by Joshua Ryan Taylor
How often does the Central Valley get to see a full-length, professional quality ballet? You can probably count on one hand the ones in recent memory. Unlike theatre and music, both of which have robust and vibrant communities with ubiquitous live performances, dance is somewhat rarer in the Valley. This is why California Arts Academy is so important.
On April 22 and 23 CalArts brings to the historic Severance Theatre For the Love of Dance, a full-length dance concert featuring dozens of the Valley’s most talented young dancers under the direction and choreography of veteran performers. One of the choreographers, who you may remember as the director of Artist Repertory Theatre’s critically acclaimed The Rocky Horror Show, Daniel Chavez Jr. says that the concert, “embodies the love, hard work, and discipline of dance through an expression of heartache and joy.”
The concert is split into two acts. The first features a presentation known as ‘Etudes.’ Director Carla Stallings-Lippert calls it, “An engaging view of the progression of training a ballet dancer.” The American Ballet Theatre curriculum, the same company that trained Misty Copeland, Isabella Boylston, and David Hallberg, is the nation’s leading training program for ballet dancers, and it’s one that California Arts Academy uses exclusively. All of its ballet teachers have been certified through the ABT intensive held in New York. ‘Etudes’ is a creative take on a traditional ballet recital, demonstrating the levels a ballet dancer goes through in the ABT curriculum through original choreography. If you’ve ever wanted to know the rigorous training a ballet dancer goes through to execute those gravity-defying and impossibly graceful moves, ‘Etudes’ is the perfect chance to learn!
Speaking of those gravity-defying and graceful moves, we arrive at the concert’s second act. Featuring original choreography from CalArts teachers, the dancers take you on a journey through various styles of dance, including ballet, contemporary, jazz, and more! One of the choreographers, Margaret Hord, a veteran ballet teacher for more than 30 years who is also stage managing the concert, says that she is “blessed to work with such talented and hard-working dancers.”
When asked about California Arts Academy, Hord had the following to say, “At CalArts, we don’t just train the dancer. We are a holistic program that fosters growth as artists and people. We teach that it isn’t enough to be talented. Graciousness and kindness are as vital keys to success as technical ability.” She adds that CalArts isn’t just a training ground for the next generation of professional dancers, though. “All of our students, regardless of aspirations, receive the same level of training and attention. No matter if someone wants to dance for their career or simply for the love of dance, they can find a home with CalArts.”
In a sentiment echoed by director Stallings-Lippert and fellow choreographer Jasmin Kloos, Hord says that the best thing about the concert is watching the dancers grow. “We watched some of these dancers put on their first pair of ballet shoes as toddlers, and now they’re ready to leave for college and performing some of the most famous and difficult pieces in the canon. For the Love of Dance is more than just a spectacular concert. In its own way, it’s a historical event, marking the transition from young dancers in training to the next generation of artists.”
For the Love of Dance performs at the historic Severance Theatre at 1401 N Wishon in Fresno’s Tower District. There are three performances: April 22 at 7:30 p.m. and April 23 at 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door, over the phone at (559) 222-6539, or online at calarts.ticketleap.com/love.