Troupe's on its toes for gala

Benefit: A Columbia dance company's fund-raiser has its students gearing up to share the stage with artists from the American Ballet Theatre.

Howard Live

March 27, 2003|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Members of the Ballet Royale Company in Columbia routinely practice 25 to 30 hours a week, knowing the payoff is in the performance.

Their reward for months of hard work will be particularly sweet next week, when the troupe's mostly teen-age dancers share the stage with five professionals from the American Ballet Theatre in New York City. The April 3 event, "A Gala Evening of Dance," is a fund-raiser for the company and its scholarship program.

"We're all really excited for it," said Jennifer Radcliffe, 16, a junior at River Hill High School. "I hope to learn something from being able to watch [the professionals] up close, watching how they dance and how they handle it ... how they prepare for performances."

Kia Seals, 17, a junior at Glenelg Country School, said she wants to hear what it is like to be in a professional ballet company. "It really is exciting to dance with them," she said.

Seals is especially looking forward to being onstage with ABT's Sascha Radetsky, who has performed around the world with the ABT company and starred in the movie Center Stage.

ABT dancers Marcelo Gomes, Gillian Murphy, Stella Abrera and Gennadi Saveliev will also perform at the gala.

"They all have been major role models," Seals said.

There will be little time for rehearsals with the ABT soloists, who will arrive the day before the gala. The school is using videotapes to coordinate the guest artists' solos and duets with students in the corps de ballet.

The young dancers in the company work throughout the year to prepare for competitions and shows, including several performances to benefit local nonprofit organizations.

Many participated in this year's Youth America Grand Prix semifinals, and seven will go to the finals of that international competition in May. Most spend their summers dancing at intensive residential programs around the country.

The students often start practicing after school about 3:30 p.m. and go until 9:30 or 10 every weeknight, with more rehearsals on weekends. "We need to perfect it ... to work on getting every single little movement perfectly together," Radcliffe said.

"It's not the normal sort of childhood," said Donna Pidel, director of the company founded in 1995.

The students demand a lot of themselves, she said, noting that many earn excellent grades in addition to being accomplished dancers. "It takes a very special person to handle this kind of stress."

She encourages students to balance their school, dance and home lives, and to choose carefully the dance events in which they participate.

In the gala's case, she said, "I think they do understand this is a once-in-a-lifetime happening. ... I think they're taking away a memory that will be with them for the rest of their lives. ... If they teach or dance, they can always share this experience."

The gala will give the school's members something more than a memory by supporting a scholarship program for further dance education.

Pidel said she is pleased the gala will give local audiences -- including youths -- a chance to see some of the country's top classical dancers on stage.

The program will include mostly classical pieces, including Act II from Swan Lake and the grand pas de deux from the third act of Sleeping Beauty, both with music by Tchaikovsky, and a pas de deux from Don Quixote, with music by Ludwig Minkus, among others.

The dancers will also do a Ukrainian folk dance called Gopak and a contemporary work titled Jabula.

"We've tried to put together an exciting program," said Vyacheslav Mesropov, artistic director for Ballet Royale. "We want to really show the best the school can produce, with the best the ballet world can offer."

"A Gala Evening of Dance" will be at 7 p.m. April 3 in Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road, Columbia. Tickets are $45 for adults and $30 for children younger than 12. Information: 410-997-3111.

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