Distinguished Professor Violette Verdy and former Chair and Professor of IU Ballet Theater Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux will be filmed coaching the roles they originated in George Balanchine’s ‘Sonatine’ for the Balanchine Foundation’s Interpreters Archive. ‘Sonatine’, a pas de deux with an onstage pianist, premiered at the New York City Ballet Ravel Festival of 1975.

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Dancer Patricia McBride, who taught ballet at IU, receives Kennedy Center Honor

Post by IU Communications colleague Karen Land

Former Indiana University professor Patricia McBride will be in good company Dec. 7. The longtime New York City Ballet dancer will receive the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington alongside actor Tom Hanks, singers Al Green and Sting and comedian Lily Tomlin.

The 2014 honorees will be seated with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama as their peers take the stage to deliver tributes and performances.

Patricia McBride

Patricia McBride is now the associate artistic director and master teacher at the Charlotte Ballet. Photo by Jeff Cravotta.

Then, all of them are headed to your living room. The awards, now in their 37th year, will be broadcast at 9 p.m. Dec. 30 on CBS.

Violette Verdy, distinguished professor of ballet at the IU Jacobs School of Music, said of McBride, “I’m one of her most devoted fans and a longtime friend. I’m so glad she’s getting those honors.

“To meet Patty is to love her forever,” she said.

Verdy, who also had a long career with the New York City Ballet, described first seeing McBride dance in a rehearsal. “We were still in the old school on Broadway,” she said. “There was something about her that was so great. I actually applauded her, because she was so extraordinary.

“What a dancer! She was effortless, never striving, very devoted and with no equal. She did exactly what the choreographers wanted. And how beautiful and serene her face was.

“She demonstrates a selflessness we don’t see much in great performers,” Verdy said. “She is a rare jewel.”

Full circle

It seems fitting for McBride to receive a Kennedy Center Honor. After all, she danced at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. It was one of many special moments in a 30-year career with the New York City Ballet.

Patricia McBride

Patricia McBride c. 1977. Photo courtesy of the New York City Ballet.

In 1961 McBride became the youngest principal dancer in the company’s history. She danced for George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. She danced with Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And she danced with Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, who became her husband.

Bonnefoux came to Indiana University in 1985 to lead the ballet department. McBride continued to dance in the spotlight for another four years before her retirement from the New York City Ballet. On June 4, 1989, she was showered with more than 13,000 roses during a spectacular tribute at Lincoln Center. She soon joined Bonnefoux in Bloomington, becoming a full professor of dance at IU that fall.

Bloomington years

In interviews during her tenure, McBride always remarked at the kindness and warmth of the people here.

And the dedicated ballerina became a devoted teacher.

“I just put all my energy into dancing, and when I stopped dancing, I put it into teaching, staging ballets at the university and being a mother. I think you’re only happy in whatever you do if you give it your all,” McBride said Nancy Upper’s 2004 book “Ballet Dancers in Career Transition.”

Patricia McBride

Patricia McBride c. 1977

“You never stop learning when you’re a dancer, and it’s the same thing with teaching. You learn and you grow.”

Michael Vernon, the current chair of the department of ballet, said of McBride, “She’s just a wonderful teacher. She’s so generous as a person in terms of imparting her craft upon her students.”

Though Vernon didn’t witness her work at IU, he has known McBride since 1977, when he staged “Sleeping Beauty” at the Eglevsky Ballet on Long Island, N.Y. Both Vernon and McBride now spend their summers teaching ballet at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York, where Bonnefoux is the artistic director.

McBride and Bonnefoux left IU in 1996 for the North Carolina Dance Theatre, now known as the Charlotte Ballet. She is the associate artistic director and master teacher at the company, while he serves as its president and artistic director.


Upon learning she was named one of the 2014 Kennedy Center Honorees, McBride reacted with grace and modesty. “I’m honored, astonished, moved, humbled and ecstatic to have been chosen,” she said.

She thanked the committee and gave credit to her choreographers Balanchine and Robbins, “who made this all possible.”

