sunnydale (Leanne Mizzoni) convinced the prince (Fredrick Davis, Dance Theatre of Harlem) to hold a ball to help find his dream girl. Mizzoni danced with precision and energy and Davis looked the perfect part for the handsome prince as he took many effortless turns around the stage. In the next scene an expert from “Dancing Divas Inc.” went door to door to teach the town how to dance. The instructor was played by none other than Hannah Bontrager in a fluffy blonde Marilyn Monroe-esque wig, who brought pizazz to the stage with her groovy “new” move, the mashed potato. The stepsisters tried to learn it unsuccessfully, while Cindy picked it up immediately.

In a very cool rendition of “Tell Him” by Billie Davis, Mizzoni and her two “Fairy Godmother’s Boys” played by Justin Feimster and Gianluca Paparo, brought Cindy a beautiful gown for the ball.  When everyone arrived at the dance, H. Bontrager and Elijah Labay (NW Dance Project) entered in leather jackets and tight pants (and pointe shoes for H. Bontrager) in a style reminiscent of Greasers crashing the prom. They danced to “Wild Thing” with choreography inspired by Twyla Tharp. Both dancers performed with so much charisma and stage presence that the entire audience was transfixed.  Cindy and the prince danced the night away to the Crystals and the Drifters until the clock struck the magical hour of midnight and Cindy lost her glass slipper, or in this case her pointe shoe.

The last part of the show was very entertaining—the stepsisters and stepmother tried to make Cindy’s slipper fit on one of their feet to the tune of “My Boyfriend’s Back” and the prince finally realized Cindy had been under his nose the whole time. The whole company then came together onstage for a final group dance featuring the twist, the mashed potato and jive steps. The lovers were then featured one more time in the encore to the tune of “Be my Baby” by the Ronettes. The dancers and musicians received an enthusiastic standing ovation at each of their two sold-out performances, and I don’t think I am alone in saying that I liked Ballet Fantastique’s version better than the original.

Photo Credit: David Putzier

It’s Almost Show Time!

And we’re down to the single digits, only FIVE days left until show time!  This will probably be the last “top five” before the world premiere of Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet Set in 1964, seeing as how the dancers, choreographers and band will be hard at work all week working on final preparations before the big show.  Fred (who will be dancing the role of Prince Charming) from the Dance Theatre of Harlem is here learning all his choreography, costumes are being put together, props are being assembled and all the while, everyone is dancin’ around the studio to sixties music that we can’t get out of our head.  This week we’re hearing from Ashley Bontrager, who is dancing the role of a stepsister, on her top five reasons why if you haven’t already, you need to buy a ticket for this show!  But like always, let’s get to know a little more about Ashley before you hear her top five’s…

Ashley, who is from Eugene, Oregon, has studied classical ballet since she was four years old!  She has trained at Buffalo City Ballet, the Conservatory of Classical Dance, Ballet Fantastique and the University of Oregon, where she also graduated with a BA in Journalism-Broadcasting.  Ashley has been with BFan since 2000 and has danced numerous roles during that time.  Her favorite however, was when she danced the role of Wanda, the floozy in Love at the Cafe Terrace.  Some of her favorite things are cheese, cabernet sauvignon and BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, and here are her top five reasons why you NEED to see Cinderella this weekend…

5.  This is a show you can watch with your parent’s generation, as well as targeting the younger crowd.  It has the top hits from the 60s (i.e. your mom will dance her socks off to it, if you give her the gift of a ticket for mom’s day) and you won’t be bored watching it, because we’ve made it fresh and new!!

4.  You can tell the band and the dancers vibe off one another, and we’ve made a show that is only stronger because we have each other onstage!

3.  For those of you who love to laugh, there’s no reason you won’t be during the show 🙂

2.  Although we are a ballet company, known for our classical technique, our choreography for this show is definitely contemporary-imagine the mashed potato on pointe shoes!!

