Boulder Ballet stays on pointe

A look into Boulder’s lively ballet company

November 2, 2011

By Cassandra Smith

The show must go on.  All performing artists know the truth of this timeless creed, and Boulder Ballet shows that even a failing economy can’t prevent the curtain from opening.

Under various names since 1983, Boulder Ballet evolved from a simple performance company into much more. Now, the company also includes a school as well as a community-outreach program.

The Boulder Ballet School, under the direction of Ana Claire, currently has 350 students and offers more than just ballet. The school also enriches its curriculum by providing classes in modern, jazz, and physical theatre. There is even a program designed specifically for young men called Boyz Dance.

In addition to classes, students are provided with performance opportunities that help to prepare them for a professional career in dance. But artistic director Peter Davidson explains the real value of a dance education reaches much deeper.

Davidson thinks ballet teaches ”creativity, discipline, teamwork and how to look at things.” It teaches children “how to use their brains, and connect the sides of their brains so all that stuff trickles down to any education.”

Whatever they are teaching at Boulder Ballet School seems to be working. Alumni have gone on to dance at elite dance companies such as American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, and Miami City Ballet.  Boulder Ballet School’s team of teachers won the “Best Teacher Award” at the 2009 Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition’s Denver regionals.

Karen Locchead has three daughters enrolled at the ballet school, ages 7, 11 and 13.  She said, “Ana Claire and Peter Davidson are incredibly innovative and creative, and produce a wildly different Nutcracker every year.”  Locchead also appreciates that the school facilitates a healthy environment for her daughters to interact with boys their age.

Unlike most ballet schools in America, Boulder Ballet has a significant number of boys enrolled at every level.  “That’s because of Peter,” said Locchead, “Peter inspires these kids from the age of five to professionals.”

In addition to the school, a small group of professional level dancers rehearse and perform for the community under the title Boulder Ballet Company. This season, their repertoire includes four works: The Nutcracker, Stepping Out 2012, Cinderella, and Ballet in the Park.

“We present a lot of premiere choreography by local choreographers as well as bringing people from far away,” explained Davidson.

Last week, the company began rehearsals for a contemporary piece with a former dancer for Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theater. Davidson currently enjoys these rehearsals most, “We just try to push the art a little bit further and push ourselves further, and I like that.”

In addition to pushing themselves in to excel at art, the company also excels at humanitarian efforts.

“Boulder Ballet has a significant investment in the community,” said Shana Cordon, marketing/production coordinator. She explained the company has “an outreach program that goes into lower income schools and teaches movement and dance.“

At these programs, the dancers do a performance depicting the history of ballet and other dance forms, followed by a workshop. Cordon said children first “get a taste and then experience of [ballet].”

While Boulder Ballet invests in their work into the community, they could really use a little help of their own. Many ballet companies across the country have suffered in recent years due to the economic recession; Boulder Ballet is no exception.

The most difficult problem they face is simply raising enough funds. Since 2008, the decline in budget forced Davidson to reduce the number of paid dancers by two .

Davidson said, “We’re doing okay, but it requires a lot more work.  Like going out and getting more people involved at lower levels. For example, we have more corporate donors and sponsors involved than we did before, but they’re all at smaller levels. ”

The company’s governmental funding has also decreased in recentyears, and corporate funding has immensely declined.

Behind the curtain, the costs of running a ballet company add up quickly. The upcoming annual production of the Nutcracker at Macky Auditorium not only requires dancers and costumes, but also a 65-person orchestra, full scenery, a stage crew, and opera singers. Davidson says close to 8,000 people buy tickets, and it “still only about breaks even.”

Despite financial struggles, Boulder Ballet has something for both the young and old, and provides its community with creativity, education, tradition, and entertainment.

Locchead said, “It’s an amazing depth of talent for a small town. Like a lot of things in Boulder, it’s just way more than you’d expect it to be. Way more.”

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