“It’s extraordinary to be honored for something that I have loved doing and has given my life so much meaning and fulfillment,” McBride said.

Again she deflected the spotlight, this time to her family. “My mom would have been so happy … Thank you for making me look good to my children and grandchildren!”

And that is what is most exceptional about Patricia McBride. As Verdy said, she is always thinking of others.

“She is selfless, completely.”

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‘Nutcracker’ sold out performances

By Alaina Milazzo


The applause for Thursday night’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” began even before the curtain opened and continued long after it closed.

The ballet was performed in five shows Thursday through Sunday at the Musical Arts Center and featured dancers from the Jacobs School of Music Ballet Department and the Jacobs Pre-College Ballet Program.

Tickets started at $20 for students and were sold out by Friday night. However, live streaming was available for those who could not attend performances at the MAC.

“This is a conventional production of ‘The Nutcracker,’” director and choreographer Michael Vernon said. “Some people make it very localized, but this is just the traditional, set somewhere in Germany or Austria.”

“The Nutcracker,” a classic Christmas tale, follows the story of Clara, who receives a Nutcracker doll from Herr Drosselmeyer for Christmas amid antics from her brother, Fritz, and the other children.

Upon falling asleep, Clara dreams of mice battles, a Snow Queen and Sugar Plum Fairy attendants dancing through a candy-filled 

Aaron Anker, a junior ballet major and performer in “The Nutcracker,” encouraged students and the community to see the performance even if they’ve never seen it before.

“It is a great first ballet to see because there’s a lot going on and it’s very exciting,” Anker said. “The adrenaline for a lot of it is really cool.”

Vernon said the dancers had been rehearsing for the show since late October, but they had about a week off “to recover and catch up on some of the academics they might miss” because of dress rehearsals.

“There are four main pas de deux (major dances) … and that’s a lot of work,” 
Vernon said.

Many dancers played a supporting role one night and a principal role the next, and vice versa.

“It’s always different because we have different dancers for every performance,” Vernon said. “That makes it very egalitarian — everyone has a chance.”

Anker performed a variety of roles, including Herr Silberhaus and Clara’s father on Thursday, the Snow Cavalier on Friday, the Sugar Plum Cavalier on Saturday afternoon and the Flower Cavalier on Saturday night.

In addition to the dancers, Vernon also credits the University orchestra for its role in “The Nutcracker.”

“The music, especially in the first act, tells the story just as much as the choreography does,” he said. “But to impose one’s own vision (for the show) is not as easy as one would think because the music is so set.”

Dancers followed cues from orchestra members for each piece to stay in sync with the music while 

“As a department, we have really exciting opportunities to be able to do a wide range of (representation) that normally university programs don’t get to do, and I think that’s mostly because of our director,” Anker said. “He thinks it’s very important to get to do different stuff, new stuff, old stuff. This gives the city of Bloomington an opportunity to see real choreography from around the world.”


© Indiana Daily Student 2014


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Christmas classic returns to MAC

By Amanda Marino

The cast of the Nutcracker performs during rehearsal at the Musical Arts Center on Monday.

The cast of the Nutcracker performs during rehearsal at the Musical Arts Center on Monday.

Laughter echoes down the backstage hallway of the Musical Arts Center as upbeat music plays, preparing the dancers for another dress rehearsal.

Costume racks line both sides of the narrow hall, and people with perfect hair and makeup rush back and forth with their arms full of 

A number of children also bustle around backstage as they prepare for a show that will soon be for them what it is for most of the other dancers: a tried and true classic.


IU’s Ballet Department will perform “The Nutcracker” at 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the MAC.

For dancers such as senior Matthew Rusk, performing in “The Nutcracker” has become something of a Christmas tradition.

Rusk performed in the show with a variety of groups every year since he was 8 years old, including all four years at IU.

It was the first ballet he ever saw.

The show has inspired other dancers as well, such as senior Maura Bell and junior Alexandra Hartnett.