1.  We’ve done our best to stay true to the 60s hairdos, perhaps we’ll bring back bouffants!!

Once again, I’m convinced.  Thanks Ashley!  This definitely isn’t going to be your average ballet.  Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet Set in 1964 will make you laugh, keep you dancing in your seat, show you moves that you’ve never seen on pointe shoes and take you back to the 60s all at once!  Tickets are going fast so make sure you get them soon! http://www.balletfantastique.org/company/events.php

Only 11 Days Left!

I can’t believe there’s only 11 days left until the curtain is raised at the world premiere of Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet Set in 1964!  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing bits and pieces of rehearsal, and it is definitely going to be an unforgettable show.  This week we’re hearing from Justin Feimster, Ballet Fantastique company dancer, who is going to give you five more reasons why you need to come see it.  But before you trust him on why you should buy a ticket, let’s get to know a little bit about him…

Justin graduated with a BA in Theatre Production from Valdosta State University in 2009, while at the same time he was attending dance classes and performing with Dance Arts, Inc.  He has been in the Nutcracker several times, dancing various roles, and was even the Nutcracker Prince!  He’s been with Ballet Fantastique since 2011, and his favorite role was when he danced the part of Ollie in As You Like It: A Wild West Ballet.  While he’s not dancing, Justin loves hiking and scuba diving and his favorite movie is Lord of the Rings.  He can’t wait for this unique performance of Cinderella, and here are his top five reasons why you need to see it:

5.  LIVE MUSIC!  It’s a concert and a show all wrapped into one!

4.  Beautiful dancers, these girls work hard and are a pleasure to watch!

3.  Supporting local artistic expression!  Without support from the community, the artistic world will dry up, and without art this world is a lot colder.

2.  Our version of Cinderella is A LOT of fun, and anyone of any age will enjoy the choreography!

1.  It’s all original!  We don’t work off pre-set moves that have been around for years.  We make it all new, every time!

Well said Justin!  All-original choreography, a rockin’ concert and supporting the local arts…sounds like a great night out on the town!  (Or a perfect mother’s day outing.)

Tickets are going fast so get them now, and see you next week for more top fives! http://www.balletfantastique.org/company/events.php

More Top Five’s

Only 15 days left until the first performance of Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet Set in 1964 and rehearsals are in full-swing!  If you haven’t already gotten your ticket to see this one-of-a-kind show that will keep you dancing in your seat all night, then let Amelia Unsicker, who will be dancing the role of the stepmother, tell you her top five reasons why you need to see it.  But first, let’s get to know a little more about Amelia…

Amelia began her ballet training at Pacific Festival Ballet, and in 2000 she was accepted into the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre where she trained for seven years, appearing in numerous shows like Swan Lake, Snow White and The Nutcracker just to name a few.  She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Biology, and has been with Ballet Fantastique since 2008.  Some of her favorite things include I Love Lucy and Brave New World, and here’s her top five reasons to see Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet Set in 1964:

5.  LAUGHTER!  It’s pretty dang comedic.  I can guarantee a few chortles.

4.  ZEST!  All of us dancers are really getting into character, and loving it!  The performance will surely be full of exuberance.

3.  GUEST DANCER!  Fred Davis, an amazing dancer from Dance Theatre of Harlem, will be performing with us as the Prince!

2.  YOUR MOTHER!  The performance occurs over Mother’s Day weekend.  So, treat your mom with tickets to the ballet!

1.  LIVE MUSIC!!!  Shelley and Cal James and their band will be joining us on stage.  The fusion of live music and incredible dancing-how can it get any better than that??

Well, if I weren’t already going to both performances then Amelia, you have me convinced! Make sure to get your tickets before they’re gone and stay tuned for more top five’s coming next week! http://www.balletfantastique.org/company/events.php

The Countdown to Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet

Only 23 days left until the curtain raises on the very first performance (and last show of the Daring Season,) Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet Set in 1964!  The dancers and choreographers have been hard at work, making sure this will be a performance not to be forgotten.  And as the clock winds down to opening night, we thought it’d be fun to share with you some of the dancer’s top five reasons to see this one-of-a-kind production.  This week Cinderella herself, Alanna Fisher, has shared her top five reasons why you need to see this show!  But first, let’s get to know a little bit about Alanna…

