BFan Academy Fall Session has Officially Started!

Last weekend, we kicked off our Academy Fall Session with an Open House Event at our studio! We had delicious snacks, offered example classes, held a raffle for BFan apparel, and there was even a surprise performance by our company dancers. Not only did we get to see our wonderful academy dancers after taking a short break for the summer, but we also were able to meet many new academy dancers that are joining us this week! 

Class with Ms. Hannah

Above: A special ballet class with Executive Director, Ms. Hannah!

Surprise Performance with Ms. Cari and Mr. Natanael

Above: Ms. Cari & Mr. Natanael during their surprise performance for our Open House guests!

Enrollment is still open at the Ballet Fantastique Academy. To enroll your dancer, visit our academy website.

Adult classes are also offered at the Ballet Fantastique Academy.  For more information, visit our academy website.

Now hiring male dancer for the 2013-2014 season!


Attention male dancers! Ballet Fantastique is on a national audition search for a male company dancer for the 2013-2014 season. Please pass the information along! More info

ballet fantastique contemporary chamber company (in gorgeous eugene, oregon)



choreographer-producers donna marisa + hannah bontrager

2013–2014 season includes—subject to some change:

zorro (original score)

as you like it: a wild west ballet

tales from a floating world (live japanese taiko drumming)

Contract includes three new contemporary ballet premieres each season, plus touring. Competitive pay by the week and benefits, including shoes, massage assistance, and full physical therapy. Also available: additional opportunities for paid outreach and teaching work.

Competitive applicants will have strong classical ballet and contemporary vocabularies, and confidence with soloist and pas de deux work. Applicants must be a US citizen (or hold a green card or work permit), and are preferably 5’9” and up. Audition by DVD or in person (contact us for more details).

Additional skills of interest (desired but not requisite): Choreography, arts education, arts administration, dance instruction (ballet, contemporary, modern, jazz, pas de deux, and/or hip-hop).

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.  


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!


It’s Beatrix Potter time!

Here's how you do "mouse hands"

Well, folks, I’m writing at the studio. Wednesdays are our late-night rehearsals, and Ashley and Amelia are working away on what Artistic Director Donna calls “Puddle-Duck,” so I have a brief respite. It gets pretty hilarious sometimes when we step back and think about the fact that we’re scampering and holding tails and paws, and getting corrections like “scamper better into that line,” etc. We’re, like, creating a whole new vocabulary here! (i.e., “scamper” was NOT part of Incendio choreography!) Jemima Puddle Duck and the Foxy-Whiskered Fox is one of my personal favorites in the show; it’s actually so funny that I wish sometimes that the girls didn’t wear masks, since their faces are so hilarious.

Coming this December 2 and 4, Beatrix Potter: Tales for the Holidays is what we’re calling a “bonus concert” this season. This means that it’s not part of our regular concert season of three shows at the Hult Center–it’s an extra on top of these. As a chamber company, BFan doesn’t try to do a Nutcracker (plus Eugene Ballet already does a beautiful one of those here in our city)…but this is sort of our answer to the Nutcracker–a fun, holiday family ballet that may well become standard December fare for us BFanners + fans. Moreover, we’re excited to be producing the first-ever BFan shows at the stunningly-gorgeous and intimate Wildish in Springfield (the last time we were there was our guest appearance with the Oregon Mozart Players in 2008) and the lovely Florence Events theater in Florence later the same weekend. It’s our first-ever tour to Florence, and we’re stoked!

For those who don’t think they know Beatrix Potter, she was a much-beloved writer of children’s stories in the early part of the 20th century. The Tale of Peter Rabbit (danced by yours truly with great abandon and tan pointe shoes) was published in 1902, and after that came all sorts of cute characters that we’re bringing to life on stage.

Yours truly as Peter Rabbit

For a little more behind-the-scenes insight on what’s fun about this ballet, it’s honestly been a bit of a respite from the intensity of generating all-new choreography and a chance to just have fun and relax a bit. Of course, there are challenges (see list below), but it’s nice to recharge a little. We still get the excitement of the performance coming up (and the KIDS ARE SO EXCITED), but with a chance to recharge the choreographic engines. As a choreographer and not just a dancer, I needed this.

