Jacobs to present holiday classic

By Brooke McAfee

In a large parlor, guests danced and children opened gifts while a young girl named Clara was given a nutcracker from her godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer.Clara danced with her nutcracker clasped in her arms as the guests celebrated at the Christmas party onstage at the Musical Arts Center during Monday’s dress rehearsal of “The Nutcracker.”

The IU Opera & Ballet Theatre will perform Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker” at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3-5 and at 2 p.m. Dec. 5 and 6.

In this show, toys come to life and battle giant mice. Clara and Herr Drosselmeyer journey to magical lands populated by characters such as the Snow Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Michael Vernon, the chair of the ballet department, is the choreographer of the 

This is the ninth year his version of “The Nutcracker” will be staged at IU.

Vernon said the ballet is his interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s music both choreographically and dramatically.

Women from the cast of "The Nutcracker" dance in a circle during a dress rehearsal on Monday night in the Musical Arts Center. The show opens on Dec. 3 and has shows through Dec. 6.

Women from the cast of “The Nutcracker” dance in a circle during a dress rehearsal on Monday night in the Musical Arts Center. The show opens on Dec. 3 and has shows through Dec. 6.

Although he has been involved with many productions of “The Nutcracker” in various places since the 1980s, Vernon said the different casts each year at IU make the traditional ballet interesting. It allows each production to be just a little bit different from year to year.

“It’s nice to see dancers who started in the corps de ballet, or even less than that, grow and work their way into more important parts,” Vernon said. “I think that’s what I enjoy the most.”

“The Nutcracker” is performed every year at IU, but Vernon said there is always room for changes. For example, he said, he sometimes changes the choreography based on the specific dancer’s skills and 

“It’s like a house — I’m always refinishing,” Vernon said. “I’m always adding little touches and changing little moments that are awkward or that I didn’t like.”

Vernon said he thinks the classic ballet is popular because it is a seasonal ballet about a child.

The ballet can be viewed for its literal story line, but it can also be seen as allegorical, he said.

“Basically, it’s about a young girl’s journey and her dreams — her dreams and aspirations to become a beautiful woman,” Vernon said.

Vernon said he is proud of the production and the dancers.

It is hard to tell they are students, and it looks like a professional ballet 
company, he said.

Senior Alison Perhach is a featured dancer in the 
production in one of the three casts. One of her parts is the Sugar Plum Fairy, a role she also performed last year.

“It’s amazing to be trusted with such a serious role,” 
Perhach said.

Although she has danced the role before, Perhach said it is different this year because she has a new perspective that has allowed her to refine her 

Perhach said getting to work with different partners keeps her performance fresh.

Working together on the ballet strengthens friendships, she said.

“‘Nutcracker’ is a time when we all come together,” 
Perhach said.

Junior Imani Sailers performs many different roles in the ballet, including a Spanish dancer, Arabian dancer and a snow princess.

Sailers said her favorite part is the Arabian dance, which is different from the classical style of the other parts.

“It’s more fun and 
sensual,” Sailers said.

She said she enjoys the music even though it is constantly stuck in her head because she can hear the different cultures and countries represented.

“The Nutcracker” is a ballet anyone can relate to, Sailers said.

“Even if you don’t know the story, you understand through the choreography, the music and the sets,” Sailers said.

Ticket prices range from $20 to $30. They are available on the Jacobs School of Music’s website or at the Musical Art’s Center box 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

IU ballerina shares love for dance through performance

By Jordan Morgan

Cara Hansvick did not smile, focused on the pinnacle moment of each move as she held her poses. She kept her frame controlled as her partner, Andrew Copeland, twirled her at the top of the dance number during Tuesday’s rehearsal for IU Opera & Ballet Theater’s production of “The Nutcracker.”

As the other pair of dancers practiced a lift, Hansvick mirrored the movements from the ground — Copeland was injured. When the music ended, they spoke for a moment and then ran the dance from the top.

Hansvick, a junior, will graduate a year early this May with a bachelor’s of science in music and an outside field in ballet. She will perform in the Sugar Plum Fairy’s dance in one cast of “The Nutcracker” Dec. 5. “The Nutcracker” runs Dec. 3-6.


