by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
This is the fourth year of operation for North Ballet of Rogers, and each year, the students are a year older and a year better, as was apparent last Saturday when about 100 youths presented compelling entertainment they’d been honing since January.
The 2 1/2-hour program at Zabee included two dances from “Paquita” in Act 1, then a lovely parade of 14 fairy-tailed theme performances in Act 2, under the heading “Once Upon a Time” with groups from kindergarten to mid-teens, all with gorgeous costumes and sets.
“We’ve been working on it about six months,” said Breanna Dvorak, the Bolshoi Academy-trained artistic director completing her first year with North Ballet.
“The amazing thing is that ‘Paquita’ is meant for professionals and these are kids 12, 13, 14 years old, doing the exact choreography that professionals are doing. They really should not start partnering until they are 16, but our students are so talented we can start them now at age 12.”
North Ballet will present segments of “Paquita” at ArtSoup on Saturday in downtown Elk River from 3:30 to 4 p.m. on the Rivefront stage, and will have a demonstration tent.
The spring performance is the kids’ chance to share what they have learned and to perform before an appreciative audience.
There’s also a segment each spring show to educate the audience about ballet. This year’s demonstration segment, leading off Act 1, focused on how ballet dancers are created (and for good measure, how their shoes are created).
“We are in our fourth year now, so all the students have matured,” said Katie Kocinski, North Ballet owner.
“With different directors they have been able to learn from different styles. Miss Dvorak, from Bolshoi Academy, with her excellent expertise, has guided the students to an amazing place.
“This is a big undertaking but every year it is beautiful to watch.”
A featured performer was Allison Clawson, 18, of Princeton, with an emotionally-wrenching piece called “Bring Him Home,” portraying a young woman whose soldier husband has died in battle. She conveys confusion, anguish, loneliness and finally surrender to her sorrow.
Clawson has been with North Ballet since it opened in 2009 and is now a full-time instructor. Her piece was one of two selected from 12 participants in a choreography workshop to be presented at theSt. Michael Art Council Variety Show. North Ballet asked her to include it in their show.
“I wanted to do a really touching, moving piece, something that catches the audience’s attention and makes them feel emotion,” said Clawson.
She added that the song “Bring Him Home” gave her inspiration along with the fact that Ms. Dvorak’s husband is a Marine.
“Piano Guys did a cover of the song and I felt so much emotion I started dancing around and had to make a dance of it.”
Lead dancers included Jacob Walters, Ellington Nichols, Natalie Belz, and Elyse Jones. In the “Once Upon a Time” program, Jones had the lead as a little girl reading fairy tales and watching them spring from her imagination.
Belz, 14, of Elk River, currently the highest-level student at North Ballet and a teaching assistant, played Sleeping Beauty and Paquita among other parts.
“I always wanted to do ballet,” said Belz, “but my mom said I couldn’t unless we found a school that was all classical ballet, and we found North Ballet in 2009.”