Bell said “The Nutcracker“ was also the first ballet she saw, and it made her want to be a dancer. She has performed the show about 15 times since then.

Now, she said she hopes this performance will inspire people in the same way.

Hartnett said she had a similar experience, first seeing “The Nutcracker” at age 8 when her friend’s older sister was performing.

“That was when I decided I loved to dance,” she said.

Hartnett said performing the show is nostalgic for her now.

“The main thing is that it’s kind of one of those traditions,” Hartnett said.


Dancers in wide party dresses trudge up the narrow spiral staircase. They struggle to hold up their skirts as they ascend to the stage and take their places in the wings behind the MAC’s deep purple curtain.

Whispering back and forth as the orchestra warms up and tunes, directors and tech operators sit at a tech table in the house.

A voice booms over the speaker system. It welcomes an imaginary audience to the show and makes the dress rehearsal feel even more like the real thing.


Rusk, who is performing six different roles, said one of the most challenging roles for him is the Cavalier.

This is the second time he has performed this role, he said, and despite its challenges, the feeling of accomplishment is amazing and makes the time spent rehearsing worthwhile.

He said it is one of the most challenging roles a male ballet dancer can take on because of the technique required to execute it.

The dancers have spent up to 25 hours a week working on technique and rehearsing the show since the beginning of October.

A typical day consists of technique practice from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then rehearsal of the show from 1:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. after a brief lunch break.

Rusk said the rehearsal process for this show is different from others because it is such a classic piece.

Learning the choreography takes a day or so, and then the focus of rehearsals falls on clarifying the details and perfecting the technique used in the show, Rusk said.

After that, full run-throughs happen regularly, even though the dancers don’t start performing onstage until the week of the show.

Hartnett said she is also in a repeat role as a sugar plum fairy.

Hartnett said one of her goals is to embody the character more while also working on the Arabian, a role that is completely new to her in terms of style and movement.

Hartnett said a dancer is worrying not just about herself, but also about all the other moving parts and people onstage with her.

She said every little detail is important.


“For me, the energy is always very exhilarating,” Bell said. “We’re really tight-knit, super supportive,” she said. “We love dancing with each other,” she said.

Rusk also shared his perception of the performance. He said when he gets on the stage, he senses the audience and feels their support, as well as the support from the other dancers.

“It’s just a really powerful experience when you’re in it,” he said.

Rusk also said he was sorry to perform his last version of IU’s “Nutcracker” and plans to give the best performance he can.

“I’m really sad this is my last year doing this particular version,” he said.

Though Hartnett is not graduating yet, she said IU’s ballet is wonderful for the community.

It is good to use as an introduction to ballet, and the fact that it happens on campus makes it even more accessible to students and people in the community, she said.

** *

A party is in full swing onstage. Children play with toys, and dancers act as dolls, putting on a show for them.

Adults glide gracefully across the floor, long skirts dusting the ground around them.

When the nutcracker is presented to the children, they show wild enthusiasm, especially Clara, the nutcracker’s proud new owner.

Soon, the party draws to a close after a festive 

Guests clear off the stage, and two servants seek a drink from glasses not fully emptied.

The stage falls nearly silent as a single light rests on the nutcracker.

Clara creeps back on stage in her nightgown and looks at the figurine.

She takes him with her back to her room and falls asleep, not knowing that even more Christmas magic is yet to come.


© Indiana Daily Student 2014


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Preparation underway for 56th production of ‘Nutcracker’

By Peter Jacobi


It takes a little world to create a little world.

I spent much of a Wednesday afternoon, the afternoon of November 19th, on the third floor of the Musical Arts Center, part of that huge building behind the theater itself, in the Jacobs School’s Ballet Department headquarters, where IU Ballet Theater was preparing its 56th annual production of “The Nutcracker.”

The busy multitudes were creating the little world of Clara and Fritz and Herr Drosselmeyer and all the magical creatures that E.T.A. Hoffman put into his story, “The Nutcracker and the House King,” that 19th century choreographer Marius Petipa adapted for the stage, and for which Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote his remarkable music.

