Tag Archives: Ballet Etudes

Holiday dance memories

Jennifer backstage at The Nutcracker with Ballet Arizona

Both my daughters, now college age, danced in local holiday dance productions as children. Jennifer performed in “Frances Smith Cohen’s Snow Queen” and Ballet Arizona’s “The Nutcracker.” Lizabeth performed for many years in the Ballet Arizona production of “The Nutcracker” — in the roles of Mother Ginger’s child, grandfather mouse and party girl.

Afternoons spent together at holiday dance productions create wonderful family memories, like those I still cherish decades after seeing “The Nutcracker” performed in Colorado with my mother during many a holiday season. So I’m delighted to share news of options for Arizona families eager to create similar snapshots in time.

Your first opportunity to see “The Nutcracker” in the Valley this year will be the Ballet Etudes production, performed by youth dancers, opening Nov. 25. It runs through Dec. 11 at Chandler Center for the Arts. www.balletetudes.net.

Ballet and Friends performs “The Nutcracker”  Nov. 25-27 at the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix. It’s choreographed by artistic director Slawomir Wozniak. www.balletandfriends.org.

Another production of “The Nutcracker” featuring Valley youth will be performed by Southwest Youth Ballet Dec. 16 & 17 at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts. The production features music performed by the Chandler Symphony Orchestra. www.southwestyouthballettheatre.org.

“An Irish Nutcracker,” also featuring youth performers, is being presented by the Arizona Irish Dance Association in conjunction with Maguire Academy of Irish Dance. It’s coming to the Herberger Theater Center Dec. 17 and the Mesa Arts Center Dec. 18 — and features an Irish twist in both music and dance. www.maguireacademy.com.

Girls waiting their turn to audition for The Nutcracker with Ballet Arizona

The Ballet Arizona production of “The Nutcracker,” featuring choreography by artistic director Ib Andersen, is being performed at Symphony Hall in Phoenix Dec. 9-24. The cast includes both Ballet Arizona dancers and youth, some from the School of Ballet Arizona, selected through an audition process. Music will be performed by the Phoenix Symphony. www.balletaz.org.

A touring production featuring the Moscow Ballet, titled “Great Russian Nutcracker,” comes to the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix for just a single performance on Dec. 20. www.livenation.com.

A longtime Valley favorite, “Frances Smith Cohen’s Snow Queen,” is being performed Dec, 3-18 at the Herberger Theater Center. Cohen serves as artistic director for Center Dance Ensemble, the resident modern dance company of the Herberger Theater Center. This production, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” features both company dancers and youth (many  from Dance Theater West) selected through an audition process. www.centerdance.com.

The Arizona Dance Coalition presents “A Joyous Christmas” at various Valley locations Dec. 1, 3 and 4. It features guest artists Jeffrey Polston, formerly with Complexions Contemporary Ballet in NYC, and Astrit Zejnati, principal dancer with Ballet Arizona. Also AZDance’s professional dance roster, their “Children’s Christmas” company and dancers from “Movement E-Motion” — a dance program for “individuals with different abilities.”  www.azdancecoalition.org.

Make time for dance this holiday season  — because the rush of retail fades far too quickly, but shared experiences with on-stage magic last a lifetime.

— Lynn

Note: If your dance company is presenting a holiday dance production not noted above, please comment below to let our readers know.

Coming up: Thanksgiving fun — NYC style


Tea times three!

It’s been a while since I did the tea party thing with my children, who now range in age from 18 to 22. But recently I’ve learned of three tea parties that almost leave me wishing I could turn them very tiny again.

The Ballet Academy of Arizona is holding their “Fairy Godmother’s Tea Party” Sun, Sept 25 from 3-5pm in the Camelback Ballroom at the Phoenician Resort & Spa in Scottsdale. It features a high tea (with menus for children and adults), singing, dancing and a silent auction.

Also an appearance by the fairy godmother and a performance by “Jolly Roger” the magician, who’s entertained at several parties my own children once attended.

Ballet Etudes holds their Nutcracker Sweet Tea in November

Yet another charming tea takes place this fall as Ballet Etudes presents its “Nutcracker Sweet Tea” both Sat, Nov 12 (at 10am and 11:30am) at the Wright House Reception Hall in Mesa and Sat, Nov 19 (at 11am) at the Johnson Ranch Golf Course in Queen Creek.

