Stepping up to high school
This week, Ballet East Dance Company once again provides a showcase for the talents of the current generation of dancers. Next week, for the first time, it will be doing the same for the coming generation.
Quick on the heels of IN under & Through, its new fall production at the Dougherty Arts Center, Ballet East will host the debut performance of the Eastside Dance Academy, a program for students at Eastside Memorial High School (formerly Johnston) that offers training in movement across the spectrum from the fine-art end (classical and contemporary) to folklorico to pop styles, including hip-hop and Broadway. While the company has been providing afterschool dance instruction for elementary and middle school students in East Austin for 20 years, it hasn't had the resources to extend its program to older teens. But when some former students told Artistic Director Rodolfo Mendez that they missed the "support and fellowship" of the Ballet East dance programs when they moved on to high school, Mendez set out to find a way to make it happen. He began with a pilot program funded through a number of smaller grants, but then a $100,000 grant from the women's philanthropic organization Impact Austin gave Mendez the chance to establish a comprehensive program. In addition to classes taught by professional instructors, the academy sponsors master classes with choreographers such as Hope Boykin, principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and trips to see performances of professional companies and touring events such as So You Think You Can Dance.
The academy has been an instant success, with initial enrollment of more than 90 students and participation in additional classes taking the total to 170. Come Saturday, Dec. 12, at 7pm, at Eastside Memorial High School, 1012 Arthur Stiles Rd., they will be showing the world what they've learned. And some of them may well be taking their first steps toward becoming company dancers with Ballet East.
Speaking of which, IN under & Through, featuring choreography by Boykin, Sheila Cruz, Sharon Marroquin, Dixon Mena, Eric Midgley, Gina Patterson, Ballet East Associate Director Melissa Villarreal, and company dancer Katie Feiock, will be performed Dec. 3-6; Thursday-Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm; at the Dougherty Arts Center, 1110 Barton Springs Rd. For more information, call 474-8497 or visit www.balleteast.org.