What: “La Fille Mal Gardee,” presented by ballet students of Hanneke Lohse
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Veterans’ Memorial Theatre, 203 E. 14th St.
Tickets: $12 at the door, or in advance at the Davis Art Center office, 1919 F St.
Info: (530) 756-4100
Davis Art Center ballet instructor Hanneke Lohse is not exaggerating when she says she has selected a difficult ballet for her students’ spring production, taking place this weekend.
With a whopping 64 lifts and many challenging group dances, she knew the professional version of “La Fille Mal Gardee” would be the perfect ballet to highlight the talent and cohesiveness of her six graduating high school seniors in the Davis Art Center ballet program, along with other students ranging in age from 5 to 65.
“This is a very technical ballet,” said Lohse, who has taught ballet at the Davis Art Center since 1987. “Not many studios perform ‘La Fille Mal Gardee,’ but I think we’ve nailed it.”
“La Fille Mal Gardee,” or “The Wayward Daughter,” is a comic ballet presented in three acts. Lise and Colas are in love and want to marry. However, the Widow Simone wants Lise to marry the dimwitted, but wealthy, Alain. Hilarious shenanigans, along with impressive dancing and beautiful music, are at the crux of this entertaining ballet.
For this production, Lohse is rehearsing three casts of roughly 50 dancers each. Two of the graduating seniors, Sarah Bolander and Katie Magliano, will share the lead role of Lise. For some performances they partner with professional dancers Aaron Simonuvich of San Francisco and Francisco Avellan of New York City.
Because of the technical challenges associated with this ballet, communication, trust and cooperation are necessary components onstage.
This is where “Ballet Spirit Days” come in.
Spirit Days are studio-bonding activities that promote unity among the teen dancers through once-a-month themes like Twin Day, Crazy Sock Day and Bring a Guy Friend to Ballet Day — the last of these proving to be a favorite.
“We have a very open policy,” Lohse said. “We’re a welcoming studio.”
For “Bring a Guy Friend to Ballet,” students were encouraged to bring a male guest to participate in every aspect of a real ballet class, from barre and stretching to partnering and even lifting the dancers.
Kaitlin Coppinger, who came up with the idea of Spirit Days and who will share the role of Lise with Bolander and Magliano, said the guys left the class in awe of the strength, stamina and flexibility ballet takes.
“This class shattered every stereotype they had of ballerinas,” Coppinger said. “In that one class we proved that ballet is more than just prancing around it tutus — it is athletic and involves not only individual determination, but full trust in your partner.”
Coppinger, now a junior at UC Davis, started Spirit Days in summer 2010 to encourage the dancers to put aside their individual differences to bond over a common love of ballet.
“Since the start of Spirit Days, I’ve noticed that all the dancers (including me) are much more willing to ask others for help,” Coppinger said. “ ‘La Fille’ has many challenging group dances and this year, more than ever, I see dancers helping each other.”
Bolander, who will attend Cornell University in the fall, agreed that Spirit Days have been helpful in creating a strong ballet studio.
“The Spirit Days are fun, and I am thankful that we all can find an excuse once in a while to be a bit goofy,” she said.
The positive attitudes engendered in the studio have resulted in beautiful, unified dancing in rehearsals leading up to the show, Lohse said, adding that it is not only the dancers who must come together in a spirit of cooperation to mount a successful ballet.
“People don’t realize how much work this is behind the scenes,” she said. “I alone could not do it without volunteers, like Ron Brandt putting up the sets, my husband typing up the programs, and parents fitting the costumes. It’s teamwork.”
Whether it’s an impressive grand jeté lift, a lift of the spirits through a fun themed class or volunteer efforts behind the scenes, the Davis Art Center ballet studio truly embodies a sense of openness and community.
Witness the results of excellent teamwork by attending the family-friendly professional version of “La Fille Mal Gardee” at the Veterans’ Memorial Theatre, 203 E. 14th St., at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets are $12 at the door, or in advance at the Davis Art Center office, 1919 F St. For more information, call the Davis Art Center (530) 756-4100.
— Melanie Glover is the publicity and program manager at the Davis Art Center. This column appears monthly.