As we look forward to the beginning of our first-ever Summer Season later in June, and the start of our first five-week summer intensive in July, it seems fitting to take a moment to reflect on the past few months. Looking back over the full, busy, sometimes crazy Spring Season we had, there is so much to be thankful for! Please join us in thanking God for all that he's done.
Our Spring Season got off to a running start in January with the creation process for our biggest full-length story ballet project yet: Belteshazzar: A Perilous Tale. Artistic Director Julianna Slager was able to set the ballet, based on the story of the Biblical character Daniel, to a full length score by Benjamin Britten originally created for the ballet Prince of the Pagodas. As it usually is, the process of creating the ballet was a great experience for the entire company, challenging everyone to reach beyond their comfort zones in order to tell this incredible story in a clear, engaging and beautiful manner. Company Artist Laura Schlatter, cast as Daniel, took on her first major lead role since joining Ballet 5:8 in 2013, aptly portraying the character of Daniel with fierce energy and candid emotion. Brette Benedict, Company Artist since 2014, also took on her first major role with Ballet 5:8, portraying the eventually-mad King Nebuchadnezzar with, at times, chilling intensity. Company Artist Lorianne Barclay, in addition to playing serval roles in the work, designed and created the costumes for Belteshazzar. After creating costumes for several of Ballet 5:8's abstract works in the first half of the season, this was Barclay's first foray into costuming a narrative work since taking on the role of Ballet 5:8's resident costume designer in 2014 - and what a wonderful success! Belteshazzar went on stage four times in three different states during the Spring Season. If you didn't get a chance to see Belteshazzar yet, make sure to watch for appearances during the 2015-2016 season.
Outreach with The Story of Job
In April, we had two different opportunities to engage with new audiences in meaningful ways through The Story of Job: When Bad Things Happen to Good People. The ballet went onstage for the first time in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in the gym of local school Heritage Christian Academy. That morning, local dance students were able to attend several master classes taught by Ballet 5:8 Company Artists and greatly enjoyed being able to see those same instructors perform the same night. A week later, Ballet 5:8 set up in another gym, this one in Valparaiso, Indiana, for a performance hosted by a local Christian dance school called Master's Dance Academy. Master's Dance students opened the performance with a showcase showing their accomplishments from the year and then were able to watch Ballet 5:8 Company Artists in Job. The feedback and community impact from these performances was incredible, reminding us of just how worthwhile it is to perform even in the most modest of settings, in school gyms!
Also in April, Ballet 5:8 had the opportunity to join other Chicago dance companies in a city-wide event sponsored by audience-advocacy organization Audience Architects. Chicago Dance Month lasted for the entire month of April and included hundreds of dance events and performances in Chicago, many of them free to attend. Ballet 5:8 performed as part of Chicago Dance Month at an event called “Thank Dance It’s Friday,” which took place outside the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago on Friday afternoons. Ballet 5:8 performed Sigao
Ekklesia: Silent Church, alongside the dance group Luna Troop and the professional contemporary dance company Nomi Dance.
Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts
Things have also been busy at Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts this season, where over 100 students have been studying diligently in dance classes and then learning to use their dancing for God’s glory. In April, the students in the Conservatory program, one of the most advanced training levels in the school, were accepted as a member group of Regional Dance America MidStates! Starting next year, these students will be able to attend the annual MidStates festival and will have a special opportunity to interact with students and instructors from a host of other Chicago dance schools.
As usual, one of the biggest and most memorable events for Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts this season was the spring production - the thing that students spend all year looking forward to and working toward! On May 2-3, the student cast performed Racham: A True Fairytale for the second time after the ballet’s premiere in 2014. The students demonstrated exceptional growth in their technique from a year ago and the performance was gorgeous. Most importantly, the students were able to portray a clear, poignant picture of redemption through the ballet’s Prodigal Son-like storyline and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ!