Part of the excitement of hosting the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet is that after the performance, all of the kids in the audience try their hardest to relevé and pirouette. Holding tight onto a parent’s hand for support — each hoping, even if just for one night, to be the next prima ballerina.
Closing this season’s Family Entertainment Series, the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet from Jamestown, N.Y., will perform at 7 p.m. tonight in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. This marks the ballet company’s eighth performance at Chautauqua Institution.
“I just think it’s a beautiful art form — dance, ballet,” said Monika Alch, CRYB artistic director. “I think that everybody can enjoy it if they understand ballet, or [if] they don’t.”
The company hosts an average of 85 students each year within its various classes, but only 12 dancers will be performing in tonight’s show. Alch has planned six dances from the company’s repertory, ranging from classical to contemporary ballet.
The troupe will present Antonio Vivaldi’s “Blanc et Noir,” Herbert Grönemeyer’s “Letzter Tag” and John Corigliano’s “Gypsy Suite,” among others.
Alch likes to vary the ages of the dancers she brings to the Institution so that the younger students get the opportunity to work with the older performers, and vice versa.
“I mix them up to show the audience where [the students] come from, and then where they can go eventually,” Alch said.
The artistic director, celebrating her 14th year with the company, started her career in ballet as a dancer. Originally from Vienna, Alch moved to the U.S. when her husband, an opera singer, became the director of the Fredonia Opera House in Fredonia, N.Y.
Alch was asked to join the board of the CRYB and, before she knew it, she was the artistic director of the company. In this role, she has been trying to increase local awareness of the company, she said.
“The challenge is to keep the ballet alive,” Alch said. “People just don’t get to the ballet and the opera as they used to. My mission is to make sure that everybody in this area knows that we’re there.”
The group first performed at Chautauqua in 2003 and has come back every year since 2007. Back in 2003, the performance was held in Smith Wilkes Hall, where a marley floor was laid down for the dancers, said Gwen Papania, the Institution’s director of youth services. Now the company takes over Lenna Hall for an evening.
It’s great to bring back the company each year and see the young dancers grow into professionals, Papania said. Jordan Leeper, a Jamestown native, started out with the CYRB and is now a dancer with North Carolina Dance Theatre, which is in residence at the Institution every season.
At the end of the performance, audience members will have the opportunity to talk with the dancers. It is the perfect chance for kids to get an up-close-and-personal look at the costumes, the makeup and the ballet shoes, Papania said, and they can imagine themselves performing in the future.