Tag Archive | "Hampton Ballet Theatre School"

Color, Melody and Clock Elves to Grace the Stage in Hampton Ballet Theatre School’s “Cinderella”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Dancers perfect their style in a dress rehearsal at the Hampton Ballet Theatre School last week. Photo by Adam Baronella.

Dancers perfect their style in a dress rehearsal at the Hampton Ballet Theatre School last week. Photo by Adam Baranello.

By Tessa Raebeck

Since its completion in 1945, Sergei Prokofiev’s “Cinderella” suite has been performed hundreds of times across the globe, but rarely has it involved such cute grasshoppers.

This weekend, the Hampton Ballet Theatre School (HBTS) will revitalize the classic ballet, one of the famed Russian composer’s most celebrated compositions, in four performances at Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater. About 70 dancers, from bright-eyed four-year-olds to seasoned adult professionals, will grace the stage in the lively and melodious spring ballet.

In its eighth year of bringing dance to the East End, HBTS is returning to “Cinderella,” last presented by the company in 2011, with a few new twists.

Ninth grader Rose Kelly will play the lead role of Cinderella this weekend. Photo by Adam Baronello.

Ninth grader Rose Kelly will play the lead role of Cinderella this weekend. Photo by Adam Baranello.

The original dancers have grown up and the choreography has evolved with them; this weekend will mark the first time many of the company’s ballerinas perform en pointe throughout the entire ballet. When en pointe, a female ballet dancer supports all of her body weight with the tips of her fully extended vertical feet. The dancer must train and practice for years to develop the strength and technique required to do so.

“My goal for this ballet,” said Sara Jo Strickland, executive director and choreographer of HBTS, “was to really develop the older dancers at the core of the ballet and they’ve really done their job. I’m really proud of them.”

Known for its jubilant music and lush scenery, “Cinderella” is one of the most celebrated compositions of Mr. Prokofiev, a Russian composer, pianist and conductor and one of the major composers of the 20th century. Written upon his return home after a long absence following the Russian Revolution, the ballet was first staged in 1940, set aside during the height of World War II, and completed in 1945, premiering at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

“The older dancers all had very important roles and they all worked so hard,” Ms. Strickland said Sunday during a short lull in rehearsal time. “They really pulled the level of the dancing from our Nutcracker up by two or three steps.”

A student of Ms. Strickland’s since she was just two, 15-year-old Rose Kelly will dance the lead role of Cinderella.

“It’s one of my first dancers to do something so big, so I’m very excited,” Ms. Strickland said.

Rose will perform two distinct characterizations of Cinderella: the ragged, abused servant girl worrying her way across the stage and the beautiful vision of grace yearned for by the prince.

Partnering for the first time—a major accomplishment for a ballet dancer of any age—Rose is dancing with guest artist Nick Peregrino, a professional dancer with Ballet Fleming in Philadelphia.

“This is a huge challenge for her,” said Ms. Strickland. “It’s a big step for her at this age in her career…She far exceeded my expectations, she just worked so hard to learn all these new things.”

Other veteran HBTS dancers performing en pointe include Abigail Hubbell, who will play the iconic Fairy Godmother, and her twin sister Caitlin, the Spring Fairy. The seasons are a pivotal part of Prokofiev’s adaptation and their corresponding fairies are all accomplished roles.

Winter fairies include Falon Attias, Grace Dreher and Vincenzo James Harty. Vincenzo, a young man who has been dancing with Ms. Strickland, Rose, Caitlin and Abigail for years, will also play the comical role of Jester along with the Hubbell sisters.

Falon, Jade Diskin, Grace, Rachel Grindle, Jillian Hear and Samantha Prince will dance as Summer Fairies and Kelsey Casey, Devon Friedman, Hudson Galardi-Troy, Katie Nordlinger and Emma Silvera are Fall Fairies.

A few of the Clock Elves get into character at a Hampton Ballet Theatre School dress rehearsal last week. Photo by Adam Baranello.

