A Cinderella Story!

Cinderella

By Megan Kamler (RCB Dancer)

What a crazy ride these past few months have been! Becoming Cinderella has been an exciting and fulfilling process.  I am constantly learning new things about myself and my dancing that, without this experience, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to discover!

Cinderella

So far my favorite part of the whole rehearsal process is defining my character and figuring out the best way to portray what Cinderella is feeling through my dancing.  I have also been working on showing her journey of emotions through the small acting parts.  For example, in the house scene, she is a different girl than she is when she enters the ball for the first time.  I have to try to figure out how to be the shy and oppressed girl, who is loaded with house chores and treated very poorly.  But at the same time, add a layer of anonymity and elegance when entering the ball for the first time.  This is my first time dancing the lead role in a ballet, so working on things like the acting are more important than they would be as a corps member.  I would say this is the most challenging part of the rehearsal process, but I feel it’s getting easier every week!

Jesse Campbell (my Prince Charming) and I have been rehearsing the Pas de Deux from the ball scene since December because we had the chance to perform it in our last show, Ballet: RCB Style.  That part of the ballet is my favorite part because it is where Cinderella truly is allowed to lose herself in the dancing and forget her hard life at home with her stepmother and stepsisters. It’s the first moment where she gets to be happy without having to hide it.  Plus that tutu is one of my all time favorites!

Pas de deux

After finishing the last show, we began to learn and rehearse the rest of the ballet. Learning the house scenes in Act I and Act III have been the most entertaining part of the process.  My oh so beautiful stepsisters Adam Kittelberger and Fidel Orillo make it very hard for me to not break out laughing in the middle of rehearsal! Such comedians they are with their shenanigans!  Even my mean stepmother, Brian Norris (who really is not mean at all in real life) makes me laugh with the faces he makes! My father (played wonderfully by Matt Throumoulos) is the only one in my family who I love, and although he wants me to be treated nicely, his efforts are constantly smothered by the stepmother. If you come to the show you will see that it is in Cinderella’s alone time in the house scenes that you see her the happiest even though she is left out of everything her stepsisters get to do. Cinderella still finds a way to be happy even though she has nothing.

I highly suggest coming to witness the humor these characters bring to the stage! They will have you and your young ones laughing out loud the entire time! And of course you can’t miss the magical dancing done by my Fairy God Mother (Jessica Tretter) and the rest of our beautiful company!  The show runs for one weekend only, so grab your tickets and come share the magic!  http://rochestercityballet.com/performance-cinderella.php

See you there!

Meg (a.k.a. Cindy)

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How A Little Girl Became A Ballerina

By Rebecca Brenner (RCB Dancer)

Becca Baby Ballet

         I often get questioned as to how long I’ve been doing ballet, especially after being asked “So what do you do?” or “What brings you to Rochester?” I simply respond, “Well, I started when I was 5!” This answer suffices, yet it’s not the whole story. I’d like to share with you my journey into ballet as a career and how it became a huge part of my life.

I first started out in gymnastics but ended up wanting to take ballet because my best buddy was taking it. My parents enrolled me shortly after my 5th birthday. Since my birthday is in November, I was much farther behind the other girls. I remember working really hard to catch up, moving from the back corner in the recital piece to front and center—always looking at the audience and never at the teacher in the wings. I remember requesting to do the “boring” exercises at the barre while my classmates would groan and long for creative movement steps. Soon after, I had to make a choice between the two activities. I asked my Mom how I came to my decision (as I have few memories from this young age) and according to her, she knew I would be a ballerina from my balance on the beam in gymnastics. I also had a fascination with pretty costumes. I even concentrated on the older dancers performing while my classmates sat and gossiped.

During the middle school years, my classmates started finding their own spoors and activities and my ballet classes and rehearsals started getting more frequent. I soon found myself at the studio six days a week—I loved every minute though at times I was disappointed to miss a friends birthday party due to the weekend schedule. As I entered high school my ballet classmates started dropping out, finding activities through school or just plain burnt out from dance. I had my first realization that I was in for the long haul around this time. I remember a girl saying, “We do a lot of plies. Do you ever wonder if it’s going to amount to anything, like do I really want to do this for the rest of my life?” I thought to myself, I can’t see myself doing anything else!