Cara Hansvick and her partner, Andrew Copeland, rehearse for IU Opera & Ballet Theater’s “The Nutcracker” ballet. The opening performance of “The Nutcracker” will be at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 in the Musical Arts Center.



Senior Lecturer in Music Guo Ping Wang instructs Cara Hansvick and her partner, Andrew Copeland, as they rehearse for IU Opera & Ballet Theater’s “The Nutcracker” ballet. The opening performance of “The Nutcracker” will be at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 in the Musical Arts Center.



Cara Hansvick and her partner, Andrew Copeland, rehearse for IU Opera & Ballet Theater’s “The Nutcracker” ballet. The opening performance of “The Nutcracker” will be at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 in the Musical Arts Center.


Hansvick did all styles of dance, but said she kept getting pushed toward ballet.

“(Ballet) is where I feel the most confident,” Hansvick said. “And I just really love it, I really do.”

In addition to learning time management, Hansvick said ballet has taught her to pay attention to the little things and the basics.

She said the music especially helps her to fully commit to the movement, and being in sync with the music gives her confidence in her steps.

In order to do big, amazing pieces, you have to be able to go back to the basics every day and remember their value, 
Hansvick said.

“Attention to the detail is what makes the movement look calm and collected,” she said in an email. “Without that, the classical form is lost and the movement looks frantic. I think that starting with the basics everyday is kind of a tool to get in the right mindset to be able to perform 
big later.”

Shawn Stevens, one of Cara’s ballet instructors, said Hansvick always come to class with a positive mindset and has the perfect attitude to become a professional dancer.

“She is just so believable,” Stevens said. “She loves her art and you can see it in her dancing.”

Compared to other styles of dance, Hansvick said ballet feels more like you’re sharing 

She said that’s why her favorite part about ballet is getting to perform — she loves being able to share her love for dance and ballet with other people.

“I just love performing and when everything comes together,” Hansvick said. “You have the music and the movement and you are confident in what you’re doing.”

On stage, Hansvick said she has done her job if she can just get one more person to fall in love with dance.

“By the time you get to stage, you have to trust that your body will remember everything you’ve been rehearsing,” she said in an email. “At that point I try to just focus on enjoying it as much as possible, because I feel like if I am enjoying the movement and loving every moment, then the audience will too.”

Hansvick aspires to dance professionally for a ballet company, but she said she is also trying to keep her options open. She loves teaching dance — she even teaches an elective ballet class — and said that is something she wants to keep doing.

Eventually, she said she sees herself working administratively at a dance company.

Pursuing ballet can be very difficult at times and consists of a lot of challenging weeks, Hansvick said, but she just tries to separate the moments and motivate herself to keep doing her best.

“Every new day is a fresh start, and I know how much I love it and I know that I’ve grown so much and come so far,” she said.

© Indiana Daily Student 2015

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

IU ballet prepares for spring performance

By Peter Jacobi


On the Thursday afternoon before spring break, the Indiana University campus had already lost many of its inhabitants. It was already a quiet place. But not on the third floor of the Musical Arts Center, where the Jacobs School’s Ballet Department does its academic and artistic business and where IU Ballet Theater prepares its shows.

Preparation for a show was definitely in progress, that show being the Spring Ballet which lights up the Musical Arts Center this coming weekend. “Spring break comes along at the worst time for us,“ Michael Vernon, the artistic director and department chair, told me. “This is when we take care of all the refinements, when the dancers have reached a level of assurance with their roles, when we’re frantically putting everything together. And we must stop for spring break. The calendar gets in our way.”

There’s some pain in striving for perfection. Sore feet are soothed as Katie Zimmerman, left, and Raffaella Stroik rehab after a day of training with ice baths.

There’s some pain in striving for perfection. Sore feet are soothed as Katie Zimmerman, left, and Raffaella Stroik rehab after a day of training with ice baths.

So, everyone involved — Michael Vernon, the dancers, the teachers, the trainers, the invited specialists — remained in place, in those studios and rehearsal spaces on the third floor of the MAC, to make fullest possible use of that pre-break Thursday afternoon and all of Friday, too. One sensed no urgency from anyone to leave; rather, the urgency focused on getting things done, on improvement.

