Albemarle Ballet Theatre’s Spring Gala Enchanted

Alyssa Free as the Ugly Duckling. Photo: Allie Pesch.

Joy and laughter suffused the V. Earl Dickinson auditorium at PVCC on May 11 as a cast of 75 gifted ballerinas of all ages filled the stage with dancing ducklings, swans, vultures, foxes, rabbits, tortoises, river fish and more in the Albemarle Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) 15th Annual Spring Gala performance of “The Ugly Duckling.” Adorable, innocent baby ducklings waddled in perfect lines across the stage behind supportive Mama Duck Kyra Ventura, later growing into sassy teen ducks who shook a lot of fluffy, feathered booty! 

Julianne Reon in the dragonfly dance. Photo: Allie Pesch.

Alyssa Free charmed in the title role, displaying both technical skill and acting talent, not to mention stamina as she ruled the stage through both the matinee and evening performances! After three hilarious, preening adult vultures—arriving in a leafy grocery cart sporting mirrors, hairspray, and cackling glee—convince the leading lady that she is too big and gangly to belong in her duck family, she runs away and has many animal adventures before finding her elegant swan flock, led by the exquisite Ella Grisdale. 

Four sweet little swans blossomed into enchanting and accomplished adult swans, whose marvelous dancing delighted the audience anew. Free also transformed into a sparkling silver and white vision. 

Hannah Olson and George Vavrick in Études. Photo: Allie Pesch.

Elaborate and imaginative costumes, especially the 12 little dragonflies with their glittery gold wings, brought to life the important message to be yourself and rise above peer pressure. Lovely ensemble work, pas de deux and fancy footwork showed off the inspired choreography by Veronica Piller, Ashley Geisler, and Sally Hart. The entire production was fresh, magical and a pure delight. 

“The Ugly Duckling” was preceded by excerpts from Harald Lander’s “Études,” a polished and perfectly synchronized technical display celebrating the glory and grace of the human body, danced by a dozen extremely talented and accomplished young ballerinas. The soothing tap of the wooden toe boxes on the stage enhanced our enjoyment of the impressive toe work, pirouettes, pas de chat, and grand jetés. George Vavrick was a real standout with his confident leaps, twirls and stage presence. 

“(dis)CONNECTED,” a contemporary student-written and choreographed piece, dealt with the conflicts between technology and community. The overall level of proficiency and professionalism evident in all three of these performances was remarkable. How lucky we are to have a dance school of such high caliber right here in Crozet!

The Albemarle Ballet Theatre studio, now in its fifth year in the historic Fruit-Growers Co-op building at the corner of Crozet Avenue and Three Notched Road, offers multidimensional dance classes at competitive rates with the goal of providing a fun, safe, healthy and nurturing environment for beginners, budding dancers, future professionals and lifelong enthusiasts. 

Summer dance camps run June 17– Aug. 15. Visit for more information. 


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