UI Youth Ballet to perform winter concert


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Deep in Halsey Hall sits Jason Schadt's office, the artistic coordinator for the University of Iowa Youth Ballet.

In the tiny space, four of his students come to eat their bag lunches, sandwiches and cut-up apples, amid the racks and boxes filled with white tutus and colorful costumes.

The one-hour break the students, ranging in age from 7 to 15, have to eat is nothing compared with the average of seven hours they dance a week. But they said they couldn't imagine their lives without this artistic outlet.

"I want to dance because it's almost like sleeping or eating," said Aileen Norris, a 15-year-old dancer in the company. "It's something I can't go without."

Norris, with the 30 other dancers, will perform a winter concert at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Dec. 18 in North Hall's Space/Place. Admission is $5 for UI students with valid IDs, $6 for seniors and youth, and $12 for the general public.

The concert will include pieces from The Nutcracker, a folk dance, contemporary ballet, and a seasonal number titled First Snow, which the dancers have been rehearsing since early August.

Schadt has created two new pieces for the concert and restaged a piece from a year ago. He is most excited about his higher-level ballet class, in which he has collaborated with two youth dancers who are performing the piece.

"Collaborating with the students isn't something you get to do very often with youth ballets," he said. "But it's a good thing for them to know for the future, because that's how a lot of ballet companies work."

His female dancers will wear white romantic tutus and will do floor-work choreography — something not typical for this type of costume.

"The dance is very flowy and smooth, and there aren't a lot of jerks," Norris said. "There is a lot of set choreography, because it needs a specific number of people."

Mandy Rosse, 15, who has been dancing with the company for five years, is looking forward to the contemporary piece choreographed by Steven Grey.

"I have some solo moments in the dance, and the man jumps are something I'm really looking forward to," she said. "There is a freedom to dance, but it's a restrained freedom with all these rules. You can choose how you want to move, and something about that is just awesome."

Paul Amrani, 11, one of the only boys in the company, has danced with the Youth Ballet for nine years. In this concert, he looks forward to his solo moments on stage.

"Because I'm one of the only boys in the studio, I want to try to be noticed," Amrani said. "I'm looking forward to my solo, when I do a side split in the air and then lunge while presenting my arms in an 'olive-oil pool.' "

The students are now preparing for tech week or "stress rehearsals," in which they have to ramp up each routine and attend rehearsals every night.

"It's such an amazing investment of time and energy," Schadt said. "It's the magic and specialness of dance that the students need to learn how to become OK with. After the show is over, there is still work to be done under the internal and emotional level."

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