They sat me down in an unfolded folding chair, right in the midst of a row of the knowing: Michael Vernon, a veteran of England’s Royal Opera Ballet and choreographer for the Eglevsky Ballet; ballet mistress Shawn Stevens, former New York City Ballet principal during the Balanchine years and, now, a prominent re-stager of Balanchine ballets; distinguished professor Violette Verdy, one of Balanchine’s favorite ballerinas and rated among the greatest dancers of the 20th century, also former artistic director of the Paris Opera Ballet; Patricia Blair, a highly regarded ex-dancer from the Eglevsky Ballet and, today, a prominent teacher visiting here as repetiteur.

They watched as two casts rehearsed parts of “Swan Lake’s” second act, as choreographed by Gorge Balanchine. They watched and they consulted and they made commands and asked for repeats. Meanwhile, the silent Peter Jacobi also watched, overwhelmed by the high quality of the dancing and very interested in what the line of coaches was requesting.

This was no half-hearted rehearsal. No one was holding back. The twirls and leaps, the lifts, the runs and sweeps across the dance floor featured total involvement, not an amp of energy held back. The dancers applauded one another; there was recognition of accomplishments. They thanked those who were sharing advice, smiling not only when one coach or the other expressed approval but when corrections were called for.

The atmosphere was uplifting. Everyone seemed to care. Gratitude was in the air.

French ballerina Violette Verdy, who performed with Les Ballets des Champs-Elysées beginning in 1945, and went on to have a stellar career into the 1970s, coaches ballet students in preparation for IU Ballet’s upcoming spring ballet.

French ballerina Violette Verdy, who performed with Les Ballets des Champs-Elysées beginning in 1945, and went on to have a stellar career into the 1970s, coaches ballet students in preparation for IU Ballet’s upcoming spring ballet.

As the afternoon progressed, attention turned to a second item on the program, another Balanchine piece: “Rubies,” part of the legendary choreographer’s ballet, “Jewels.” “Emeralds,” another part of “Jewels,” all of which is set to music of Stravinsky, was featured earlier in the season, during the Fall Ballet.

“I love Balanchine,” Michael Vernon insisted, “and it’s wonderful we have the approval of the Balanchine Trust to use his ballets. There’s so much to learn from his choreography. For our dance majors, exposure to his masterpieces is incredibly important and helpful. Of course, everything we do, in addition to entertaining our audiences, must add to the young dancer’s experience and craft. That’s why, when we do three different ballets in an evening versus a full length ballet, we need to bring a variety of styles into our repertoire. In the fall, we did Balanchine, Antony Tudor and David Parsons, dances of theirs with great differences. This spring, to Balanchine’s ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘Rubies,’ in themselves dramatically different one from the other, we are adding Merce Cunningham’s ‘Duets,’ dances for six couples, very contemporary. The music is from John Cage. It’s an exciting piece and a challenge.”

“Rubies” was next on the rehearsal schedule, and the process of sharpening again was in evidence, with attention given to the changes in rhythm, style, stage aura, movements and music. I commented to Violette Verdy that the students were so commendably fixated on their dancing.

“They must be,” she answered. “There’s never enough time because dancers, serious dancers, never let their attention weaken. For the men, and really for all the dancers, life is lived in what we might describe as a cross between a seminary and West Point. That’s what we do. Dancing for the professional comes close to religion, and never mind the fatigue. The dancers are musical athletes, disciplined not only physically but mentally.”

“And they’re constantly faced with benevolent criticism,” Michael Vernon observed. “In an art form where even the foot position reveals the personality and capability of the performing artist, well, those of us on the sideline must very carefully watch and instruct and correct. In a company such as ours, being as professional as we can possibly be in a university setting, we discourage exhibitionism and show boating and stress serious participation. That’s the atmosphere in which young dancers can learn and prosper. We are proud of what they accomplish while here and, of course, for what they will do successfully after the school days are over.”