A few of the Clock Elves get into character at a Hampton Ballet Theatre School dress rehearsal last week. Photo by Adam Baranello.

The antics of Prunella and Esmerelda, the evil stepsisters played by Beatrice de Groot and Maggie Ryan, provide some comical—albeit evil—relief.

HBTS’ production features roles Prokofiev added to the traditional fairy tale, such as the grasshoppers and dragonflies, or the “little creatures of the forest,” as Ms. Strickland calls the group of four and five-year-olds who scurry across the stage.

Guest artists Adam and Gail Baranello, teachers at HBTS who also own A&G Dance Company, will play Cinderella’s father and evil stepmother.

During the second act, the royal ball where Cinderella first catches the prince’s eye, the ballet evolves from the comic first act into a romantic presentation, said Ms. Strickland.

“I think people will be very excited and surprised because if you have followed us for a long time and watched the girls grow up, you’re really going to see the difference in this production,” Ms. Strickland said.

The Hampton Ballet Theatre School’s production of “Cinderella” is Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 1 and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street in East Hampton. Advanced tickets are $20 for children under 12 and $25 for adults. Tickets on the performance days are $25 for children under 12 and $30 for adults. To reserve tickets, call 888-933-4287 or visit hamptonballettheatreschool.com. For more information, call 237-4810 or email hbtstickets@gmail.com.

Looking for that Elusive Glass Slipper

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


The Hampton Ballet Theatre School's 2012 presentation of the Nutcracker.

The Hampton Ballet Theatre School’s 2012 presentation of “The Nutcracker.” Photo courtesy of Sara Jo Strickland

By Tessa Raebeck

For its annual spring ballet, the Hampton Ballet Theatre School will present “Cinderella,” the classic story of love, hope and transformation, in four performances next weekend.

Rose Kelly as the Swan in the HBTS production of "Carnival of the Animals" last spring.

Rose Kelly as the Swan in the HBTS production of “Carnival of the Animals” last spring.

One of Sergei Prokofiev’s most popular compositions, “Cinderella” is a melodious ballet composed in the 1940’s based on the story from the classic fairy tale of unjust oppression. Choreographed by Sara Jo Strickland, director of Hampton Ballet Theatre School, the ballet features handmade costumes by Yuka Silvera and lighting design by Sebastian Paczynski. Local community members and guest artist Nick Peregrino of Ballet Fleming, who will play the Prince, will join the trained dancers of the ballet school, in the performance.

 

“Cinderella” will be performed Friday, April 11 at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 12 at 1 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 13 at 2 p.m. at the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street in East Hampton. General admission tickets purchased in advance are $20 for children 12 and under and $25 for adults and $25 for children 12 and under and $30 for adults on the day of the performances. Premium orchestra, box seats, balcony seating and group rates are also available. To reserve tickets, call 1-888-933-4287 or visit hamptonballettheatreschool.com. For more information, call 237-4810 or email hbtstickets@gmail.com.

From Clara to the Snow Queen, a Ballerina Grows Up

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Rose Kelly as the Snow Queen in the 2012 performance of the Nutcracker.

Rose Kelly as the Snow Queen in the 2012 performance of the Nutcracker.

By Tessa Raebeck

The beautiful swan dances across the stage, slowly succumbing to a graceful death as the ballerina’s performance brings the audience to tears. When the curtain is called, the room whispers its wonder over where the Hampton Ballet Theatre School (HBTS) found such a talented professional. As she bows, the ballerina smiles; it appears this professional has braces.

Just 14 years old and in her freshman year of high school, Rose Kelly has been dancing with Sara Jo Strickland, affectionately called Miss Sara by her dancers at HBTS, since she was a toddler.

“I feel very special,” said Miss Sara, surrounded by young dancers in her Bridgehampton studio, “because I’ve developed her for years and to see it pay off…it’s happening.”

Before she could read or write, Rose could dance. As she grew, so did her dedication.

