by Bruce Strand, Arts editor
Ballet seems to be one of the most rigorous and disciplined of art forms, certainly not for everyone. Who wants to walk around on pointed toes?
Yet North Ballet of Rogers, founded three years ago by Katie Kocinski, has attracted dozens of eager students. The youngsters’ skills were showcased Saturday with two impressive performances of “Nutcracker” at Zabee Theatre, with North Ballet Youth Company helped by visiting professionals Arolyn Williams and Christopher Sellars of Ballet West (Utah) in lead roles.
The Star News visited with a few of the participating families.
Lynn Nichols of Oak Grove says its well worth the 25 mile-drive on country roads for the quality they get at North Ballet. Her home-schooled daughters Ellington, 11, Emmarie, 7, and Evaline, 4, had roles in “Nutcracker.” Ellington played Clara in the evening performance.
“I have always loved the discipline, body movements and poise that it brings,” said Lynn, who did recreational ballet as a child and taught youngsters while in college. “I was ecstatic when the girls showed interest. They have all danced since they were little, any time you put music on!”
Ellington is also a competitive ice skater with Northern Blades. After taking a class at North Ballet to help her figure skating, she was hooked, and wound up a full-time student while continuing to skate.
“I like the acting part of it, and going up on point,” said Ellington. Asked about strutting around on pointed toes, she said, “It’s not that hard. You wear pads, and if you practice it a lot you can do it. It doesn’t hurt — unless you have an open blister.”
Ellington was thrilled that Williams gave her one of her pairs of shoes from the show and a note to “keep on dreaming” at the after-show party at Rockwoods.
Lynn said she was very impressed with the professionals flown in for the show and felt the local “Nutrcracker” was “as good as any I’ve seen in the Twin Cities, at State Theatre, O’Shaunessy, and Met Opera at Minnetonka.”
This classic play, she said, “”really sparks a child’s imagination, puts them in a dream world and lets them be creative.”
Allison Clawson, 17, a home-schooled Princeton senior, had four roles, mostly notably the mother who throws the big party. She’s one of the North Ballet instructors as well.
Clawon joined North Ballet in September of 2009, just after it opened, and had never taken a dance class before. “I used to dance around the house, though.” What attracted her to ballet? “It’s so much more wholesome than many other dances, like the ones that have rap music and kinda nasty body movements, Ballet is so clean and pure.”
Clawson says she is “dancing for the Lord,” and would love to continue in ballet but it would probably clash with her true calling of missionary work.
Dancing with the pro’s from Utah was great, she said. “It makes you work harder, seeing how good they are, and you can glean things from them. And they were super-nice.”
Bree Witt of Blaine brought daughters McKenna, now 10, and Maggie Jo, 5, to North Ballet three years ago for a theatre class that rented space there. They stuck around to learn ballet. McKenna, who also plays guitar, won the coveted Clara role for the matinee.
“Ballet is an art form, and not a competition, and that’s basically what I like,” said Witt, who was a dance team member at Blaine and a studio dancer. “And the discipline. The girls will grow up doing something that requires a lot of dedication and hard work.”
“Nutcracker” was a big commitment.
“It was our life for a few months,” said Bree, “with all the rehearsals and girls what practice at home a half-hour to 45 minutes every day, too.”
The young dancers are taking a couple weeks off after “Nutcracker” and North Ballet will the start prepping for a spring performance.