CENTER STAGE: Not one second of ‘dance recital’ in this performance!
A packed house full of parents, relatives, friends and balletomanes settled
down to watch a program of students from all levels of the Gulfshore Ballet
School show their hard work, progress and development throughout the course
of this year during the Spring Showcase. This showcase could not be
construed in any stretch of the imagination as the typical dancing school
recital; in this classical ballet school’s training program, the students
are seriously trained to become our future professional dancers. We are so
very fortunate to have this amazing training program headed by two world
class, professional dancers — Roberto Muñoz, Executive Director, and his
wife and Artistic Director, Melinda Roy, a former New York City Ballet
Melinda and Roberto started the program by introducing the Faculty:
Children’s Division – Lisa Tafel; Pre Ballet – Jill Guenther; Children’s
Jazz- Deidre Rogan; and Guest Teachers: Kim Beans, Marife Gimenez, Douglas
Gawriljuk, Trinka Lowe, Chad Schiro and Amanda Strudeman. They went on to
announce that, after 10 years of the studio’s existence at the Andrea Lane
location in Fort Myers, Gulfshore Ballet has finally (drumroll, please!)
gotten air conditioning! They then thanked the parents for the many hours of
volunteering on new studio improvements.
Melinda and Roberto announced the various summer dance intensive workshops
that some of these talented students will be attending. What an impressive
list! Alvin Ailey, Utah Dance, Sarasota Ballet and Miami City Ballet were
but a few of them.
Last but not least, Muñoz and Roy informed the audience that they had just
laid down a new dance floor, which during Saturday’s rehearsal proved to be
as slippery as ice, and that a mixture of corn syrup and water had just been
applied to the stage to, hopefully, keep the student dancers from slipping
while dancing on point. Let me assure one and all that the students
performed without a single slip or glitch. Bravo!
Ten little pre Ballet (ages 3-4) Butterflies opened the program, with their
teacher. They flitted in, landed on stars affixed to the floor (good idea,
so our butterflies couldn’t cluster in a bunch). ‘Flitting’ was accomplished
in any number of original ways — some butterflies played peek-a-boo with the
audience, some waved hello, and one little butterfly broke me up when she
put her hands to her eyes like binoculars and peered out at us. They did a
sweet little dance with a few bourées, some butterfly arm movements, a
sprinkling of tendus (toe points in English) a couple of demi-pliés (knee
bends), and flew away to a round of applause. To say it was heart-
wrenchingly adorable would be an understatement, but it did show that these
young ones could learn to dance to the music while demonstrating the first
little hints of ballet technique.
Next we had six little flower girls putting flowers into pre-set baskets
while flirting with the audience. Then the six headed up stage, placed their
hands on their hips and skipped a kind of ballet-style “Skip to My Lou” in a
circle, skipping right off the stage for a flash finish and bringing down
Ballet – Level A, the next age group, brought out 12 hippity hoppers in pink
costumes, strutting their stuff, like kitty cats to a Scott Joplin Rag. The
audience was treated to a progression of ballet’s vocabulary (always taught
in the French language) — we saw “chasses” (a chasing step), for example,
done in all directions, keeping our little kitty-kiddies on their tippy,
paws moving softly, sweetly and lightly.
Another age group, Level A-1 (ages 7-9), took stage with 13 young ladies and
one young man (Mark Shapiro). They demonstrated beginning “center floor
work.” These are the beginning ballet steps first performed at the barre and
then performed center floor. These exercises are the ballet primer from
which all ballet stems. The five-foot position and arm positions (“pour de
bras”), the beginning jumps (“ballone”) and the transition steps like “pas
de bouree,” "chasse," and “glissade.” Our young man had a chance to show his
mettle by taking center stage for a series of jumps before the ballet bows —
“reverence,” after which the audience applauded like mad for these intent
Ballet Class Level- B (10-14-year-olds) brought out 12 stunning ballerinas
in fiery red tutus doing much the same center floor work we had just viewed
but much more complicated and more swiftly. Here we see the progress of the
level B’s more complicated steps like one-legged balances, head and body
directions; here they learn the terminology, like “en avant” (forward),
“croise” (crossed on a diagonal), “ecarte” (opened on a diagonal),
“derriere” (back), “port de bras” (ballet’s arm positions) — all become part
of Level B’s vocabulary. All classical ballet is taught in French, so
dancers can take class, or dance in any country and the steps in ballet will
be understood regardless if one speaks the language of that country or not.
Ballet’s dance vocabulary is the international language for all.
The Ballet Roberto choreographed for Level B was to the music of Gounod and
showed how far Level B had progressed, complicated jumps appear such as “Pas
de Chat,” “Grand Jeté,” “Tour Jeté,” “Assemble;” and spinning turns like
“Pirouette” become one of the student’s tools. It was wonderful to see how
really-well-taught ballet classes serve to move the students to higher
levels — this should never be taught at the frustration level; dancing is a
demanding art but it should be enjoyable to learn. One could see that these
young people really loved what they were learning and loved dancing. Level
B’s wonderful ballet demonstration ended in a picture perfect pose, which
not only brought down the house, it brought us to short intermission.
After intermission Ballet Level Pre-Professional, the more advanced
students, performed (This Level is the only one permitted to perform “en
pointe”). Roy introduced the first dancer who choreographed her own solo.
(Gulfshore Ballet will introduce a choreography class next season at the
school, so students can use their dance vocabulary to create their own
Sarah White choreographed an original piece to music by Taylor Swift.
The number had a more modern ballet take and was danced in bare feet. The
choreography had a great many original, inventive movements, transitions
that went from mood to mood, and built to a lovely lyrical climax. The
choreographer executed her work beautifully.
Levels A2 and B performed a Jazz dance titled “It’s About That Walk,” a hot,
hot, hot number choreographed by Deidre Rogan demonstrating that Gulfshore
Ballet is equally at home teaching Jazz dance that is not only fun but
Ballet Level Pre Professional, illustrated how much they had learned by
dancing excerpts from the George Gershwin Ballet “Who Cares,” with
choreography by George Balanchine and staged by Roy.
Brianna Moriarty danced the fascinating “Facinatin’ Rhythm,” — an easy
looking but deceptively difficult dance solo — with clean crisp jumps and
turns, along with the just-right amount of chic sophistication. Deidre Rogan
was sheer technical magic flashing her mega-watt smile, while breezing
through Balanchine’s challengingly complicated choreography to the music “My
One and Only.” Well done, Deidre! The sticky stage proved to be no problem
for fleet-footed Amanda Luiso dancing to “I’ll Build a Stairway to
Paradise.” “Sweet & Low Down” closed the afternoon, with 10 stylish dancing
ladies elegantly handling Balanchine’s complicated choreography like the
true professionals that they are becoming.
We and our children are so very fortunate to have the Gulfshore Ballet
studio teaching classical ballet in Fort Myers. These lucky young dancer
wannabes are getting the best dance education available in this or any other
area outside the major urban cities in America. Bravo, Gulfshore Ballet! and
Bravo, Melinda, Roberto and the entire faculty! for doing such a brilliant
job teaching our youngsters the pure joy of dancing. Keep an eye out for the
next Gulfshore Ballet performance — the seasonal Christmas treat of “The
Nutcracker” performed at BIG ARTS sometime in December. Meanwhile just “keep on dancing.”