The “Nutcracker Sweet Tea” invites those who attend to explore the “Land of Sweets,” enjoy a light luncheon buffet, decorate their own cookies and listen in on storytime. They’ll also experience a Ballet Etudes performance.

Scottsdale Ballet Foundation presents their “Nutcracker Sweets Tea” Sun, Dec 4 from 11:30am-2pm at the Phoenix Country Club ballroom.

Another delightful dance event takes place Sun, Sept 18 at 1pm. Storybook Ballet, the student ballet company of Dance Theater West in Phoenix, and children from the Professional Artist Series program at Free Arts of Arizona present “Wonderland” at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Free Arts of Arizona is dedicated to healing abused and homeless children through artistic expression, and Dance Theater West is one of many community partners who join them on the journey. RSVPs for this free event are requested by Wed, Sept 14 (602-258-8100 or info@freeartsaz.org).

Like many parents, I spend far too much time chasing espresso when I should be sipping tea instead. How lovely that Valley arts organizations give us opportunities to slow down and really linger over time with our little ones, who don’t stay little for long.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about these family-friendly tea parties at www.balletacademyofarizona.org, www.balletetudes.net and www.scottsdaleballetfoundation.org. Visit Dance Theater West at www.dancetheaterwest.com and Free Arts of Arizona at www.freeartsaz.org. Local resorts like The Ritz-Carlton, The Phoenician, and The Arizona Biltmore offer high tea. Check with Girly Girlz for girl-friendly tea parties (www.girly-girlz.com).

Coming up: Celebrating holidays arts and culture style

“Dance Moms” teen wants to quit?

These dancers are from Ballet Etudes in Gilbert

On last week’s episode of the new Lifetime Television series “Dance Moms,” a 13-year-old dancer named Brooke lamented missing opportunities to hang out with friends because of a rigorous dance schedule.

Seems friends had invited her to the mall during a week full of dance competition rehearsals. It didn’t help that Brooke had a painful hip injury or that most of her friends do cheerleading rather than dance.

If your son or daughter is a serious student of dance, competitive or otherwise, you’ve likely encountered a similar issue. I remember Lizabeth having several hours of dance classes or rehearsals up to six days a week when she trained with the School of Ballet Arizona in Phoenix.

Often there’s little time for friends outside the dance studio, unless you’re keen on skipping homework, family time or sleep. So I asked Sharon Seder Meko, founding artistic director of Ballet Etudes in Gilbert, for her take on letting young dancers quit lessons if they want to.

Sharon Seder Meko, founding artistic director of Ballet Etudes in Gilbert, enjoying time with some of her young dance students

Seems there’s something we parents can do long before it gets to this point. “Children,” says Meko, “should be brought slowly into the dance world.” She notes that most 7-year-olds who take five days of classes a week will “be burned out” by the time they are ten.

It was hard to tell last week whether Brooke was considering leaving dance altogether or merely wanting the freedom to miss a few rehearsals. In the end, her mom Kelly made her go — and the team performed well in competition. Certainly that helped Brooke feel better about showing up.

Meko notes that if a dancer makes a commitment that effects other dancers or a group of peers, the dancer must learn the hard way that commitments should not be made lightly. “In my company,” says Meko, “we only make these allowances for matters of life or death, sickness or school grades.”

In most dance studios, including Ballet Etudes, there is a lot more dance than drama

From my own experience with the “real dance moms of Maricopa County,” I can tell you that there are teachers out there who feel illness is a poor excuse to miss dance — and who aren’t inclined to excuse an absence when major exams or papers loom. I suppose it’s good to ask about such things when researching various dance options.

So what does Meko recommend for parents of children who want to take a break from the dance world? “See them as a child first,” she says. “And, possibly, a dancer second.” Meko adds that “very often a dancer needs time off to recuperate their mind and/or body.”

“If the child truly has the passion for dance,” reflects Meko, “then they will realize the void they have in their life without dance and will want to return.” She describes dance as “highly challenging both emotionally and physically” and notes that it effects not only the dancer’s time, but that of family members too.

Dancers auditioning at Ballet Etudes in Gilbert

“If your child does not have the passion for it,” says Meko, “then to make them continue to pursue it is unhealthy.” Meko believes “there is a select three percent who know in their heart that they want to be dancers” and says those who don’t know “need to experience other outlets before they can make a sound decision.”