Let it be said that similar activities have been underway in venues around the world, and not just because so many of us love “The Nutcracker.” Well, yes, because we do, and truth be told, many a ballet company depends on an annual production of this popular staple to balance a precarious budget and, thereby, manage to stay in business another season.

I have no idea how our local “Nutcracker” fits into IU Ballet Theater’s financial well-being, but there are five performances starting Thursday evening, and they will, as usual, pretty much sell out. So, I suspect a significant impact exists.

First and foremost, however, at IU, an institute of learning, a large-scale production of “The Nutcracker” offers opportunities for so many dancers, from pre-college level to graduate study, to gain valuable experience: private preparation followed by public performance. It becomes a win-win situation.

And everyone I encountered on that Wednesday afternoon seemed very serious, from department head and artistic director Michael Vernon, who has reshaped the choreography from the original, to ballet master Guoping Wang and ballet mistress Shawn Stevens, to children’s ballet mistress Jennifer Adam and children’s ballet master Christian Claessens. Certainly, all the dancers appeared to be alert to their opportunity and responsibility.

They knew how to relax when given the opportunity, when they were not involved in an all women or all men class, when rehearsal shifted to a scene for which they were not cast. They draped themselves against walls, reverted to their phones and tablets, chatted with each other, stretched bodies, caught short naps, did bits of homework for other classes.

For all the grandeur one sees when the curtain rises for “The Nutcracker,” there is no grandeur behind the scenes, in those third floor studios or in the hallways leading to them. Everyone is in practice garb. What stands out is that the bodies are lean and that, when those dancers walk, even informally, one knows they’re dancers. There’s a pride. There’s a self-awareness. The manner is ingrained.

And then, they go to work. On that afternoon: the Snow Scene, with portions in constant repetition. One hears the music time and again as, time and again, the Snow Queen, the Snow Cavalier and Princess, the Snow Flakes do their thing. First, one cast; then another, and a third. The dancers spare nothing; those in charge won’t let them. It is full drive, full energy, full thrust all the time. Not a moment can be wasted. There must be progress on that Wednesday afternoon because on Thursday, there’s another scene to conquer. And all are aware that Thanksgiving lies just ahead, a week-long break in the rehearsal schedule. That brings a mix of feelings. The break will be lovely. The break also means that, when it’s over, only a few days remain before opening night.

Is there alarm? Oh, no, not alarm, maybe anxiety on the part of those in charge, and a sense of urgency. Somehow, I think they believe, it will all get done. There will be a show and — with all those wonderful sets and costumes by David Higgins as backdrop — the show will turn out to be the usual spectacle.

I spent a few minutes in mid-afternoon with three charming young ladies who had been flitting about during the Snow Scene, listening to instructions, engaging in an occasional run across the studio floor. We sat down in an unused space. They were smiling. They were a bit shy.

On request, they introduced themselves, left to right: Rachel Hosey, age 15; Abby Arvin, age 12; Katie Apple, age 12.

I was in the presence of the production’s three Claras, the little girl in “The Nutcracker” to whom so much happens. For Katie, the 2014 production is her second as Clara; she performed it last year and is, therefore, the veteran. For the others, this is a first. All three, in their Bloomington real life, are students in the Pre-College Ballet Program and have been for good chunks of their entire lives.

“There’s a lot of stress,” Rachel tells me. “I have to keep up with school. But this is something I want to do. I’m sure of it. It’s definitely worth the stress.”

Veteran Katie admits to passing up three parties the previous week. “I knew I couldn’t go. It’s good grades, ‘Nutcracker,’ and sleep for me. That’s what I can do. That’s what I want to do. I can’t think of not doing ballet.”

Abby, too, insists her choice to dance “is right for me. It’s what I love, and to be a part of ‘Nutcracker’ is something I probably will never forget. I’m very excited.”

I wished the young ladies luck. They said a collective “Thank you,” and off they went, three diminutive ballerinas, fully aware of where they were needed next. They were still smiling.

