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A Year in Review

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Marin Ballet continues its commitment to developing new and existing programs to evolve our virtual dance education and performance opportunities. We continue to learn with our strong collaborative team that is wholeheartedly engaged in this process. Here is a review of our work in 2020 and a glimpse of what lies ahead this new year.

A Year In Review

2020 was the gift that, like it or not, kept on giving! From maneuvering our programs through fire season and the global COVID-19 pandemic to the premiere of our Virtual Nutcracker Vignettes and the Storytime film, one thing is for sure: Marin Ballet is Here to Stay!

The Ballet Alliance

2020 kicked off with The Ballet Alliance adjudications with Nicholas Ade. Marin Ballet presented original choreographed works of our emerging student choreographers demonstrating Marin Ballet’s commitment to the art of dance and nurturing the next generation of artists in the field. Nikita Dimova, James Hisanaga, and Christina Hanf presented their work and Nikita Dimova’s piece was selected to be performed at the TBA Festival – the first emerging choreographer piece to be selected to showcase at TBA from Marin Ballet! Due to the pandemic, the TBA Festival was canceled. However, Tri by Julia Adam, Heedless Heartless by Eva Stone, and our student choreography showcased Marin Ballet’s excellence in both classical ballet and contemporary dance techniques, stoking the flame for years to come.

This year TBA will happen virtually without any adjudications. Showcasing only emerging student choreography, Marin Ballet seniors Esther Rose Daniels and James Hisanaga will present their original digital works at TBA. The “Mosaic Festival” will include a virtual presentation of thirty-three emerging choreography pieces from eighteen different schools, along with virtual master classes and seminars throughout April. Marin Ballet’s TBA company is comprised of twenty-four dancers this year – ten apprentices and fourteen company dancers. We look forward to sharing in this experience with you during Marin Ballet’s TBA watch party. Stay tuned for more information!

Graduation

From left to right: Suzanne Shilstone, Clare Girtler, Francesca Fox, Nikita Dimova, Lauren Bacich, Raina Japay, Virgil Thunes, Christina Hanf, Charlotte Hee, Johanna Meezan, Isabella De Quattro – Photo by: Lisa Hanf

2020 brought one of our largest graduating classes to date. Eleven seniors who grew up in our school moved on to pursue college educations and more across California and the U.S. Attending universities such as UCLA, Cornell, UCB, Skidmore, UCSB, and USC, our community of dancers certainly practice arts and smarts. Since our graduates were unable to perform one last time in our annual Spring Concert, faculty member Casey Lee Thorne collaborated with the seniors to develop a short screendance inspired by their time at Marin Ballet.

To further celebrate our graduating class, Cynthia Lucas, Catharine Hader, and Connie Zabokrtsky organized a virtual graduation celebration. Families and students were invited to join in on the festivities to honor our graduates’ time at Marin Ballet. The celebration included video clips of the graduates dating back to their very first Spring concert all the way up to their last Spring performance and a photo montage displaying their years of performing and socializing at Marin Ballet. We are so proud of our graduates. Visit our past blog post to learn more.

Summer Intensive & Culture and Community

Self Portrait by Marin Ballet alumna Suzanne Shilstone

Summer is a time for our dancers to delve into rigorous daily practice and expand their experience with other dance forms in tandem with their ballet training. Our 2020 summer intensive was presented entirely on Zoom, incorporating new initiatives led by Artistic Director Cynthia Lucas.

One such initiative was the launch of our Culture and Community program designed to offer our Marin Ballet and extended community opportunities to come together during this time of social distancing. Family Night, Family Pilates, Broadway Dance, and our Ballet Buddies Connect (BBC) classes have built new relationships and strengthened pre-existing relationships, reminding us all of the healing power of dance.

We are in the process of re-vamping our Culture and Community program for 2021. We have shifted some of our class times and are offering a new Seniors Movement class (insert hyperlink to our C&C website page: https://marinballet.org/open-class-calendar/). Further, we are working diligently to develop our Dance Education Partnerships initiative to serve and collaborate with local schools to gain access to excellent dance education. If you are interested in learning more about this program or getting your school involved, please email: cthorne@marinballet.org.

Ballet Buddies Connect

One of the aspects of the Marin Ballet community is the opportunity for mentorship and connecting throughout the levels. Our teen students are such great role models for our younger students, and our younger students are a constant enthusiastic reminder for how much we love ballet. Led by faculty member Corinne Jonas, our new Ballet Buddies Connect (BBC) program maintains Cynthia Lucas’s vision to maintain Marin Ballet’s mentorship program while we are working virtually.

In an effort to keep Levels 3-9 connected, weekly drop-in classes allow advanced students to buddy up with younger students by connecting on themes such as pre-class rituals and gratitude. Students collaborate to create their own dances using ideas such as bringing emotion into movement, giving students an opportunity to express themselves and digest their experiences during the pandemic. Advanced students are also given the opportunity to design their own BBC classes, offering them a platform to build leadership skills and get volunteer hours.

Ms. Jonas reflects on the program: “I see the value in the person-to-person connections and also mixing it up and making sure students have a chance to work with everyone. I feel so privileged for what I get to witness and experience. I often take a back seat. Our advanced students came up with some incredible exercises on the theme of gratitude over Thanksgiving that I never would have thought of. The older students are so appreciative that they get to lead something, and feedback from the families is that they really love this. I feel so fortunate that I get to nurture this along.”

BBC Spring 2021 will incorporate aspects of our Spring Concert Sleeping Beauty theme. Ms. Jonas also would like to incorporate senior interviews where students get to talk about their experience at Marin Ballet. Weekly classes are held on Saturdays from 4:30pm-5:30pm. We hope more students will drop in and share in the fun, come one come all!

Winter Performance Opportunities

In the Fall of 2020 Marin Ballet built a new outdoor platform in the parking lot in order to facilitate Covid-safe classes on site. The structure enabled our first ever Virtual Nutcracker Vignettes performances which showcased choreography by faculty member Julia Adam. A testament to the times, this live performance moved between Level 7-9 dancers on the platform to dancers in their rooms at home. For an inside look into the creative process, check out our previous blog post.

Level 3 Mice in Nutcracker Storytime

Levels 1-6 participated in Marin Ballet’s Nutcracker Storytime.  An incredible film created by Artistic Coordinator Catherine Hader, Nutcracker Storytime brought families together to celebrate the spirit of the holidays from the comfort of their own homes. The mice were as cute as ever!

Contemporary Performances

Levels 5-9 also participated in Marin Ballet’s first ever Fall contemporary dance performance opportunity entitled the Contemporary Gift. Choreographed by faculty members Casey Lee Thorne and Katie Meyers to the song A Change Is Gonna Come by Leela James, this project showcases the progression of contemporary dance training throughout the school. We are tremendously impressed by how much our students have improved by way of our virtual training programs!

Ever Forward!

Marin Ballet is excited for the year ahead. From our Spring Concert to new Be Social events we continue to adapt and evolve in order to meet the needs of our growing community. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with class and performance offerings as we move, ever forward.