Throughout the years, Rose’s mother, Rachel Kelly, would ask her time and again, “Do you want to do ballet?”

“Of course I want to do ballet,” her daughter would respond. “Are you kidding me?”

When Miss Sara decided to open her own school, HBTS, in 2007, the Kelly’s followed her there.

“I’ve done it with her my whole life,” Rose says of Miss Sara. “So she is very special to me. A very special person and teacher and I feel like I have a connection with her.”

That connection was forged over the years through countless hours of studio time. Rose is in Miss Sara’s studio almost every day. She takes four ballet classes and one point class each week, in addition to rehearsal time for a spring show, “Peter and the Wolf” in the summer and “The Nutcracker” each holiday season.

When HBTS did its inaugural Nutcracker performance in 2009, Rose, about 10 at the time, was the school’s first Clara.

“That was fun for me to give her that role,” says Miss Sara, smiling at her pupil. “It’s a great memory,” adds Rose.

Next weekend, HBTS will present its fifth annual production of Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic. It is the company’s biggest performance yet, with a cast of over 100 dancers. This year, Rose has advanced to play the Snow Queen, Marzipan and the Dew Drop Princess.

A younger Rose Kelly as Clara.

A younger Rose Kelly as Clara.

“I’m very excited,” said Miss Sara, “because I see all those years from two and a half up are now coming to fruition.”

Rose will dance the Dew Drop number with her longtime dance partner Vincenzo James Harty, who has also been dancing with Miss Sara since he was a toddler. Along with Rose and Harty, three other girls, Maggie Swan and twins Caitlin and Abigail Hubbell, form a group of veteran HBTS dancers Miss Sara considers the leaders of her school.

“When you watch them in class dancing together,” said Miss Sara. “It’s like they are the same people…they have the same style.”

Last year was the first time the group danced timed on point (on the very tips of their toes) and this year their technique has “jumped two levels,” their teacher said.

“Their training has brought them to a new level, so I’m just excited to see them step on stage with renewed confidence,” said Miss Sara, beaming with pride. “So not only do I have this great older group, all the younger kids are following them…they really set a great example.”

In preparation for “The Nutcracker,” Miss Sara’s group of leaders have attended rehearsals, which can last up to three hours, every Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday – in addition to the five classes they take each week.

One would think Rose, who is in the studio every day, would revel in her rare time off, but she misses ballet on the days she doesn’t dance.

“When we have a break and we don’t have ballet,” Rose said, “I feel kind of like there’s nothing to do.”

When asked what her favorite part of ballet is, she cannot pin down one answer.

Rose Kelly as the Swan in the Carnival of Animals last spring.

Rose Kelly as the Swan in the Carnival of Animals last spring.

“I love the music and I love the dances and just how you move to it,” she said, adding, “I just love everything about dance.”

That love has been evident since the beginning.

“There are certain kids that have personalities that kind of relate to ballet,” explained Miss Sara. “She just had that calmness and the regimen didn’t bother her. She could pay attention at a young age…She just took to it – the music, the training – it just came really naturally to her…She just loves it, as you can tell.”

The love of dance is fundamental to HBTS and Miss Sara’s teaching philosophy. Her signature style, which focuses on freely dancing from the heart rather than being bound by strict technique, is well represented in her pupils.

The HBTS style was epitomized by Rose’s performance as the swan in last year’s spring show, “Carnival of Animals.”

“Talk about…using her technique to create something beautiful,” said Miss Sara.

“Watching her grow up has been amazing.”

The Hampton Ballet Theatre School will present Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” on Friday, December 13 at 7 p.m., Saturday, December 14 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 15 at 2 p.m. at the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton. Tickets can be reserved by calling 1-888-933-4287 or visiting hamptonballettheatreschool.com.