But as a dancer, it’s not all a piece of cake. Here are some of my favorite challenges:
–Keeping a straight face whilst rehearsing some silly stuff with our very community-visible windowfront here at City Center for Dance. Specifically: Wiggling my buns with squirrel paws (YES, they are different from mouse paws, believe it or not) as a Squirrel Cousin in the Tale of Squirrel Nutkin as people walk by. Don’t get me wrong–we LOVE our gorgeous new studio, but it does put us on display, and I have a feeling that some of our neighbors are very confused as they walk to the elevator… For example, one gentleman saw fit to wiggle back at us with his own paws the other day, and I have to divulge that rehearsal might have descended into giggles for a bit. We know that we must look pretty nuts. (Bad squirrel pun, sorry!)
–Acting without your face. It’s actually quite a challenge as a dancer–one we don’t often think about–to act with a mask on. So often as a dancer, you (I!) rely on your facial expressions to communicate drama or humor. In fact, I personally think it’s actually harder to pull off humor even than pathos or romance without your face showing. And, because we’re animals and wearing these awesome felted masks (which have a lot of personality, but aren’t dynamic and mobile, of course), we don’t get to use our faces to tell our stories. Add to this the fact that we’re telling a story and expecting a decent percentage of kiddos in attendance–we want them to “get it,” to be charmed, to be utterly Beatrix Pottered.
–Knowing that next week, it’s nose back to the grindstone. Like many of our professional colleagues in larger and more established companies across the US, for the first time, Ballet Fantastique company dancers will be challenged to work on two very different ballets simultaneously. Starting next week, we’ll be working on our all-original Arabian Nights while we also keep Beatrix up to par. As you might expect, Nights is gonna be very different than Beatrix, but simultaneously work/choreograph we must. Let’s just hope that Scheherazade doesn’t accidentally pop out of the wings with a fox tail.
–Logistics. Sigh: as always, my double-hatting gets a lot harder around performance time. And this time, I want to do a good job with things I don’t usually have to think about, including that we’re our own box office for the Wildish performance and being sure that the Florence community knows about our concert there. (Respectively, our norm is that the Hult Box Office manages things beautifully, and our team of interns and volunteers have publicity here in Eugene down to a science–but we’ve never done Florence before.) Let’s just say, I’m already waking up at 3am with random realizations and new ideas.

And so, to wrap it all up…has Hannah pulled it all together and is there a place to get these tickets, you might ask? YES! Here’s what you need to know.

TICKETS FOR WILDISH SHOW: $16 general admission or $10 youth (18 & under)
Three easy ways to order:
–Call 541-342-4622
–Order online
–Visit our local ticket outlets, Bambini or Kidstuff, during normal business hours to purchase your tickets through them (be sure to thank them for their support of Ballet Fantastique!)

TICKETS FOR THE FLORENCE SHOW: $16 adults and $12 youth (18 & under)
Available from the Florence Events Center, 541-997-1994. Tickets sold at the window from noon–4:30 pm daily or by phone with credit card.

Ok, now it’s back to my to do list!

Signing off,

What Makes a Dancer?

Practice. Strength. Artistry.

What does it take to be a GREAT dancer?

At BFan, we believe it takes:

  • Passion – You have to want to do it, because it’s not always going to be easy — loving the music, the history, and the art form.
  • Dedication – You may not always want to come to dance class, but being a dancer is 90% dedication and 10% talent — we promise once you’re at the class, you’ll be glad you came.
  • Professional attitude – Even our youngest dancers partake in this — respect the beautiful art from, respect the teachers, respect your fellow dancers, but most importantly — respect yourself!!
  • Communication – Communication is key — among parents, teachers, and dancers — all are equal partners in ensuring the best possible training experience!

So, you think YOU can dance?

Enroll your young ballerina in our young dancer and academy classes


Try out our adult ballet classes! Never danced before? Don’t be intimidated — there’s beginner and intermediate classes offered! Our Adult Ballet Program is taught by BFan company dancer Leanne Mizzoni and features our beautiful dance studios, learning at your own pace, and a fun and motivated atmosphere! Some general info:

  • What do I wear? Come comfortable with a relaxed dress code! CCD also provides a spacious dressing room for your convenience!
  • Locations/Parking: CCD is the City Center for Dance Studio, located at 960 Oak. Annex is the Annex Studio, 60 E. 10th Avenue. Both are beautiful studios in downtown Eugene with parking available nearby! Parking is free on evenings and weekends, and for the first hour!
  • Drop-Ins: Drop ins are welcome, but get a class card for the best deals!

We look forward to seeing new faces in our many different ballet classes this fall!!!

Making the most of your child’s dance training

“To dance is to be out of yourself, larger, more powerful, more beautiful. This is power. It is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.”
–Agnes de Mille

Enrolling your budding dance star in one of our classes, or just looking for more insight into our program? Let this list of tips guide you!

From The Intensive Dancer Handbook by Rhee Gold, 2007
Parents and teachers may look at a child’s learning from different perspectives, but we share a common goal: to assure that every child receives the best possible training, both physically and mentally. Mutual respect between our faculty and our dancers’ parents provides children with the ultimate care and education.

1. All the time: Encourage your child and express your pride in their efforts and accomplishments.

2. Before class: Make sure your child arrives several minutes prior to the start of his/her class, attends all scheduled classes and rehearsals, and comes prepared according to the dress code. Missing class can be discouraging when a child returns to class; often students have a hard time catching up, especially with choreography. They can become frustrated or anxious when they can’t catch up.