All this week, with spring break over and a performance weekend looming, activity in the MAC, in the studios and on stage, will mount so that, by curtain time on Friday evening, everything will be as ready as ready can be. Having watched the preparation on just part of one afternoon, I feel safe in predicting that all participants, including an orchestra under conductor Stuart Chafetz, will very much be at the ready.


©Herald Times 2015


  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Spring Ballet Debuts at the Musical Arts Center

By Lauren Saxe

Beginning with the elegance of “Swan Lake,” moving into a contemporary series of unconventional duets and ending with dancers leaping through the air for the finale, the spring ballet debuted this weekend.

Premiering Friday night, the performance also played Saturday: one matinee and one evening.

With three separate acts including “Swan Lake” (Act II), “Duets” and “Rubies,” the show offered a variation in style and atmosphere. However, the technique and precision remained constant throughout the performance.

IU freshman and musical theater student Caleb Novell, said this was the first ballet he had attended in a while.

Ballerinas perform the second act of "Swan Lake" during a dress rehearsal at the Musical Arts Center on March 23.

Ballerinas perform the second act of “Swan Lake” during a dress rehearsal at the Musical Arts Center on March 23.

“I was really blown away by how beautiful everyone danced and the level at which they were dancing,” Novell said. “I can see every single one of them with successful professional careers, and I think it’s really kind of an honor to see them as a college student.”

The audience was captivated from the minute the conductor cued the orchestra and the second act of “Swan Lake,” a ballet by the famous Tchaikovsky, started the show. The tale followed the story of Odette, queen of the swans, played during the Saturday matinee by senior Elizabeth Edwards, and Prince Siegfried, played by IU sophomore Colin Ellis also during the Saturday matinee.

One of the highlights of the performance was the precision and effortlessness that came not only from the leads, but from every dancer on stage, as audience member Maryann Iaria said. As Odette and Prince Siegfried performed, the swans stood poised and completely at attention, or moved together in their rows with perfect spacing and their toes tapping in tandem.

“They were very together,” Iaria said of the swans. “They were 

True to its name, the second act of the show, “Duets,” consisted of several pairs of dancers taking turns stepping forward on stage. Their routines sometimes overlapped, with one couple chiming in with their dance in the midst of another couple’s routine, or one beginning their performance as another couple finished the last few seconds of theirs. The music was very simplistic, only drums playing throughout its entirety for a less conventional performance. Each duet had its own style and repetition, but overall they came together to produce a cohesive second act.

“They were very angular, like cubic art,” Iaria said of the dancers in the second portion of the show.

“Rubies” finished the ballet performance as the third act with a dramatic opening and the dancers clothed completely in red. The leads of this act included Katherine Zimmerman, Aaron Anker and Alexandra Hartnett.

“My favorite part might have been ‘Rubies,’” Novell said. “I just really liked the choreography, and the outfits were beautiful.”

With music by Igor Stravinsky, “Rubies” was a good a balance 
between act one and two with both duets and group dancing. The audience could hear the faint breath of the dancers at the end of the act.

A member of all three acts, IU sophomore Colin Ellis said preparation begins during the first couple of weeks in February, sometimes even directly after winter break, depending on when the repertoire arrives.

“You’re working the same thing over and over and over again, and the most rewarding thing is the things that you’ve been working on for months are clean and they feel stable,” he said. “And you’re like, okay, I’ve been working on this for so long and now it’s finally clean and refined, and the audience can see what I’ve been working so hard on.”

Ellis said being a part of all three acts of the show, with very different roles in each, has helped him evolve as a performer this semester. Aside from his large role in “Swan Lake (Act II),” he transformed into other characters as the acts 

“I had to learn to be a sort of sultry, sassy character in ‘Rubies,’” he said. “And then in ‘Duets,’ it’s a little bit more free form. So the biggest difference is now I’m learning more and more things, and I have to be adaptable.”


© Indiana Daily Student 2015

  • Facebook
  • Twitter


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.



  • Facebook
  • Twitter

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.”

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

‘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


  • Facebook
  • Twitter

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


  • Facebook
  • Twitter

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


  • Facebook
  • Twitter

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


  • Facebook
  • Twitter