So what does Meko think of “Dance Moms” on Lifetime? “All in all,” she says, “I enjoy the show.” She notes that “many of the children do have good technique” and says “Dance Moms” demonstrates “just how difficult dance is, and how much time is required for successful training and excellence.”

“I am thrilled,” says Meko, “that inappropriate dance moves and costuming is finally being brought into the limelight in a negative way.” She feels that children are too often “put into situations where they are required to dance and act like young women” when it’s their “youth and innocence that should be highlighted.”

Meko recalls an episode where some of the dance moms “stood up to the instructor” for choosing revealing costumes for young dancers. “Hopefully this will give mothers around the country the courage to stand up for their children in similar situations.”

There is little need for revealing costumes when it is all about the dance

Sadly, Meko shares that the sterotypical “stage mom” behavior seen on “Dance Moms” is “a common occurence throughout the dance world at all levels.” I suspect it doesn’t help that the moms featured on the show are rarely shown leaving the dance studio to pursue their own interests. It seems, during most episodes, that each desperately needs to “get a life.”

She’s not a fan of their negativity, childishness or cruelty — especially towards the parents of other children. Meko hopes that the “plain negative behavior displayed by these mothers will help act as something of a mirror” for similar “stage mothers” who watch the show. Then, perhaps, their “behavior patterns will change.”

Dancers do best when their parents play well with others

I’m less optimistic. Dance just happens to be the glue sticking these parents to their captive children. If they weren’t “dance moms” in the worst sense of the word, they’d be something equally awful. Clingy chess moms. Bossy basketball moms. Seething soccer moms.

Still, Meko’s point is well taken. Those of us who fancy ourselves “stage moms” do well to measure our own attitudes and behavior. In the end, most get passed along to our children. And a mean-spirited child is no joy to behold.

— Lynn

Note: All photos, which feature Ballet Etudes dancers, are courtesy of Sharon Seder Meko

Coming up: “Pay for play” theater, Summertime meets Shakespeare, Andrew Lloyd Webber alert!

Cinderella tales

Ballet Etudes performing Cinderella (Photos by Ron Sill of Pixelcraft Photography)

I came across a picture of my daughter Lizabeth next to a giant “Cinderella” poster a while back as we sat on the living room couch trolling through boxes of family photos. She was wearing a long pink floral dress and clutching a mouse we’d purchased as a show souvenir. She must have been about eight years old at the time.

We’ve seen several productions of “Cinderella” through the years. I’ve got another photo of Lizabeth sporting a pink “Cinderella” T-shirt from a long ago VYT production at the Herberger Theater Center — though none of Lizabeth’s friends will believe she’s ever worn pink without seeing these pictures for themselves.

Dancers from Ballet Etudes performing Cinderella in Chandler

Like the musical “Annie,” it’s got a story we just never seem to tire of, despite objections to its “a girl needs a prince to be happy” vibe. Maybe it’s all those singing birds and sewing animals.

Valley families can enjoy the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre production of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” in Mesa through Sat, Aug 6. The theater is offering special pricing for Thursday night performances of “Cinderella.” All seats for all ages are $18, and that price includes both dinner and the show.

Cinderella is a favorite with Ballet Etudes audiences

Part of the fun of seeing so many productions of “Cinderella” has been watching Lizabeth’s reactions to the show at various ages and stages. Even families who see the Broadway Palm production will enjoy revisiting the work when Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale presents “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” in March of 2012. Children can enjoy a tea party with “Cinderella” cast members before each Greasepaint matinee.

Ballet Arizona is taking the tale of “Cinderella” to a whole new level with their world premiere production this October at Phoenix Symphony Hall. Their “Cinderella,” choreographed by Ib Andersen, will feature the music of Sergei Prokofiev performed by the Phoenix Symphony. It’s part of their 2011-2012 “Fairytale Season,” which also includes “The Sleeping Beauty.”

The Ballet Etudes production of Cinderella returns to Chandler in May

Ballet Etudes performs “Cinderella” at Chandler Center for the Arts in May of 2012. Their production has long been an audience favorite, and I suspect they can even tie the “Cinderella” theme into the “ballerina birthday parties” offered at their Gilbert studio.

The Cinderella Affair gathers prom gowns for girls who aren't able to buy one of their own

If your children feel they’ve outgrown “Cinderella,” perhaps they’re old enough to help with “The Cinderella Affair,” an all-volunteer project in the East Valley that helps to make proms affordable and memorable for Phoenix area juniors and seniors by collecting and distributing gently-used formalwear.

Not everyone is born wearing glass slippers.

— Lynn

Note: All Ballet Etudes photos in this post taken by Ron Sill of Pixelcraft Photography. Click here to read a companion post featuring more fairy tales coming to Valley stages.

Coming up: Finding film in unexpected places, Arizona artwalks, Arizona actors meet NYC fringe, Who let the “Wolves” out?

New season “sneak peeks”

Families can enjoy a taste of Broadway in Arizona this month as ASU Gammage in Tempe presents their 2011-2012 season preview event Mon, July 25 at 7:30pm. The event features a free “sneak peek” at the upcoming season — which includes classics like “West Side Story” and “South Pacific” plus newer works like ‘Million Dollar Quartet” and “American Idiot.”

ASU Gammage promises pre-event family activities in the ASU Gammage lobby, special guest appearances and free dessert after the preview event. The preview event will be your first opportunity to purchase mini-package subscriptions if you’d like to attend only some of the shows in this season’s line-up.

Tempe Center for the Arts presents their “TCA Fall Arts Kick-off” Fri, Aug 19 from 6-8pm. It features live music, artist demonstrations, gallery tours and more. Fall season information and special advance ticket pricing will be available.

Popular TCA programs include the Lakeshore Jazz Series, Performance With a View, Poetry in April, Songwriters’ Showcase, Sonoran Chamber Music Series, Tempe Symphony Orchestra and Walk-in Wednesday Open Mic Night.

Several “partner groups” perform at the TCA — including A Ludwig Dance Theatre, Arizona Academy of the Performing Arts, Arizona Wind Symphony, Childsplay, CONDER/dance, Desert Dance Theatre, Tempe Community Chorus, Tempe Live! Theater and Tempe Symphonic Wind Ensemble.

The last “sneak peek” event I attended was presented by Mesa Arts Center, which has a lovely complement of founding resident companies including Ballet Etudes, East Valley Children’s Theater, Mesa Encore Theater, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, Sonoran Desert Chorale, Southwest Shakespeare Company, Symphony of the Southwest and Xico Inc.

I had a great time gathering information about diverse programs, meeting fascinating artists and chatting with fellow art lovers. The next MAC preview event is a three-day “Season Kick-Off Festival” taking place Sept 9-11.

Keep an eye on Valley venues like Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts because many hold fall or spring “preview” events that offer a taste of their dance, music and theater menus. Who doesn’t love a free nibble now and then?

— Lynn

Note: A “Fall for the Arts Festival” presented by Arizona Broadway Theatre and Leadership West Oct 8 from 10am-4pm will feature live performance by various arts groups, creative activities for children and more.

Coming up: Introducing kids to classical music, Disney musicals on Valley stages, Art promoting peace

Dance your pass off

That’s just what plenty of young dancers will be doing at Phoenix Theatre this summer thanks to their “all you can dance” pass — a steal at just $65 a month (or $110 for two months).

Those holding the coveted pass can attend as many “Summer of Dance” classes as their little heart desires just by waving that baby when they show up to strut their stuff.

“Summer of Dance” at Phoenix Theatre runs May 21-July 30, with classes held four nights a week – plus Saturdays. Offerings include zumba, techno ballet, turns and leaps, tap (1 &2), musical theatre, yoga and hip hop.

For those of you eager to dance more than your pass off, there’s even belly dancing and burlesque (although a little more pass can be appealing with these dance styles).

For students seeking a “dance intensive” experience there’s the 5-week “Dance Conservatory” at Scottsdale Community College — an “intensive training program for intermediate to advanced dancers.”

The SCC program features pilates, yoga, ballet, modern, hip hop and jazz. “Dancers must be 16 or older and serious about developing and expanding their talents” (and high school students are screened before acceptance).

The School of Ballet Arizona offers several summer programs — including a “Master Class Series 2011” presented in partnership with the Southwest Classical Dance Institute, open to intermediate and advanced dancers ages 10 and up. They also offer summer intensives for dancers of various age and ability levels.

