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UI's Youth Ballet stages narrative ballet

BY JULIA JESSEN | MAY 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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Polish vests, Hungarian skirts, and tutus in pink, white, black, and blue hang from the walls of Jason Schadt's office in Halsey Hall, creating a colorful collage of textiles.

Schadt is the artistic coordinator of the University of Iowa's Youth Ballet, and the costumes lining his walls are for the Youth Ballet's spring concert, which will open at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in North Hall's Space/Place, with a second performance at 2 p.m. on May 13.

"We're going to have a really well-produced show this year from the costume standpoint, even though we're stepping outside the type of dance forms we typically do in a ballet," he said.

This is the first time since Schadt became artistic coordinator that the Youth Ballet will stage a narrative ballet rather than having a series of unrelated shorter pieces.

The dancers will perform Coppelia, a ballet about a girl named Swanilda and a boy named Franz, who discover that the girl they see in town is really an automated doll. Schadt said the production involves more than 70 students, most ranging in age from 7 to 15.

"It's the first time we've involved so many dancers and so many levels of dancers in one piece," he said. "We're putting on a concert of a scale which we have never attempted before."

Schadt said dancing is important for young people to help them learn what it means to have bodies and minds and be their best selves.

"We want them to love it and love it for the right reasons," he said. "The right reasons are not because of the sequins. The right reasons are because of the movement and the challenge that lies ahead of us all."

Senior dance and vocal performance major Steven Gray choreographed for the students and coached them. He said he tries to help the dancers maintain a connection with the emotive qualities in his choreography.

"What dance does is so diligent and regimented that when you become this ballet robot or dancing robot, you lose this sense of humanity — you just become a mannequin of technique," Gray said. "So I'm really excited to see humans on stage and see how they interact and take the audience to that place of being able to relate to a human onstage."

The concert will be particularly meaningful for Gray, who will graduate at the end of the semester.

"I'm leaving these kids that I've had for two years, so I'm having this papa bear proud moment," he said.

UI graduate student Peggy Meade-Finizio, who also choreographed for the concert, said she thinks dancing is important because it teaches life skills in an abstract way.

"There's math involved because of the music; there's discipline involved; there are things that enhance creativity, and there's some socialization," she said. "So really, dance sort of addresses the whole person in lots of different ways."

Meade-Finizio said the audience will enjoy the spring concert because it showcases a range of talents and ages.

"All of the dancers enjoy what they do, and I think the audience will feel that come across from the stage," she said. "It will be great to be an audience member with that experience."


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