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:


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.


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.

We’re on a Billboard!


It’s happening! Kicking off the ’13-’14 Season: NEW LEGENDS is BFan’s premiere of As You Like It: A Wild West Ballet in San Benedetto, Italy!

“It’s a little bit terrifying!” says Hannah Bontrager, but the company is excited and running around like crazy, preparing to leave this Sunday bright and early at 5 a.m.!

Keep checking back for day-to-day updates as the company embarks on their first international tour this next week!

Out on the Range–Meet the As You Like It characters!

A tongue-in-cheek guest blog entry written by Adam Haaga (dancing the part of Silas!)


BFan convincingly imbibes their adaptation of Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It with exciting Wild Western motifs, maintaining the play’s original humor and levity without yielding the refined elegance of their classical roots.

Truly speaking cordially of love’s affable nature, this performance alights to the idea that love is a source of incomparable delectation and a force for happiness. It opens with a series of corruptions, iniquities and grievances: Duke Senior is ousted from office as sheriff, his younger brother Frederick appropriates legal power, assumes the aforementioned title, and exiles both Rosie (on account of his jealousy regarding the acclaim townspeople give her for her courage), and Lando, for a crime he did not commit. Rosie is accompanied by her close cousin CeCe and their campy assistant La Belle.

The tempo and mood translate quickly as soon as the banished characters begin their sojourn on the Range of Ardenne (Act II), a dominion where potent change occurs and a sense of balance is restored in all.

The scene out west illuminates with convivial magic and affection. Lando’s virtue and merit has won the heart of Rosie, though she, in her guise as the young cowboy Ganymede, must first counsel Lando. His clumsy and effusive poetry are only slightly irritating, and she wishes to show him how to be a more attentive and caring lover. Rosie proves a quick wit and her acute sensitivity in the ways of love commands the attention of all as she orchestrates, with the help of chimerical Cupid, the matrimony of four couples. Cupid’s omnipotent role infuses the story with light-hearted humor and amusement.

Meanwhile, Phebe’s degraded status as a wench does not seem to abate Silas’ devotion to her. The milkmaid does not reciprocate the cowhand’s admiration, but even stinging harlots have their tender streaks, as Rosie’s handiwork sets in motion an outrageous string of promises that unravel a complex love triangle. Touchstone, the bard-narrator who accompanies Rosie, CeCe and La Belle along their journey, emerges in a new capacity for this adaptive performance, acting as ritornelle, the troubadour narrating the story with lyric charm and appeal. Admittedly, this is a slight artistic liberty taken, but one the audience is sure to enjoy.

As You Like It celebrates a love crisp as turbulence, one that rattles your nerves to vibrate with the ardent stirring of fireflies tangled in the warp and weft of Hope’s sinew, ensuring us that there is nothing the magnitude of dreaming dynamism cannot accomplish, and that romantic success and change for the better are always gravid possibilities.

Meet the Characters (with slightly westernized names from Shakespeare’s original):

  • Duke – exiled leader who has the countenance to accept his lamentable position with grace and poise
  • Sheriff Frederick – delinquent younger brother to Duke whose nefarious motives bring corruption into the social order
  • Rosie – the sharp-witted daughter of exiled Duke who is the object of Lando’s adulation (Danced by: Hannah Bontrager)
  • CeCe – daughter of Sheriff Frederick, cousin and best friend of Rosie (Danced by: Amanda Coleman)
  • Ollie – Lando’s older brother who raised his sibling like a peasant, unschooled; Ollie’s allegiance sits with Sheriff Frederick (Danced by: Justin Feimster)
  • Big Bad Charlie – name says it all…not a man you would cross; thug bandit and Ollie’s co-conspirator, challenges Lando to a duel (Played by: Gianluca Paparo)
  • Lando – despite his inadequate upbringing, he is a nobleman of spirit and ethic and loyal to the exiled Duke; given to cloying sentimentality and deeply in love with Rosie (Danced by: Alberto Liberatoscioli, guest dancer from Nebraska Ballet)
  • La Belle – sweet, goofy barmaid and friend to Celia and Rosie (Danced by: Amelia Unsicker)
  • Audrey – a cute little country jezebel, friend of Phebe (Danced by: Jordyn Richter)
  • Phebe – milkmaid wench who spurns the ardent advances of the persistent cowherd Silas (Danced by: Krislyn Wessel)
  • Touchstone – acts as both choral narrative and the accompanying fool to Rosie, CeCe and La Belle (Played by: Adam Goldthwaite, Portland-based guest actor)
  • Silas – a tenacious admirer of Phebe; the cowherd whose complaisant gestures are met with her disapproval (Danced by: Adam Haaga)
  • Cupid – seraphic architect of romantic entrapment (Danced by: Leanne Mizzoni)

Our ballet will be fun, rollicking, playful, tongue-in-cheek, and toe-tapping. Don’t just join us—bring your friends! Groups of six or more receive a whopping $5 off EACH ticket!

Much gratitude to UO Shakespeare scholars Rachel Hanan and Lynn Freitas for their great service in assisting BFan with our wild west ballet adaptation. Our As You Like It is the first-ever ballet version that we are aware of of the work and is a DON’T MISS!

Tickets are going fast, with significant discounts for youth, seniors, students, young professionals, and groups of six or more!

Link to tickets so you can get ’em now:

Thanks for your love and support,