Visions of Sugar Plums Danced in Couture

Tags: ,


web_Nutcracker Costumer Yuka Silvera_6515

By Emily J. Weitz

It’s not every ballet company that hires a fashion-forward, well-educated designer to create the costumes for the sugar plum fairies. But to Sara Jo Strickland, Director of Hampton Ballet Theatre School (HBTS), costume design is a crucial element to the production. That’s why she hired Yuka Silvera, an accomplished designer who studied pattern making in Tokyo before moving to New York to study at FIT and work in the bridal and eveningwear business.

Even after many years in the couture industry, “I always wanted to go into costume design,” says Silvera. “I like classic designs and period costumes. I love fashion, but you always have to follow the trends. It’s not necessarily something you like. But for costumes, it’s great because I can just focus on the history and the culture of the time.”

Silvera has used this interest in fashions throughout history in her work. For example, in an HBTS production of the Little Mermaid several years ago, Silvera decided to make all the costumes in the 1920s style. Little clams danced around in flapper costumes. A shark wore a pin stripe gangster suit.

The Nutcracker is an annual performance for the HBTS, and every year they build on their stock of costumes.

“Miss Sara doesn’t mind investing in costumes,” says Silvera. “Many ballet schools might just buy cheap fabric and glitter, but Miss Sara is not like that. She likes the sophisticated, classic, chic fabric.”

This cache of high quality costumes adds to the experience for both dancers and audience.

“Looking at the costumes is a part of the enjoyment of going to see a show,” says Silvera. “It shows what kind of character that is.”

But in addition, stepping into a well-made, beautiful garment is valuable for the kids.

“The dancers look forward to wearing something exquisite,” she said. “I think the costumes give the dancers motivation to be able to dance a certain role because they want to wear that costume.”

One of the most sought after dances, Silvera says, is Snow. “It’s a costume many aspire to wear,” she explains. “It’s a big step to dance Snow, and that’s why it’s important to make a special costume for the difficult dance.” The design for Snow is very close to Karinska’s design at the NYC Ballet, Silvera says.

The attention that goes in to creating these costumes requires a lot of time and planning. It’s a process. Once Strickland chooses the next show, she and Silvera will have their first design meeting, when Strickland might suggest an idea or color scheme. Then Silvera goes into the city to purchase the materials, and she gets to work.

“I buy great materials that aren’t too expensive but are high quality,” she said.

This year, she made all new costumes for the first scene of the show.

“I went with a heavy upholstery fabric for the party dresses, but they’re all different colors. There are 15 girls, all wearing different colors. Overall, it blends nicely and looks very classic.”

In choosing the design of the costumes, Silvera does a lot of research. She tries to keep things authentic.

“I don’t want to mix or mess with cultures,” she says.

For the Nutcracker, she looks to one of the foremost authorities, The New York City Ballet.

“But I don’t like copying other people’s designs,” she says.

A favorite original design is the candy cane costume for dancers in the Suite scene.

“My candy cane costumes show my personality,” said Silvera. “They’re a take on a traditional Russian costume, with the red and gold color scheme. They have hoop skirts so when they jump it looks like the round peppermint candy going up and down. The kids love it.”

The trick with designing for dancers is that the costumes don’t only have to fit; they have to flow.

“I’m learning a lot about dance,” Silvera says. “At the dress rehearsal, I found some things I needed to improve, like in the Arabian costumes. There’s a long slit in the pants, and during the dance, it caught the dancer’s leg. So that needs to be changed.”

Silvera, who also does work with Kate Mueth’s Mulford Repertory Theatre and YAWP (Young American Writers Project) and designs private couture dresses, loves her work with HBTC.

“I love to hear how the kids look forward to wearing my costumes, and that parents call my costumes ‘couture costumes’,” she says. “I am very lucky. I always go for more fashion forward trends that I like, and Miss Sara trusts my eye.”

She believes that both the dancers and the audience deserve the attention she puts into creating these costumes.

“People are paying money to see this show at Guild Hall,” she said. “They want to see something beautiful.”

The Nutcracker will be performed this weekend, Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Guild Hall. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children under 12. For more information on Ms. Silvera’s work, go to www.yukasilvera.com.