Alanna, who is from Willow Creek, California, graduated from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City with a BFA in ballet in 2011.  She participated in the University’s Character Dance Ensemble for three years and travelled to Costa Rica and Greece, as well as to Germany to train and learn choreography at the Berlin State Ballet School.  Her favorite TV show is Friends and she loves Harry Potter.  And now, here are her top five reasons to come out and see Cinderella in May:

5) The band will be onstage with the dancers and they’re dressing in 60s theme too.  Plus, they sound awesome!
4) Our Prince Charming is from Dance Theatre of Harlem.
3) You can sing along, we all have been.  We promise not to actually be singing during the show though, or we will at least be quiet while doing so. 🙂
2) We have a show on Mother’s Day…hint hint!!!
1) It’s going to be amazing!!!
Thanks so much, Alanna!
Check out our website for ticketing information, they’re going FAST!  And stay tuned next week, we’ll have more top five’s!

Getting in the mood for Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet (set in 1964)

Welcome to an all-access, behind the scenes look at what helped inspire our upcoming performance of Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet Set in 1964, straight from the directors’ sketchbook!  We’re so excited for this performance because Donna and Hannah are transforming the traditional story of Cinderella into a rock-and-roll version set back in the 1960’s, accompanied with live music.  How fun does that sound?!  The audience will be taken back in time while listening to songs by The Supremes, The Beatles, The Temptations and more!  Not only that, but we’re thrilled to welcome guest dancer Frederick Davis all the way from the Dance Theatre of Harlem to star as Prince Charming.  The show isn’t until May, but in the meantime let’s take a step back in time to see what was going on in 1964 and look at what helped inspire this one-of-a-kind, or should I say groovy performance…

  • Lyndon B. Johnson became President of the United States, winning with 61 percent of the vote.
  • Gas cost an average of 30 cents per gallon back then and a movie ticket was only $1.25! Oh, how times have changed. (Speaking of changing times, this is also the year Bob Dylan released his hit “Times They Are a-Changin.”)
  • The very first Ford Mustang rolled off the factory line and was introduced to the public at the World Fair in New York.
  • Buffalo wings were first made this year in Buffalo, New York and became an instant favorite.
  • Bell-bottomed pants were making their way into closets everywhere replacing capris and designer Mary Quant introduced the world to the mini-skirt, which changed sixties fashion for good.
  • Most TVs were black and white, and Sony introduced the first VCR Home Video Recorder.
  • This is the year that TV classic Bewitched started its eight year run, and most households tuned in to watch.
  • 1964 is the year The Beatles took the world by storm!  They made their first (of many) appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and had THIRTEEN singles on Billboard’s Top 100 at the same time!
  • “I Want to Hold Your Hand” & “Can’t Buy Me Love” both by The Beatles, and “Baby Love” by The Supremes is what most people were rockin’ out to in 1964.
  • Music legends The Rolling Stones released their debut album titled “The Rolling Stones.”
  • It was a big year for Broadway! Classics like Hello Dolly, Funny Girl and Fiddler on the Roof all premiered on Broadway in New York City.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published by Roald Dahl.
  • Popular films this year included Mary PoppinsMy Fair Lady, and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Doing some research to get a feel of what was going on in 1964 is playing a vital part behind the scenes.  Here are some pictures that Donna and Hannah tell us are helping guide the set and costume design for Cinderella.  This one helped give us a feel for what the set should look like if we really wanted to turn back the clock.

And these fabulous outfits helped inspire beautiful costumes for the performance.

 

Just looking at these pictures and listening to Shelley and Cal’s rehearsal versions of the Jersey Boys hit “Big Girls Don’t Cry” is already making me excited for Cinderella in May!  It’s sure to be another huge Ballet Fantastique hit, and I hope this behind-the-scenes look took you back in time and got you ready for what’s sure to be an unforgettable show!

Check out our website for more information on how to get your tickets (best seats for Saturday night are already disappearing fast). http://www.balletfantastique.org/company/events.php