I experienced a moment of panic senior year when everyone was applying to college, thinking about where life would take them, so I ended up quitting ballet. I enjoyed the free time for only about a month and then I realized ballet is something my soul couldn’t live without. Looking at all the different majors and fields of study just led me to realize I wasn’t interested or passionate about something in the way I still loved ballet.

I tell you these stories because my desire to dance never felt like a conscious choice. It was something deeper driving me to keep working at this art form that I truly enjoyed and started to do well in. At age 12, I found an essay right after I started dancing on pointe. I think at this stage, I must have known in my heart that I was called to pursue ballet. The profoundness of my thoughts and dedication at such a young age still blow me away. I wrote (grammatical errors included):

“I dedicate my life entirely to ballet because I know this is what I’m meant to do. My teacher did not all the sudden come up to me and promote me, I realized that if this is what I’m meant to be doing then why don’t I work really hard to achieve my goals.”

Becca and Lesley(Photo: Becca after her second Nutcracker as a Gingersnap, posing with the Sugar Plum Fairy, Lesley Rausch, who is now a principal with Pacific Northwest Ballet)

         I used to tell people that ballet was my way of expressing feelings and thoughts that I could not communicate out loud. To perform onstage or in front of audiences is one of the most rewarding parts of the career. Doing what you love while inspiring people, telling them stories and displaying your hard work is incredibly fulfilling. I’ve never experienced stage fright; the theater was always so welcoming and thrilling to me. I have always seen it as a great opportunity to do what I do best and share it with the world, no fear and no inhibitions. To show an example, I have a snippit from the capstone paper I wrote in college upon performing a lecture demonstration for kindergarteners:

         “The audience was in awe when we finished, it may have been their favorite presentation. There were gasps of excitement every time Luca lifted me above his head in the grand jete. It was so heartwarming to hear the feedback, too. Some of the adults said that we danced so well together that they thought we had been partners for years. As I was the only one to demonstrate anything in pointe shoes, one of the little girls raised her hand and asked us to demonstrate ‘spins.’ So Luca and I demonstrated a finger turn and partnered chaînés; they were of course very impressed. It was such a heartwarming and positive experience.”

         I’ll also share a personal statement written in one of my college English classes because it expresses my passion for ballet very well.

                  “As cheesy as it may sound, ballet is my one true love and enhances my mood completely. Performing is one of my favorite things to do; it is amazing to feel the enjoyment and thrill of being on the stage communicating a message to the audience through my dancing. I feel blessed to be so talented at this art form and I keep in mind not to take any opportunity for granted. I demonstrate major improvements in my physique, my strength, my technique and my artistry. Every day I aim to work harder and to further improve on each aspect of my dancing. I have quite enjoyed my time here thus far and can’t wait to keep showing everyone what I have to offer.”

        This brings me to the now. In June of 2012 I graduated from Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music with a ballet degree and a psychology minor. I soon found my way to Rochester for the incredible opportunity of my apprenticeship with RCB. Though I don’t know at this point what the future holds, I do hope to keep dancing for a while longer, then teach and choreograph—always involved in some way with the dance world.

Best,

Becca

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Spotlight on Costumes: The Details in the Fabric of Rochester City Ballet

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By Allison Bohman (Based on an interview with Kathy Kittelberger)

A dancer delicately pirouettes on the tiny tip of her pointe shoe and we watch her light blue, long, tutu made of tulle swirl around her delicate rotating body.   Just one moment later, another dancer bounds across the stage, flying through the air in a beautiful leap. We see the strong line and musculature of his legs as they split through the air. All of these qualities that we adore when we watch a live ballet performance are enhanced and completed by the careful costuming of each dancers body—the details of each ballerina’s costume contributes to the overall viewing experience. Especially in a show like Rochester City Ballet’s upcoming production of Cinderella, the costumes play a huge role in transporting audience members into this magical fairytale setting.

