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Marin Ballet’s 2021 Year in Review

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2021 was a year of graceful resilience! With the dedicated support of our community, Marin Ballet continued to adapt to the ongoing realities of the global COVID-19 pandemic, cultivated new programming and performance opportunities, and welcomed audiences back into the theater for our beloved Nutcracker. After 58 years of providing excellent classical ballet training and promoting the art of dance, one thing is for sure: Marin Ballet is Here to Stay!

2021 kicked off with MB’s continued participation in The Ballet Alliance (TBA). This past year, TBA was held virtually and without any adjudications. Showcasing only emerging student choreography, Marin Ballet seniors Esther Rose Daniels and James Hisanaga presented their original digital works for consideration. The “Mosaic Festival” included a virtual presentation of thirty-three emerging choreography pieces from eighteen different schools, along with virtual master classes and seminars throughout April. One benefit of the virtual format was that our extended Marin Ballet community was able to see the student choreography as part of our 2021 Spring Concert Season.

Inspired by the essence of springtime and the classical music of the Sleeping Beauty ballet, our annual Spring Concert featured a unique performance entitled Beauty Awakens. After our virtual Nutcracker Vignettes in 2020, our Spring Concert imagined the students reawakening into a world with live performance opportunities, renewed beginnings, and visions of a beauty-filled future. Beauty Awakens also included the debut of Fire and Teeth, a short contemporary dance film choreographed and edited by Marin Ballet faculty Casey Lee Thorne and Katie Meyers featuring students from Levels 6-9.

In Spring 2021, Marin Ballet launched its new Dance Education Partnership program with pilot programs at Coleman Elementary School in San Rafael and the Nicasio School. These pilot programs went so well that both schools extended the partnership to a year-round program for their entire student body during the 2021-2022 school year. The Mark Day School also enjoyed a pilot program in Fall 2021. These MB community initiatives offer cross-cultural dance education for grades K-8 where students explore movement vocabularies, choreograph with peers, and explore movement-based games designed to integrate with math, science, history, and language arts. Programming is free to schools and taught by Marin Ballet faculty. If you are interested in developing a Dance Education Partnership with Marin Ballet, email: cthorne@marinballet.org.

Throughout the past year, Marin Ballet offered community dance experiences on site by way of our Be Social program. Gatherings included an Irish Dance class on St. Patrick’s Day taught by Rowan Williams and a special Thriller class on Halloween taught by Isabella Qureshi. We also enjoyed two Improv Jams on Valentine’s Day and Earth Day.

An important aspect of the Marin Ballet community is the opportunity for mentorship and connection throughout our levels of training. Led by faculty member Corinne Jonas, our Ballet Buddies Connect (BBC) program continued to keep Levels 3-9 connected in 2021 by way of weekly drop-in class meetings. This program has allowed advanced students to buddy up with younger students by connecting on themes such as pre-class rituals and gratitude. Our teen students serve as inspiring role models for our younger students, and our younger students are an enthusiastic reminder to embrace the joy of ballet. When asked, “What is your favorite part of ballet class and why?” one Level 3 dancer shared, “When class starts because that’s when all the fun begins.” In turn, a more advanced Level 7 dancer pragmatically replied, “Pointe class because it puts my strength to the test.”  BBC Spring 2021 incorporated senior interviews into the mix where students got to talk to their peers about their experience at Marin Ballet. We hope more students will drop in and share in the fun in 2022.

Graduation is always a bittersweet time at Marin Ballet. In 2021, we graduated nine incredibly talented dancers who continue to make us proud as they pursue higher education, some majoring in dance! Our 2021 graduates included James Hisanaga (Northwestern University), Esther Rose Daniels (Gonzaga University), Catelyn Rollins (UC Santa Barbara), Olivia Kharrazi (Northwestern University), Sydney Tyra (UC Irvine), Sarah Delima (UC Santa Barbara), Paige Coray (UC Santa Barbara), Sophia Kainz (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo), and Sophia Crane who joined Ballet Austin in their Butler Fellowship Program.

Summer at Marin Ballet was 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 2021 summer intensive included West African dance, character dance, contemporary dance, and jazz with Marin Ballet alumni Sean Kelly. It was a wonderful way to create new memories with good friends indoors and out.

2021 wrapped up with a triumphant return to the Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium for four performances of our full-length Nutcracker. Performers and audience members alike were masked-up, vaccinated, and full of glee to rejoice in the holiday spirit together in person. It was a gift to offer live performance to our community once again!

Marin Ballet is excited for the year ahead. We continue to adapt and evolve 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.