Come next weekend, it is for us to smile as the curtain rises and the festivities begin. All’s well, we will note, as we sit back for the world of “The Nutcracker.” As I sit back, I’ll also remember that behind-the-scenes little world from which the stage wonders sprang.

WHAT AND WHO: Indiana University Ballet Theater presents “The Nutcracker” for the 56th holiday season in a row. Michael Vernon created the scenario and choreography, based on the original by Marius Petipa. Guest conductor Judith Van, artistic director of the Guelph Symphony Orchestra in Canada, leads the University Orchestra in the fabled Tchaikovsky score.. And the countless dancers use the striking sets and costumes of C. David Higgins to work with and in.

WHERE: Musical Arts Center on the Indiana University Bloomington campus.

WHEN: Thursday evening at 7, Friday evening at 8, Saturday afternoon at 2, Saturday evening at 8, and Sunday afternoon at 2.

TICKETS: At MAC box office. Reserved seating, $20-$38.


© Herald Times 2014


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Violette Verdy presented with medal

BLOOMINGTON — Jacobs School of Music Distinguished Professor Violette Verdy was presented the President’s Medal for Excellence by Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie.

Verdy was presented the medal prior to the start of IU Ballet Theater’s fall ballet, “Classical Europe: Celebrating Violette.” Verdy choreographed one of the three pieces performed.

“I am totally surprised and overwhelmed, never expecting something of this importance,” Verdy said in a press release. “I would like to think that it is not just for me, but for everyone involved in our department — the chair, the teachers, the pianists and all our beautiful and talented young students.”

The President’s Medal of Excellences is the highest honor an IU president can bestow. It recognizes, among other criteria, distinction in public service, service to IU, and extraordinary merit and achievement in the arts, humanities, sciences, education and industry. The medal itself is a reproduction in silver of the symbolic jewel of office worn by IU’s president at ceremonial occasions.

“Violette is one of the greatest ballerinas from an era of great dancers and choreographers, and she is an Indiana University treasure,” McRobbie said in a prepared statement. “Her remarkable achievements as a dancer and choreographer have garnered her international acclaim and several of the highest honors in her field, and she is equally renowned for her dedication to training future generations of dancers, including many who have launched successful careers at the IU Jacobs School of Music. We are extremely pleased to honor Violette for her vital contributions to the arts as one of the premier ballet dancers of the 20th century and in recognition for all that she has done for IU and for dance education.”

Born in Pont-l’Abbe, France, Verdy began her dancing career in 1945 as a soloist with Roland Petit’s Les Ballets des Champs Elys es, later called Les Ballets de Paris. She toured the U.S. for the first time in 1953 and, five years later, was invited by Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine to join the New York City Ballet as principal dancer, a position she held for 18 years until her retirement from the stage in 1976.

While at the New York City Ballet, Balanchine created many roles especially for her.

Appointed to the IU faculty in 1996, she was named a distinguished professor in 2005.

© Herald Times 2013


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Review: IU Ballet celebrates Violette Verdy

by Rita Kohnverdy ballet

Challenging choreography looked easy at IU Ballet Theater’s season opener of three engaging works featuring constantly changing patterns and groupings allowing everyone a moment to shine individually while showcasing precision in ensembles and faced paced trading off. Virtuosity is expected; personality is the bonus. Celebrating Violette Verdy, whose accomplishments include dancing in over 100 ballets and serving as a teacher, coach and artistic director of ballet companies and choreographer, the program began with her light, airy, playful Variations for Eight (1979) set on music by Brahms; it’s a frolic.

In contrast, Nicolo Fonte’s Left Unsaid (2003) presents emotionally charged stark off-center shifting engagements for six dancers around and on chairs, crackling with electric energy pushed by Yerim Lee’s onstage violin accompaniment.

Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15 (1956) set on Mozart’s score infused an air of formality with eight principals-five women, three men-and an ensemble of eight women constantly changing fast-paced spatial relationships. Nicholas Hersh conducted the Ballet Orchestra.


