Linda Besant
OBT Dance Historian Linda Besant

Year after year, I come away from the School of OBT’s Annual Performance saying, “This is why I love dance.” Among the many programs I see each year, of multiple companies in several cities, why does SOBT’s showcase always feel so special?

For one thing, the repertoire is substantial—this year, George Balanchine’s Serenade, that enduring icon of lyrical beauty, and excerpts from his Gershwin celebration, Who Cares? Plus Rose City Waltz, the first work Christopher Stowell created for SOBT; the “Maypole Dance” from Ashton’s La Fille Mal Gardée, Etude Variations, choreographed by SOBT Director Damara Bennett and Instructor Tracey Katona; and Jerome Robbins’s Circus Polka.

George Balanchine's Serenade. Photo by Ashby Baldock.
George Balanchine’s Serenade. Photo by Ashby Baldock.

In addition, the program is always costumed and lit to the same impeccable standards as OBT’s company performances. And from the smallest girls in Circus Polka to the apprentices who will perform the leads in Serenade and Who Cares? the dancing will be both meticulous and exuberant.

Jerome Robbins' Circus Polka. Photo by Christian Johnson.
Jerome Robbins’ Circus Polka. Photo by Christian Johnson.
Jerome Robbins' Circus Polka. Photo by Ashby Baldock.
Jerome Robbins’ Circus Polka. Photo by Ashby Baldock.

In the Annual School Performance you will see the professional dancers of tomorrow. It’s true—twelve of OBT’s current company members were trained fully or in part at SOBT; and I can travel to American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Nevada Ballet Theatre, Ballet San José, Los Angeles Ballet, Ballet San Antonio and Juilliard and say, “I saw them when…”

Former School of Oregon Ballet Theatre Students Katherine Minor and Adam Hartley in George Balanchine's La Source. Photo by Christian Johnson.
Former School of Oregon Ballet Theatre Students Katherine Minor (who now dances with Joffrey Ballet) and Adam Hartley (now a Company Artist with Oregon Ballet Theatre) in George Balanchine’s La Source. Photo by Christian Johnson.

But what moves me most is the unabashed dedication and integrity of the student dancers and the people who train and rehearse them. In our world of the thirty-second-attention-span, these young people have chosen an art that takes endless hours of discipline and focus to do well. It’s just plain fun to enjoy the fruits of their labors and to observe that whatever they might do as adults, they have learned how to work hard and to meet the highest standards.

School Director Damara Bennett, The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre. Photo by Ashby Baldock.
School Director Damara Bennett, The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre. Photo by Ashby Baldock.

So I hope you’ll forgive me for having tossed all semblance of neutrality to the winds and sung the praises of this unfailingly satisfying program. If you love dance, I hope you won’t miss it. If you’re not sure where you stand about ballet, but you want a strong dose of faith in the future, join me at the Newmark Theatre on April 25th or 27th for SOBT’s Annual School Performance.

George Balanchine's Stars and Stripes. Photo by Christian Johnson.
George Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes. Photo by Christian Johnson.

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