By Shannon Monahan
Seventy Albemarle Ballet Theatre students and professional dancers performed in ABT’s annual Spring Dance Gala to a sold out audience at Piedmont Virginia Community College’s Dickinson Theater May 16. This year’s production featured “The Doll Shop Ballet.”
A hush fell over the theater as ABT’s Gary Hart took the stage to point out the hard work the dancers invest. The show opened with concorDance contemporary’s (cDc) Veronica Hart and Jake Catlett’s pas de deux “Anima.” Their original piece was inspired by Martha Collins’ poem of the same name. The two dancers sat in pools of light as they recited Collins’ poem, then they intertwined to Matthew Stone, Radiohead.
Nicky Coelho of James Sewell Ballet (JSB) followed with an excerpt from JSB’s “Into the Spin,” a playful ballet performed with a hula-hoop to the music of Dessa. The assistance of ABT students Amanda DeLaura and Anna DeLaura added a magical quality. The first act closed with advanced ABT dancers performing “La Barre,” the Royal Ballet’s classical work restaged and led by Veronica Hart. These middle and high school dancers gave a professional, stirring performance with a spiritual-like quality that brought the audience to their feet.
The second act opened with “The Doll Shop Ballet,” a playful story about a little girl and her mischievous brothers who think a German toy maker’s mechanical dolls are alive. To find out if they are right, the three children hide in the store after closing and have an adventure.
As the mother of a dancer, I am always excited to share this event with family and friends. I am accustomed to sitting through hours of recitals, waiting for the time when my own daughter will appear, gracing the stage for a precious moment. What makes ABT’s performance different is that it is a show, not a recital. It tells a story in which all the dancers play a part, including the youngest dancers. ABT’s instructors Veronica Hart and Ashley Geisler, along with director Sally Hart, have the skill to highlight even the youngest child’s ability to perform choreography as a corps. It is stunning to see the younger dancers perform. They really know what they are doing! The solos performed by the advanced dancers evinced emotion and grace. The choreography meticulously expressed the details of each “doll’s” story.
The stage was dressed with a hand painted backdrop decorated as an old world toyshop and ABT’s breathtaking, handmade costumes highlighted each dancer with a dreamy warmth. As a designer, I recognize how the lighting and color mixed to create a soft glow. I found myself, too, lost in the toy shop watching the dolls come to life.
Ashley Geisler, a cDc dance and instructor for ABT since 2008, performed “Dream Dust” an excerpt from “Dream Suite,” a cool-jazz piece choreographed by Veronica Hart and Geisler, inspired by Langston Hughes’s “Harlem,” performed to Dave Brubeck’s “Kathy’s Waltz.”
The show closed with the advanced jazz students in an original, scintillating jazz piece choreographed by Veronica Hart to Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.” The audience of local young families, seniors and families of the dancers showed exuberant appreciation for this professional production performed by our children.