Ballet Showcase performance pirouettes through ballet history

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Ryan Turner
Dancers in the Ballet Showcase Company perform a contemporary piece entitled “Accustom.” The company performed choreography spanning ballet history, but not in chronological order. (Ryan Turner)

The Ballet Showcase Company met for their annual performance on Friday, Nov. 4, and Saturday, Nov. 5, taking audience members on a journey through ballet history.

Artistic director Suzi Wood said Ballet Showcase is essentially a stepping stone to prepare students for Theatre Ballet, the dance program’s touring group. There are many talented students and limited slots in just one company, so Wood said Ballet Showcase gives those students an opportunity to dance, learn and improve.

The group’s 11 dancers come from various backgrounds and have different levels of experience. The majority of the dancers have done ballet since they were between 3 and 8 years old, but Wood said Ballet Showcase is providing new opportunities.

“Most of these kids are young,” Wood said. “One of them had never even performed before, so that’s what this company does. It gives them these experiences that a lot of them have never had.”

This year’s performance followed the history of choreography, moving from the beginning of dance all the way up to modern pieces. It covered romantic, Balanchine, neoclassical, contemporary and very modern styles, providing the dancers with a wide range of practice and experience. Wood said the practice and experience was even more than they would normally get in Theatre Ballet.

Dances ranged from a fluid, “Thriller”-esque contemporary piece with dramatic lighting where dancers milled about, waving arms and legs, to a competition for attention between four solo dancers in large pink tutus.

Theatre Ballet also appears as a guest artist in the Ballet Showcase every year to expand their repertoire, according to the group’s artistic director Shayla Bott. Theatre Ballet’s winter performance is usually a full-length story ballet in a more classical style, so it takes its guest performance as an opportunity to practice some contemporary styles.

The BYU Theatre Ballet performs an excerpt from “La Sylphide,” one of the oldest ballets still regularly performed. Theatre Ballet appears annually at the Ballet Showcase as guest artists. (Ryan Turner)

This year Theatre Ballet performed two pieces: one dance from the 1832 ballet “La Sylphide” and a contemporary piece entitled “Liquid Sound.”

Bott said ballet is unique because it is delicate and presents the human body in what she sees as its most beautiful form, while requiring extreme physical conditioning.

“As far as physicality goes, there’s being in dance shape and then there’s being in ballet shape,” Bott said. “If we have a three-day weekend, we notice it in the students. Even three days off really makes a difference in their musculature and their coordination.”

Most dancers come to BYU with about 10 years of experience under their belt, so Bott said the trick of directing a university ballet company is taking students with different training backgrounds and getting them into a unified, cohesive place.

Montana Shugars, a junior studying ballet who dances in the Ballet Showcase Company, is an exception to the rule. She began training in ballet at age 15. She said she has had to work very hard to get where she is now, but it is worth it to see her own progression. She said a life in ballet factored naturally into her plans.

“I think it’s just that little girl dream of wanting to be a ballerina,” Shugars said. “It just seemed really natural and like something I wanted to do and was inclined to do.”

Shugars plans on getting a master’s in dance in order to teach ballet in a college setting, but first she wants to perform with professional companies.

“When you’re doing something that for centuries has been such an empowering movement, in encapsulating the spirit of it, you can feel very strong but delicate at the same time,” Shugars said. “I honestly just love it.”

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