Summer Smith on Belteshazzar

Ballet 5:8's Belteshazzar: A Perilous Tale went onstage for the first time in February, 2015. One of Ballet 5:8's largest-scale undertakings at the time, the full length, three-act story ballet set to the music of Benjamin Britten was a beautiful success and a favorite among audience members who saw it during the 2014-2015 season. This performing season, Belteshazzar has returned to the stage for a second round of performances - but what's changed? As final performance of the season looms closer in May, we are catching up with a few of the dancers to see how the work has evolved and what some of the highlights of its run have been. 

Summer Smith

Q. What role do you play in Belteshazzar?

A. I am Meshach, a friend of Daniel. I also get to appear in the third act as a magistrate. 

Q. What are some of the major attributes/characteristics of your character and your role? 

A. Meshach tends to be the most fiery of Daniel's friends. He is really passionate and loves his country and his God more than anything. 

Q. How does the choreography communicate this?  

A. Well, in quite a few ways. There are many props in this ballet, and there is a section where I steal the Israeli flag from my friends in order to dance with it, displaying my patriotism. There is also one section of the ballet where I get to freak out a little and throw a scroll off the stage. It's pretty fun to get angry in this character because I am showing a close relationship between myself, Abednego, Daniel and Shadrach. In close friendships you feel more comfortable showing true emotion, and I think that has been choreographed into this ballet really well. 

Q. How has the role evolved for you from last year to this year? 

A. I have grown more comfortable with my fellow dancers, which I think makes it more enjoyable. I'm also a little less afraid of the choreography. Last year this ballet was super overwhelming, as it was my first full length ballet as a professional. I think being more comfortable with it gives me more freedom to execute the steps well and really delve into parts of the character that I didn't get a chance to even think through last year. 

Q. What are your favorite parts? Most challenging? 

A. My favorite part of the ballet is miming with Daniel, played by Laura Schlatter. She is hilarious, and we tend to have a lot of fun with our on stage friendship. The most challenging part is the amount of time I'm on the stage. It requires a lot of stamina to dance for the majority of the first two acts as Meshach, then switch roles and stay on stage for the entire third act as a Magistrate. Usually my feet start to feel numb by the end. 

Q. Why see Belteshazzar again this year? 

A. Because it takes at least two viewings to really see a ballet. You'll find a new understanding of the characters, and feel really able to focus on more than just the story line.