Other ballet schools, such as the Ballet Etudes School of Dance in Gilbert, offer a variety of summer intensives and classes — so check with dance companies and schools in your area for more details about what’s out there.

We lived for many years in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix, near a dance studio called Dance Theater West where both my daughters enjoyed all sorts of classes during the summer and the school year.

Dance Theater West is the academy of Center Dance Ensemble, resident modern dance company of the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix, as well as Storybook Ballet Theater.

But the moms I met there loved it for another reason — the coupling of strong training with sensitive support that makes for a healthy body image and positive relationships with fellow dancers.

The “Summer of Dance 2011” program at Dance Theater West includes a ballet intensive workshop with a “Peter Pan” theme (ages 11-teens), several musical theater workshops for the 10-to-teen set (“Chorus Line,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Glee”) and “Summerdance for Kids” options for ages 6-9.

Dance Theater West summer classes for the little ones include “Dance With Me Mommy,” “Dance Me a Story,” and “Ballet with Mom.” You’ll find a lovely photo of two budding DTW ballerinas in the June issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

Finally, a little something from the fine folks at Kriti Dance — best known to many for performing during basketball game half-times. Think Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury.

Kriti Dance, which specializes in Bollywood-style dance, offers an adult and teen workshop every Sunday in June — plus summer sessions for kids (ages 5-8) and youth (ages 9-13).

Between techno ballet, Bollywood and burlesque, children and teens (and even you) have plenty of amazing dance options this summer. I’m tempted to try some of them myself, but maybe just around the house. I’d hate to find myself surrounded by people laughing their passes off.

— Lynn

Coming up: Of treadmills and thumb pianos

The sleeping beauty?

I just tucked my own sleeping beauty, home today with a nasty case of fever and the chills, back into bed. If Lizabeth was feeling better, we’d be heading out this weekend to see Ballet Etudes perform “The Sleeping Beauty” at Chandler Center for the Arts.

Many years ago, I enjoyed a Ballet Etudes performance of “Cinderella” with RAK founder Karen Barr, whose two grown sons live too far away to join her at the ballet. She’d taken along some younger family members and treated them to a backstage tour — complete with an up close look at the magnificent carriage that transports Cinderella to the ball.

I suspect plenty of other children will experience a similar sense of awe and enchantment this weekend as Ballet Etudes breathes life into the classic tale of a young girl’s rendezvous with a witch who proffers sleeping spells and shiny apples. Ballet Etudes is a master of costumes and sets with a truly magical feel. And there’s nothing more appealing for children or teens than watching other young people perform.

As Ballet Etudes performs “The Sleeping Beauty” this weekend, filmmakers and those who love them are gathered on the French Riviera to fawn over films that include “Sleeping Beauty,” directed by Julia Leigh, and starring Emily Browning and Rachel Blake.

Sleeping Beauty” — a 2010 film out of Australia — is one of several official selections at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Folks affiliated with the film describe it as “a haunting erotic fairytale about Lucy, a young university student drawn into a hidden world of beauty and desire.” She’ll have to contend with something far more sinister than an apple.

For those of us content to lead less glamorous lives, Ballet Etudes provides all sorts of opportunities. In addition to performing several works each season, the company offers a wide range of dance classes through its Ballet Etudes School of Dance in Gilbert. There’s ballet, pointe, lyrical/contemporary, hip hop, jazz and more. Even yoga, adult ballet and “Disney Ballerina.”

As my own sleeping beauty rests surrounded by stuffed animals, some sporting ballet garb of their own, I’m going to spend some time exploring the Ballet Etudes website — where there’s plenty of information on summer dance intensives and ballerina birthday parties. Also their golf tournament fundraiser, taking place May 21 in Queen Creek. And the School of Dance recital scheduled for June 2 at Mesa Arts Center.

Ballet Etudes performs “The Sleeping Beauty” tonight (Fri, May 13) at 7pm, May 14 at 2pm and 7pm, and May 15 at 3pm. Click here for ticket information — then comment below, after you go, to let other readers know what you thought of the show.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for a comprehensive guide to “Sleeping Beauty” from the Cannes Film Festival website

Coming up: Shakespeare-in-the-Schools