A Day in the Life of a Story Ballet: Three Weeks and Counting

We're looking forward to seeing you on Saturday, February 28th for the world premiere of Belteshazzar: A Perilous Tale (don't forget to buy your tickets), but today, as usual, we're busy with preparations. We started off the journal with a post on January 16 and have also talked about the introduction to a story ballet like Belteshazzar. In case you've never been able to peek behind the scenes during the creation of a new ballet, here's the latest post in our preparations journal so you can join us and get in on the fun! The Week of February 8 - Belteshazzar Premieres in Three Weeks Ballet 5:8 Studio I, 9:30am Today's morning technique class fills the entire studio, attended by Ballet 5:8's company artists as well as trainees. Though Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Slager teaches morning class on most days, today's class is lead by former Ballet 5:8 Company Artist and now Executive Director Amy Kozol Sanderson. Sanderson's class moves quickly and is concise and practical - the difference in style between instructors from morning to morning forces everyone to stay mentally focused and attentive to detail throughout class. The 90-minute warmup goes quickly, and soon it is time to break for lunch. Ballet 5:8 Studio I, 11:15am Today's lunch break is a time of discussion and reflection on the latest material covered in our study of the Biblical story of Daniel. In the story, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are thrown in to a blazing furnace as punishment for not following king Nebuchadnezzar's orders to worship the idol statue the king constructed. The discussion is on the question of how we react to challenges and hardship in our lives. Do trials automatically make us better Christians? How can we submit to being made more like Jesus in the ways that we approach challenges and hardship? Ballet 5:8 Studio I, 11:45am Today's rehearsal begins with a review of Act II of the ballet. In this stage of the creation process, the ballet's framework and many of the bigger, group sections have already been set. Rehearsal days this week are split between cleaning and creating the remaining, smaller sections needed to fill out the ballet. During Act II cleaning, Slager watches while the dancers perform the entire act from start to finish, taking notes throughout. After the run, Slager lists corrections for specific dancers and talks through problem spots. The dancers then dance the corrected sections again, to solidify the changes and adjustments into mental and muscle memory.

For the second part of the rehearsal day, the dancers and trainees split up into Ballet 5:8's three studios. Slager finishes choreography for a section with King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in one studio. Since Belteshazzar is not the only ballet slated to go onstage during the Spring Tour, the dancers flip back and forth between a range of ballets on the daily rehearsal schedule. With a wide range of choreographic styles and emotions represented in Ballet 5:8 Spring Tour repertoire, the dancers must be able to flip between styles at a moment's notice - and this is no easy task, requiring enormous amounts of focus and concentration! Today, Ballet Mistress Lauren Ader-Cumpston runs the Fall and Winter sections of Four Seasons of the Soul for cleaning, taking care that each dancer portrays the shapes - including every wrist, finger and head - correctly. A movement of Sigao Ekklesia is also on the schedule for cleaning near the end of the rehearsal day. Ballet 5:8 Studios, 3:00pm Rehearsals are over, and the Company Artists scatter after taking a few moments to stretch and warm down in the studios. The trainees head to rehearsal for their contemporary ballet Abundant Grace, which will be performed on Friday. In the costume room, piles of fabric are slowly being transformed into costumes - bodices, skirts and more are slowly but steadily taking shape.

Why A Ballet?

In Western culture today, most people live with a wealth of mind-numbing entertainment options at their fingertips. Though the technological advances of our time are great accomplishments, consumerism markets many of the products of these advances to us by telling us that we have the right to "relax" by turning our minds "off". We can do this by ingesting hours upon hours of material, most often delivered through a digital screen, that requires no thought, analysis or effort of any kind on our part to absorb. But is that kind of "relaxation" actually helpful, or at the very least, restful?

Ballet 5:8 Chicago

There is a range of thought on this matter, but it seems fair to assert that passive entertainment is at least neutrally unhelpful when it comes to the development of the mind and the imagination. Any normal pursuit of mental development and creativity - such as in academic study, learning to play an instrument, etc. - requires hard work and creative engagement. Many forms of entertainment simply cannot offer the same level of mental challenge and engagement.

Ballet, however, stands out among potential forms of leisure as something that may have more lasting value than its early founders, exploring and developing in classical styles meant to show off the technical ability of the dancer, may have realized! In its modern form, ballet is a form of artistic storytelling and communication that employs many means other than direct, verbal communication to convey a thought or story. In order to partake of the art form, the individual watching must invest a certain degree of concentration and creativity in evaluating the ballet's layers of sounds, shapes, colors and emotions in order to derive meaning. This is not to say that ballet is so complicated that it is impossible to figure out - especially in the case of Ballet 5:8, where we specifically produce works that are based in a clear, accessible idea, thought or story that audience members can chew on afterward. Even so, ballet is not a direct form of communication, and the process of deriving meaning from a ballet could hardly be said to be a passive experience!

So, it is true that ballet could be a form of mindful leisure, rather than mindless entertainment? Is it true that ballet performance can provide those who watch it with a restful, relaxing yet interactive experience that refreshes the mind, soul and imagination? Is it true that you could feel more alive after watching a ballet?

We think so.

Try it for yourself: watch a performance.