Kathy Kittelberger, RCB’s Wardrobe Mistress for over 10 years, knows the ins and out of the importance of costumes for a professional ballet company. Having started to make costumes for her children when they began dancing at a young age, Kathy quickly learned that costumes for dance are different than sewing a curtain or street clothing. The dancer’s costumes must be able to move with their every step. “The arms, legs and torso need a lot of freedom,” Kathy explains. Making a tutu is a very specific and time consuming process that some people actually attend special schools to learn. Through practice, patience and referencing books, Kathy taught herself how to make one from scratch and now her beautiful creations can be seen soaring across stages throughout Rochester.

In Cinderella, many of the costumes are being altered and changed for RCB’s upcoming production in May. The dancers who attend Cinderella’s ball in the show for example, have elegant dresses and suits that need careful altering so that they can still move freely in them. Similarly, the style of tutus has changed over the years, so Kathy is adding additions to some costumes that have been used in the past.

Costuming not only involves sewing and altering what the dancers wear, but also for a production like Cinderella, wigs, makeup, and the timing of quick changes are essential to ensuring the magic of this fairytale ballet. Kathy explains that one of the challenges of this particular show is Cinderella’s 42 second quick change, which takes place in the wings of the stage. Kathy is there at each dress rehearsal and performance (with scissors and needle & thread in hand), ready to make sure everything goes smoothly so that the dancers only need to worry about performing. With only 42 seconds to change out of her gown into rags, it is Kathy’s hope that Cinderella will still have time to “stand at the edge of the wing, breathe and then go!”

Kathy attaches every detail of the dancer’s costumes by hand, along with wardrobe assistant, Christine Chernjavsk and other volunteers. She describes her favorite part of costuming to be the creative process. The season fairies in Cinderella have specific color palettes that match what season they representing. Kathy is asked to consider earth tones, find a fabric and make it work on a moving body. She also loves working backstage with the dancers. She explains that her favorite part is “seeing their joy” when they dance. She is happy that her work in costuming makes the dancers comfortable and really allows them to feel the part they are playing.

In a live ballet, there are many elements that contribute to the overall production. The costumes not only allow the dancers to move freely, but they also help to transport audience members into a new world. The choreography, music, dancing, lighting and costumes are all important parts of the equation. The creativity of Kathy Kittelberger sheds light on the details hidden the fabric of Rochester City Ballet productions.

Kathy Kittelberger

RCB: Joyfully and Creatively Realizing Our Potential

By Donnelly Ditzhazy (RCB Dancer)

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To believe in art is to have hope for the future. It reminds us to look for the beautiful in the mundane and encourages a give-and-take within the community. Maslow defined self-actualization as a dynamic, ongoing process where the full use and expression of an individual’s talents, capacities, and potentialities are joyfully and creatively realized.

Maslow had it right.  He determined that in order to reach such a state of being, one must move through an extensive hierarchy of needs. After fulfilling our needs, including food, water, rest, oxygen, and health, we must then meet our needs for stability, love and belongingness, and self-achievement before experiencing the satisfaction of self-actualization. Infusing art within our community makes life much less about survival and much more about abundance.

Dance celebrates the beauty that humans are capable of creating and the Rochester City Ballet is an excellent way to do so right here in our own city.

I am a dancer. I believe in the beauty of movement, the flick of a wrist or the stretch of a leg. I believe in creating something that was not there before. I believe in the camaraderie that forms amongst dancers onstage during a performance and the emotions that we are able to pull from the audience at the end of a ballet. I believe that dance is much more than a luxury. As a matter of fact, dance is a necessity. Although its effects may not be tangible, they are far reaching. Ballet may not fuel your body the way a full meal can, but it has the power to fuel your love of life. In doing so, ballet elevates the human condition from drudgery to brilliance. For this reason alone, the arts in our community are so important.

In Rochester, dance holds in each of its steps a link to our past. In particular, the Rochester City Ballet has established itself in this way. It inspires our youth to pursue something greater than themselves, invites the community to share in the professional company’s passion, and encourages us all to appreciate where we can go from here.

There is extraordinary potential for the Rochester City Ballet if we can just help others to see that the arts truly are the life and breath of our community. But it’s in our hands now. Everything we need is already within us. Why not take charge of the future by becoming an advocate for the arts and for the Rochester City Ballet?

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A weekend of—Wow!

