Guest writer: Jim Nelson, general manager (blog written on Saturday, October 9)
The company is here in St. Louis performing a triple bill featuring Stanton’s Falling, George Balanchine’s Apollo, and Christopher Bruce’s Hush. We’re performing at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Missouri St. Louis.
Over the past decade, we’ve really focused on deepening the impact our tours have on the cities we travel to through the addition of master classes, pre-performance lectures, student performances, and direct interaction with local dance communities.
In conjunction with the three public performances here in St. Louis, we have presented a student matinee, a master class led by ballet mistress Louise Lester, pre-performance talks with company dancers, and we are participating in a three week teaching residency.
Yesterday’s student matinee was the culmination of the multileveled outreach effort. Many of the students attending the performance are also participating in the residency program. Former Houston Ballet soloist Sandra (Sandy) Organ-Solis and former Houston Ballet principal dancer Kristine (Krissy) Richmond are the featured teaching artists in the three-week residency that began two weeks before the company’s arrival and will continue through next week.
The program reaches more than 300 under-served middle and high school students at urban schools and community centers. Krissy and Sandy have been teaching five days per week and have focused on dance technique relating to our performances as well as the history of modern dance, improvisation, collaboration, and healthy life styles for dancers.
At yesterday’s student matinee, I was backstage with the dancers, and at one point during Hush the students in the audience exploded in spontaneous rhythmic clapping to the music—something we’ve never experienced in performances of Hush. It was a great moment of connection between our dancers and the children in the audience, and it’s a perfect example of the magic of live theater. After the performance, I met a few of the students as they were heading back to their busses and I asked one little girl what her favorite part was, and without hesitation her face lit up and she said “everything was my favorite!”
The company’s opening performance was brilliantly danced and was received with screams of bravos and extended curtain calls. It’s such a pleasure to share our beautiful artists with audiences outside of Houston—I have such a gratifying job!
This morning, the company is taking class with Dance St. Louis’ artistic director Michael Uthoff. We have two more performances today and return to Houston tomorrow.