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Ballet Intensive program sets a high barre for top students
Young dancers come together for training, performance Friday at Brenau
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Alexis Matthesen, a ballerina with Saint Louis Ballet Company, center, works during rehearsal on Friday with artistic director Momchil Mladenov, right, at Brenau University in Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes

International Ballet Summer Intensive Program Dance Performance

When: 7 p.m. Friday, July 14

Where: Hosch Theatre, Brenau University

Tickets: Adults $12, seniors and students $9, children under 7 free; group tickets, call 315-751-3498

Nearly three dozen young dancers from different walks of life have spent the past few weeks at Brenau University in rigorous training with teachers from around the world in a program which will culminate with a performance Friday night.

The International Ballet Intensive program is in its fifth year at Brenau, according to Danita Emma, one of two artistic directors and an alumnus of the university. Emma said the students, ages 11 to 18, auditioned for the spots in the program earlier this year. A total of 35 students were selected, and 20 will be performing Friday in Hosch Theatre.

“We try to get the creme de la creme in the ballet world and they come here and study for a month and we have a lot of guest teachers who are international faculty and american faculty,” Emma said. “The program is selective. We want work individually with dancers as opposed to mass groups.”

About 35 students were in the program, but most of the younger students were only there for two weeks, Emma said. The 20 who will perform Friday have been a part of the monthlong intensive program.

Mary Peterson, a rising junior at Gainesville High, and Louisa Leimbach, a rising sophomore at Lakeview Academy, are among the students who have spent the past month in the program and will dance in the performance.

“You learn a lot of great things from even famous teachers,” said Peterson, who is in the program for the second year. “They work you really hard and you just really get a lot of training. I do only ballet and jazz at our school; here we get character and modern (dance instruction).”

Leimbach, who is in the program for the first time, said the work is good for her growth as a dancer.

“I get pushed here more than I did at my studio and I get to have the new experience of having the different teachers from different companies,” she said. “Different styles helps my ballet as well. Character (dance) is very different. It helps with your ballet technique; it shows you how to hold your head.”

Antoaneta Alexieva, a guest teacher from Sofia, Bulgaria, has been a prima ballerina in the a national music theatre and a choreographer in a national ballet school in her home country. She is teaching character dancing at the intensive, the first time the program has offered that form of dance.

“I’m very happy that I’m here and work in the program,” she said. “The students are so interesting; they love to dance. All the children are good because they want to learn and their hearts are here. Their dream is to go on professional stage and be professional dancers.”

While character dancing, which stresses hand and head movements, is not taught in many places, Alexieva says it is a movement she enjoys teaching.

“It is very different,” she said. “The legs do the same (movements), but the body and the hands are different in Russian style, Spanish style, Hungarian style. This is interesting.”

Emma said the program Friday night will be “A tapestry of dance.”

“They are going to see classical ballet, they’re going to see contemporary ballet, they’re going to see character dancing, they’re going to see modern choreography and they’re going to see jazz,” she said.

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