Guest Post Part II By: Composer Adrienne Elisha

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The last two days have been much more than performances with the Rochester City Ballet’s January weekend: Ballet RCB Style.They have been “Happenings”. Despite the treacherous and glassy ice covered roads, there was a huge and appreciative audience. We were all blown away– not by the weather though— but by the breathtaking show. Each work was superb –from the amazing dancing, the remarkable performance of guest soloist, James VanDemark and Jamey’s stunning choreagraphy, to the lighting, sound and costumes. It’s very easy to see that this operation is a major artistic force on the rise.

This past weekend’s Saturday night performance also marked the final night of the premiere of InCantation and my three week residency with the Rochester City ballet. It has been such an incredible experience for me to have been part of this amazing collaboration and project. What an honor it has been to work with these great artists and then to finally see it all manifest in miraculous birth and flight…what a “take off”!

Thank you RCB!

 

 

Ballet, Music, Poetry…Discovery Part I

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Guest Blog by: Composer, Adrienne Elisha

When Artistic Director and Choreographer, Jamey Leverett, solo bassist, James Vandemark, and I join together with the fabulous Rochester City Ballet Company–past, present and future, also join as one, and bring the meaning of a multimedia collaboration to a whole new level.

What an amazing opportunity it has been for me as a composer to experience creation with my wonderful colleagues in this exploration of artistic expression. In the newest addition to RCB’s repertoire, InCantation, Jamey’s brilliant and daring choreography completely reflects the music and reverberates with time– beginning from the ancient through a historic kaleidoscope of tradition and then –stepping beyond into the future. James VanDemark’s remarkable artistry is the “catalyst.” As one dancer remarked to the audience after the residency at Eastman School of Music last Saturday:

 “ We know our steps and yet there is something about this piece which is never the same way twice.The work is is alive…There is always an element of the unexpected which is exciting….”

For me, the whole process of how this demanding piece has evolved has been a thrilling exchange of ideas and visions. Now, InCantation has finally found its way after winding along unknown paths of beauty, mystery and dynamism to become this “alive” creative entity where Music, Dance and Theatrical performance have truly become one. 

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Ballet: RCB Style = Passion, Guts, and Stamina

Guest Blog post by: James VanDemark Part II

ALMOST THERE….

 Opening night for a new performance is thrilling, stimulating and sometimes nerve wracking for even the most seasoned professional in any artistic discipline. And we are almost at that magical moment – this Friday night – with the Rochester City Ballet and InCantation

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Tonight was the first dress rehearsal for me on the Nazareth stage with the company in this ground breaking work, and it was a fantastic eye-opener to see how it all comes together. Stage lights, lighting cues, amplification, entering from the wings, and keeping one’s concentration and energy focused – a bevy of new factors are now at play that help make the ballet as emotional and powerful as its creators envisioned. And luckily, the RCB is a company of seasoned pros (although to my eyes they are young) who have been down this road many times, all under the watchful eyes of Jamey and Beth, and the lighting prowess of Gordon. 

This is again a very different world from a concert artist, in which one’s principal obligation is just walk on stage and perform on a single instrument a work of music as beautifully and compellingly as possible. But now, I need to remember lighting cues, staging placement, walking upstage as Chris Collins rolls towards me, syncing up a bow stroke with the left arm movements of Jesse Tretter, Lauren Tenney, Kelly Moeller and Lisa Ushino – I clearly have happily landed on a very different planet of artistic possibility.

That other world of artistic possibility was presented this past weekend in a workshop of InCantation to the students of the Eastman School of Music.  To say that the Eastman students and faculty were blown away by the piece, the choreography, the RCB dancers, Jamey Leverett and Adrienne Elisha, would be the understatement of the year.  The Eastman students saw close-up the incredible imagination of Jamey and Adrienne in this piece, and the incredible accomplishment from the RCB dancers that has brought that imagination to a very meaningful fruition. 

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But with opening night fast approaching, three more aspects of RCB trump everything for me, and were also widely praised at Eastman – passion, guts and stamina. Everyone involved is passionate about making this show sensational, and possesses the courage and discipline to push through to that realization.  And those qualities are certainly not just with InCantation, the first half is equally remarkable – I got a sneak preview, hehe!

So is there a life lesson here?  Where can imagination, discipline and courage lead? Be there this weekend, experience this great program and decide for yourself……see you at the show.