© NUVO 2013


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Verdy receives President’s Medal of Excellence award

Jacobs School of Music Distinguished Professor Violette Verdy was honored by IU President Michael McRobbie Saturday with the President’s Medal of Excellence.

Verdy was awarded the medal in honor of the recent ballet for the IU Opera & Ballet Theater, “Classical Europe: Celebrating Violette.” Verdy choreographed one of the three dances in the piece.

Verdy said she was overwhelmed by the honor, something she said she never

“I would like to think that it is not just for me, but for everyone involved in our department — the chair, the teachers, the pianists and all our beautiful and talented young students,” Verdy said in a press release.

The President’s Medal of Honor is the highest honor for an IU professor. It recognizes professors and their contributions to public service, work with IU and commitment to the arts, humanities, sciences, education and industry.

McRobbie said in a press release that Verdy’s contributions to IU have proven enough over the years to warrant her receiving this award.

“Violette is one of the greatest ballerinas from an era of great dancers and choreographers, and she is an Indiana University treasure,” he said. “Her remarkable achievements as a dancer and choreographer have garnered her international acclaim and several of the highest honors in her field, and she is equally renowned for her dedication to training future generations of dancers.”

Verdy has taught at IU since 1996, and was appointed to distinguished professor in 2005.

— Carolyn Crowcroft


© Indiana Daily Student 2013

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Violette Verdy Returns to the Paris Opera Ballet

violette-150Distinguished Professor Violette Verdy is once again teaching at the Paris Opera Ballet. Company director Brigitte Lefèvre invited her to spend the month of June there and will also film Professor Verdy teaching several ballet classes to the company.

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HT Ballet Review: Program full of fun


Ballet review: Program full of fun

By Nicole BrooksH-T Reviewer
March 25, 2013

Indiana University Ballet Theater’s springtime offering, a program billed Old World, New World, began Friday night in the Musical Arts Center with the old world, four pieces by August Bournonville (1805-1879), the father of the Danish style of ballet.

And that Danish style is a good time. Bournonville was one cheerful choreographer. IU’s Bournonville Suite featured excerpts from longer Bournonville classics, and each was G-rated and joyous — even memories of a past love brought happiness in “Mirror Dance,” a lovely dance for two women who mirrored each other perfectly. Watching, it took a while to figure out if a large mirror had been installed on stage, or if Melissa Meng and Natalie Nguyen were really that in sync. They were.

The Suite opened with Pas de Sept, in which the dancers played tambourines on stage and pulled off feats of incredible footwork. Bournonville is known for his use of batterie, or the beating of the legs and feet, typically while jumping. IU’s dancers displayed crisp footwork throughout the Bournonville pieces, continuing to stretch their feet until the end of the last section, Napoli, a colorful, energetic celebration, again with tambourines accompanying the orchestra.

The orchestra Friday night, conducted by Richard Fletcher, was wonderful, and the pit musicians, along with piano soloist Chappell Kingsland, were the star of the next piece, George Balanchine’s (1904-1983) “The Four Temperaments.” The choreography is so difficult, it’s tough to be critical of student dancers performing the 1946 work. But overall “The Four Temperaments” was underwhelming, and not danced with the extreme precision it calls for.

The night ended on a high note — IU Ballet Theater is masterful at programming performances, always giving the audience variety and a crowd-pleasing finale. Old World, New World ended with Balanchine’s “Western Symphony,” the legendary choreographer’s 1954 tribute to myths of the Old West. Dance hall girls and cowboys mingled in front of a blunt backdrop that let us know we were near the “bank” and the “saloon.”

The dancers had so much fun with “Western Symphony,” and it was infectious. Dressed in over-the-top frilly short skirts, mile-high feathery head pieces and black tights and pointe shoes, the gals were flirty and gutsy with the choreography. The cowboys, in black hats and boots, showed off their macho, athletic abilities. It was a great time.

Now, if only spring would truly arrive. But thank you to IU Ballet for pretending.

Copyright: 2013


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