Autumn at Dance Chicago

For the second year in a row, Ballet 5:8 will be appearing at the annual Dance Chicago festival several times in several different capacities. An event filled with tons of variety and glimpses of dance companies from throughout the Chicago area, Dance Chicago embodies a special energy and sense of collaborative excitement that is rarely felt at performances by a single company. Curious? Come out to see us at one or more of the following times.

Ballet 5:8 Ticket Code

Buying tickets to one or more of the shows? Make sure to use ticket code "dcheartse" to get $9 off your ticket and support Ballet 5:8 in addition to Dance Chicago.


Musings - Wednesday, November 19 at 8:15pm - [click here for tickets]

For the first time ever, Ballet 5:8 will be the sole performer for this installment of Dance Chicago's New Moves series. In the spirit of Dance Chicago's love for variety, the company will perform three distinctly different works: Sigao Ekklesia, an exploration of questions about Church, Indwelling, a picture of the struggle between the Old Man and the New Man in the life of the Christian believer, living in the paradox of the already/not-yet, and Musings...Or Don't Take Yourself So Seriously, a humorous tutu ballet that illumines the struggles, victories and inside jokes of the ballet dancer's world for the audience (yes, you're allowed to laugh, we haven't stopped laughing since we started creating this ballet).

DANCE SLAM - Saturday, November 1 at 8:00pm - [click here for tickets]

Our Student Ensemble, made up of pre-professional dancers from the Conservatory and Trainee Programs, will be competing in a competitive performance known as DANCE SLAM. A Dance Chicago tradition, DANCE SLAM features as many as 30 short acts by different Chicago performing arts groups. Set up like a variety show with everything from ballet to contemporary to tap to acrobatics, juggling and more, DANCE SLAM is a ton of fun for everyone. Last but certainly not least, the performance program is actually a ballot that audience members can use to vote on the performances in a handful of performance categories.

Future Stars - Saturday, November 15 at 8:00pm - [click here for tickets]

The professional company will perform briefly in Dance Chicago's Future Stars variety show with excerpts from the recent premiere of The Four Seasons of the Soul.


What People Are Saying

...about Ballet 5:8's performances

"The Story of Job was nuanced and aesthetically dimensional, interweaving voices reading text at just the right places to create a moving narrative that lingered in one’s consciousness.” - Dr. Rosalie de Rosset, PhD, Author, Professor of Literature, English and Homiletics at Moody Bible Institute

Audience members attending The Story of Job and The Four Seasons of the Soul, Fall Season 2014

"Inspirational, professional and enjoyable to watch"


"Loved it"

"Stunningly beautiful and moving"

Audience members from the premiere of Sigao Ekklesia at the [re]claimed gallery, October 2014


"Profoundly moving and beautiful"

Upcoming Performances

2014-2015 Season Preview Parties

IMG_0343-1Ballet 5:8‘s Preview Parties offer attendees a rare behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming season from the perspective of Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Slager. The events will feature a special preview of the new works commissioned for the 2014-2015 season, including exclusive unreleased rehearsal video footage, a live presentation of choreographer’s notes, and the chance to see actual costumes under construction. The evening will be a great opportunity to get a feel for the upcoming season, meet Ballet 5:8 company artists and chat with Ballet 5:8 directors about the mission and vision of the ministry. Whether you are exploring Ballet 5:8 for the first time or would like to take the next step in your involvement with Ballet 5:8, we’d love to see you and get to know you better at one of the parties.

Andersonville Party - RSVP Here

Saturday, September 20, 6:30pm First Free Evangelical Church, 5255 N. Ashland Avenue

The Andersonville Preview Party, hosted at First Evangelical Free Church, is held just a block off of busy Clark Street, surrounded by plenty of shops, restaurants and art galleries. The party's main attractions include plenty of time to talk with Ballet 5:8 Artistic Direcor Julianna Slager, Executive Director Amy Kozol Sanderson, and Ballet 5:8 Company Artists, a short presentation including video footage, and choreographer's notes. Dinner is provided, but RSVP is required. The dress code is business casual; no children under the age of 10 please.

Beverly Party - RSVP Here

Saturday, September 13, 6:30pm St. Paul's Bible Church, 1960 West 94th Street

IMG_0506-1The Beverly Preview Party, hosted at St. Paul's Bible Church, is held just blocks from the Beverly Arts Center, an annual venue for Ballet 5:8's spring performance lineup. The party's main attractions include plenty of time to talk with Ballet 5:8 Artistic Direcor Julianna Slager, Executive Director Amy Kozol Sanderson, and Ballet 5:8 Company Artists, a short presentation including video footage, and choreographer's notes. Dinner is provided, but RSVP is required. The dress code is business casual; no children under the age of 10 please, childcare available for younger children.

Pilsen Party - RSVP Here

Friday, September 12, 7:00pm Pilsen Community Church, 1325 West 18th Street

The Pilsen Preview Party, hosted at Pilsen Community Church, is held in the thick of the Pilsen neighborhood's arts district. The party's main attractions include plenty of time to talk with Ballet 5:8 Artistic Direcor Julianna Slager, Executive Director Amy Kozol Sanderson, and Ballet 5:8 Company Artists, a short presentation including video footage, and choreographer's notes. Desserts and coffee will also be available. The dress code is business casual; no children under the age of 10 please.