3. During class: We know that it can be tempting to want to watch your child during his or her regular classes. You want to see how they are doing! However, just as in school or with music lessons, it truly is in the dancer’s best interest for parents not to watch—
dancers truly focus better and learn more quickly when they know you’re not there! It can also create tension or confusion for children when some parents do and others do not respect the Academy of Ballet Fantastique’s policy that parents not watch—please help us keep the kids and their learning as our top priority and respect this policy.

4. After class: Talk to your child about what they learned at dance class!

5. Throughout the year: Special Parent Observation Days, exams (for older students),
and performance opportunities give dancers an opportunity to show their pride and
accomplishment in learning. You should definitely be there for these!

6. At home: Encourage your child to think strategically about his/her training at home.
Older students can be encouraged to record corrections and goals in a special dance journal or notebook. Practicing difficult concepts or steps at home (including pointe work) is generally not a good idea without the supervision with a teacher, but reviewing positions, vocabulary, or poses is great! Check with your child’s instructor if you would like guidance on how he/she can most benefit from out-of-studio practice.

7. When you have a question or concern: Feel free to call the Academy at 541-342-4611 or email to schedule a parent-teacher meeting any time you have a question or concern. Ballet Fantastique faculty recognizes and appreciates the importance of communication every step of the way. Please show respect and support for your child’s dance teacher, especially when it comes to disciplinary action.

8. Behind the scenes: Avoid judgmental statements concerning other parents and students at the Academy. Be proud to be a non-gossiping parent; spreading gossip or rumors creates a downbeat atmosphere and is a negative influence on productivity, both in and out of the classroom.

9. When tuition and fees are due: Promptness with tuition, costume deposits, and other fees is essential; payments should be made on or prior to the due dates.

10. During your first month with us: Read all of the materials in this Academy of Ballet Fantastique New Dancer Folder and on the Academy Handbook Website for other important details that you are required to know! Review expectations with your dancer.
11. When your child will be absent: Please call in advance to leave a message with the studio line: 541-342-4611.

12. All the time: Be proud that your child has a healthy body and is focused on the greatest art forms of them all…the art of dance!

We are proud of what we do, and want your to child feel the same way!!

2nd Annual Golf Tournament!

What better way to wrap up your summer than with a quiet, breezy day at RiverRidge Golf Course with the lovely dancers and staff of Ballet Fantastique? Cut your own slice of the high life–and spend time outdoors while you still can!–with us on September 9th.

Here’s why we think YOU should come:
1. No pressure–it’s as competitive as you want it to be. Those who are perhaps less confident in their skills need not stress. Some of us are right there with you!
2. Pride points! An awards ceremony if you ARE interested in showing off your putting virtuosity.
3. AWESOME FOOD! Breakfast (mimosas, anyone?) and a burger/brew lunch, with vegetarian options available.
4. Support a good cause! BFan’s company is performing in Italy next summer. Every dollar in proceeds directly sponsors our dancers’ travel expenses to bring their DARING, distinctive dance to an international level.
5. Catch up with Ballet Fantastique. Meet our directors, instructors and dancers–the people who make all the magic happen!
6. Get a great deal–hone your skills, dress your best and receive a gift bag and tee prizes! Also–unlimited practice balls!
7. What else… fun! Bring your business buddies, bring your family, bring friends or go it alone–everyone is guaranteed to find something.

-8:30am: Registration/Check-in begins
-9am: Shotgun start
-2 pm Burger and brew lunch begins (directly after play); Awards Ceremony!

-Tickets are $85/ea, or $75/ea for all players on the team of a BFan parent! Includes green fees, tournament t-shirt, gift bag, unlimited practice balls and use of range, lunch and tee prizes.

More information available here!

Check out some pictures from last year’s tournament:

(Photos by Monovita)

We are sooo looking forward to this, and hope to see you there!

It’s time for ballet camp!

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Photos of studio: Reathel Geary, 5d-Creative
Photos of young Ballet Fantastique dancers: Jerry Gowins
Meeting a Ballet Fantastique dancer photo: Taylor Jewell

Summer Fairytale Ballet Camps at The Academy of Ballet Fantastique are right around the corner (for boys and girls ages 4-7), and we wanted to give you a little taste for what our young dancers will be up to in the studio; after all, this is where the magic will be happening for many youngsters who are brand new to dance, and there’s something very beautiful about that! Like all BFan classes, there’s a lot more going on than just glorified babysitting. You will be truly astounded at what these kids can learn and do in just two hours a day for one week. I know that I am every summer!

We were the first to offer week-long themed camps in our area (starting ten years ago), and we’ve developed a special formula for what we do and how we do it. Each day begins with a full dance lesson, encompassing a Pre-Ballet syllabus that I developed years ago out of my UO Dance Department coursework. The syllabus includes fundamental concepts of ballet (including positions of the feet, arms, and the first forms of key ballet steps, like plie, port de bras, pas de chat, saute, etc.). It also includes key concepts of rhythm and music (e.g., adagio, allegro, andante, staccato, legato, and how dance works with music), the vocabulary of movement in space (points of the room, kinesphere or self-space, levels in space), lots of creative sparkle (structured choreography: in one class, we might be everything from lions, to clowns, to spaghetti, to magical beanstalks), and elements of working together (when to follow the leader vs. when to do your own thing, taking turns, etc.). We balance a lot of fun with motivated-yet-age appropriate expectations for what kids should know…and what are capable of learning (a lot!). Whether or not they will become the next Svetlana Zakharova or Mikhail Baryshnikov–or a schoolteacher–or a rocket scientist–these concepts equip young people with athleticism, musicality, confidence, and even social skills. You can tell how passionate I am about all this, so forgive the tangent/sermon. 🙂

Then, after our awesome daily dance lesson, we’ll delve into our story of the week! Rather than choose very general concepts (though I have to say that a camp themed after a color, e.g., “Pinkalicious Camp” sounds pretty darn fun–so kudos the local dance schools offering these!), we’ve always chosen real ballet stories for the kids to study.

This summer, young dancers can mix and match from the following list:
Swan Lake: July 11-15
Coppelia: July 18-22
Sleeping Beauty: July 25-29
Where the Wild Things Are: August 1-5

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Photos of City Center for Dance: Reathel Geary, 5d-Creative

Note: All camps are from 9-11 am, Monday-Friday, at our beautiful new City Center for Dance studio, and include all activities (craft, dance lessons, healthy snack, and end-of-the-week performance with costumes and stage makeup). Camps are $85 each or $150 for any two!

Studying the story includes Storytime and then watching a renowned ballet company perform the ballet story while we enjoy a healthy snack. Teachers facilitate discussion questions (From “Which character do you think that is?” to “Why is the music scary here?”). Next, we’ll participate in a daily craft related to our story, which might include a prop (like a crown that will be used in our Friday performance) or a miniature costume or set design, depending on the day of the week and the story in question (we don’t want to give it ALL away here, folks!). While we work on our craft projects, we’ll also listen to music from the story and discuss how it helps to tell the story’s action. Each camp morning finishes with a rehearsal of choreography for our performance at the end of the week! Some fun additional activities throughout the week include meeting a BFan company dancer in costume, a field trip to the public library’s dance section (with parental permission, of course), and a performance at the end of the week complete with costumes, stage makeup, kid-produced tickets, programs, choreography inspired by the original, and a viewing of the scenery and costumes that each young dancer would create in his/her own staging of the production someday. (We’ve got fun stories from past projects: one young man many years ago elected to give Von Rothbart, the bad guy in Swan Lake, gingivitis and a case of bad plaque in his costume design–“since Mr. Rothbart is so evil and irresponsible.”)

Parents will learn, too: Expect a full report on the ballet story, composer, and key musical moments during the Friday performance at the end of each Camp week.

Finally, another key ingredient that makes BFan’s Fairytale Ballet Camps so special is that they are limited in size to nine kids…so each young dancer truly gets a lot of personal attention from his or her teacher, creates some great new friendships, and feels comfortable to learn and reach their highest potential and to contribute creatively. We love what we do and know that you will too! Please help us pass the word along about our very Fantastique Fairytale Dance Camps (we still have a few spaces available in all camps, but our weekly Shooting Stars class on Wednesday afternoons is full).

You can learn more about the camps and register online here!

Psst: We also have limited space still available for some Professional Division Summer Intensive Program workshops (ages 7 and up)…just send us an email or give us a call!

Art Walk at Opus 7

We love being out in the community, and were privileged to have been asked to participate in the First Friday Art Walk at the beautiful Opus 7 Gallery as part of the opening celebration for their “Just Dancin'” exhibit (with art by Anne Teigen).

BFan company dancers performed excerpts from our upcoming “Pirates & Gypsies” show (for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s opening night of Pirates of Penzance on June 11 in Ashland), and to rub shoulders with RG photographer/writer Bob Keefer, artist Anne Teigen, and even the Slug Queen!

Some photos from the event:

Meet your dancers


Ballet Fantastique company dancers Amelia, Hannah, Leanne, and Krislyn as part of photographer McKenna Johnson’s COLORS series.

More of McKenna’s work (including some Ballet Fantastique performance shots):

We love being out in the community and working with local artists! Feel free to contact us to get on our projects list of collaborators. 🙂 Thanks for the awesome opportunity, McKenna!