Sunday, January 30, 2000

Ballet's new school opens

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        With walls still wet with paint and bathroom tile grout barely dry, Cincinnati Ballet opened its new satellite school to the public Jan. 21.

        Board members, parents, contributors and community leaders gathered in the lobby while Otto M. Budig cut the ribbon on the dance academy that bears his name. The company's young pre-professionals — the Venture Dancers — entertained with an excerpt from “The Kingdom of Shades” scene from La Bayadere.

        Reba St. Clair, board member and chair of the parents' committee, spearheaded the project. She says the facility, at 11444 Deerfield Road in Blue Ash, is state-of-the-art.

        In a rehabbed building provided by board member Tom Neyer Jr. (in partnership with Al Neyer Inc. and the Neyer Foundation) are two large studios, lobby, office and changing rooms.

        The studios have basket-weave floors, called Harlequin Cascade Flooring, patterned after those used by the San Francisco Ballet. The floors meet the dual needs of stability and buoyancy better than standard sprung floors. Ms. St. Clair confided that volunteers were scrubbing and polishing until the last minute. Studio pianos barely made it through the doors before the people did.

        Nancy Fountain is principal. Academy director Daniel Simmons is assembling the faculty. Classes in ballet, modern, jazz and tap begin Feb. 7.

        For information, call 621-5219, Ext. 133.

        CCM SUCCESS: Classic, full- length ballets are expensive and draining. It's a nightmare scheduling everything that's needed to pull them off — sets, orchestra, costumes, lighting — which involve other departments at the college. So why is the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music's Dance Division so set on them?

        Because they get people to the theater to see dance.

        More important for a university program, they better train dancers for the professional ballet world than anything else out there.

        The CCM Dance Division presented Coppelia, classic ballet's big comedic work, at Corbett Auditorium earlier this month. It was a huge success, with full houses for all three performances.

        “We didn't know what to expect,” says Carol Iwasaki, division chair. “Not only was it our first full-length in my memory, it was our first time to perform in the larger (740-seat) auditorium. The crowds were a great boost for the dancers.”

        Ms. Iwasaki says that, judging from her e-mail and phone calls, interest for a full-length ballet ev ery year is keen. With the cost and scheduling challenges — every performance at CCM, from opera to theater, needs stage time — it could be every two years.

        The choreography, by faculty member Yi-Qi Cheng, was careful. Ms. Cheng seemed unsure how far to push her young dancers.

        The corps de ballet consists primarily of freshmen in their first corps work. Dancing in unison and patterns is more difficult than it appears. With a full-length successfully managed, more challenging work should appear.

        VINTAGE AUDITION: In his dreams, Nicolaas Hilferink sees a never-ending stream of twirling, waltzing couples. The reality is he directs a small group of dedicated waltzers and fox-trotters in his Flying Cloud Vintage Dance Ensemble.

        In an attempt to grow the ensemble, “24 dancers would be wonderful,” he says. He'll hold auditions 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8, at the Calhoun YMCA.

        Formal dance experience is preferred, but not mandatory. You must be willing to commit to about a dozen performances a year. Rehearsals are Tuesdays; classes Wednesdays. He's especially looking for teens and young adults. Nicolaas Hilferink, 471-3256 or Tamara Anderson, 733-3077.

        Carol Norris is Enquirer dance critic. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202; fax, 768-8330.


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