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UI Youth Ballet to present 10 pieces for Spring Concert this weekend

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | MAY 16, 2013 5:00 AM

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Ten girls dressed in blue and purple leotards pliĆ© on stage holding up Hula-Hoops to aid the main character, Nikolai, as he looks for the answers to three of life’s questions.

“The Three Questions” is a ballet based on a story by Leo Tolstoy and one of the 10 pieces involved in this year’s Dance Forum/UI Youth Ballet Spring Concert.

Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday with an additional concert at 2 p.m. on May 19 in North Hall’s Space/Place. Admission is free for UI students, $6 for youth and seniors, and $12 for the general public.

Alex Bush, a M.F.A. student in dance who helped choreograph the opening and finale portions of the piece “The Three Questions,” said working with the students is a great opportunity to teach them the basics of choreography.

“Teaching them rehearsal etiquette, ways of remembering choreography, and then watching them master that is always a lot of fun,” she said.

The choreographer, who first became involved with the UI Youth Ballet this year, said she thinks it’s important for anyone in the performing arts to be open to working with youth and understanding the value in doing so.

“I’ve always had a love for community engagement, and that’s an aspect I enjoy about the Youth Ballet,” Bush said. “I also love watching the dancers make discoveries at a young age.”

Jason Schadt, the artistic coordinator for the Youth Ballet, said that although the program’s mission is to teach dance technique to the community, it also provides opportunities for teachers to become better instructors.

Schadt started teaching with the Youth Ballet in 2006, when he was still in graduate school at the UI. When he took over the position of artistic coordinator, the company had undergone a lot of changes, so he worked on building a strong versatile program for the community. The numbers of enrollment grew tremendously, and this year, 70 children are involved in the spring concert.

“From my personal standpoint, I’m excited to see how the system we are developing is working,” Schadt said. “Every year, we are growing a little bit. We are becoming more and more of a solid presence in the community, and when show time comes, it clarifies that fact even more.”

Schadt choreographed two pieces for the show while maintaining his role as director of the concert.
His first work, which opens the performance, is a restaging of a piece from 2011 that has been revised and reset to fit this year’s dancers. The work titled “Un Sospiro,” which is Italian for sigh, is named after the music and includes classical ballet vocabulary in its movement.

“I’m working a lot with the students on the use of the coordination of the heads and the arms in this piece,” he said. “It’s a big part of ballet training, especially as dancers get older, it helps them to look refined and well-trained.”

Schadt’s second piece is part of the larger ballet “The Three Questions.” He describes his section as the calm before the storm and said his dancers have the specific challenge of dancing something that is more conceptual.

“I explained it to them as they are the force that drives the sidewalk,” Schadt said. “They are dancing in the warming sunlight and bringing into their bodies a sense of calm and assurance into the space that storms don’t last forever.”

This year under the direction of Joan Gonwa, the Youth Ballet added a new class called choreography improvisation in which the students created their first choreographed pieces to be performed at the concert.

Three soloists were involved in the class, in which, she said, they had the chance to create something on their own that would give voice to their movement.

“The dancers are really studying the creative process and learning to choreograph their own pieces,” Gonwa said. “They are learning composition and then using the technique they learned in all their other dance classes.”

The UI visiting professor in contemporary modern dance said the students have been disciplined and engaged throughout the creative process.

“I think these students showing their work and what they’ve learned is really special,” she said. “To have the chance to share their hard work is really what dance is all about.”

The spring concert will also include a 25 minute piece choreographed by Jennifer Weber, who wanted to choose something that would allow the students to be involved in the creative process.
She came upon the poem “The Hunting of the Snark” and because there were a lot of characters, it gave the dancers the creative liberty to make choices during the piece.

“The studio was the playground, and our imaginations could take us wherever they could,” Weber said. “It isn’t a typical fairy tale; it kind of has a deeper meaning behind it, so I thought all of those things put together would be great to use as a jumping point to create a piece.”

Learning characterization was the biggest challenge for the dancers because Weber gave them a lot of freedom in which they needed to react as their character would or think as their character would.

“I think it’s been challenging for the dancers, but I think it has made it exciting because they are really invested in the piece,” Weber said. “I think over the process of working through this all spring, it has infiltrated their day-to-day life, and they are really embracing it. I think everybody is excited for it to come together because there is a magic that happens on stage with the lights and the costumes, and I think they are ready for that.”


DANCE
Dance Forum/UI Youth Ballet Spring Concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Space Place Theater, North Hall
Admission: Free for UI students, $6 for youth and seniors, $12 for adults


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