Ballet Quad Cities Starts 25th Anniversary Season With Outdoor Outing Club Show
Continuing a successful partnership it began last year with the old-world elegance of Davenport’s Outing Club, Ballet Quad Cities is kicking off the start of its 25th-anniversary season in the beautiful park-like setting Sunday, Aug. 22, with Ballet on the Lawn.
Featuring a larger professional company, with many new dancers, the fun performances at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 6 p.m. will feature old and new favorites, including a new piece choreographed by Emily Kate Long with live music by violinists Amy Klutho and Victoria Rice. A charcuterie picnic box is available to order for $20 – but it must be ordered by today (Aug. 17th). There will be a cash-only bar (no cards) and no outside food or beverages allowed.
“It’s gonna be an awesome show – it’s very colorful,” Long (a BQC veteran dancer who’s Artistic Associate/Associate Outreach Director) said Monday. “The music variety is vast. There’s a little bit of everything – a little bit of theatrics, drama, there’s all different styles of dance. I think what’s going to be so fun for the audience is, with so many new dancers, there’s going to be an opportunity see everyone’s individual personality shine through a little bit. I think the audiences are going to come away thinking they know
the new dancers, and the returning dancers.”
This season is a larger company now, with 13 full-time dancers, including nine new ones. “And we have live music on the program, which is exciting and new for Ballet on the Lawn,” said Long, who choreographed the violin duet, “Lovers’ Waltz” (written by husband and wife Jay Ungar and Molly Mason), for dancers Elizabeth Brooks and Christian Knopp (both new to the company).
Executive director Joedy Cook is a longtime friend of violinist Amy Klutho, who will perform with her student Victoria Rice.
“This was the perfect recipe and when I found out this piece was on the program, I love waltzes. I am an absolute sucker for a good waltz,” Long said. “The title lent itself very well to a duet, of course.”
“A big goal this year was to fill out the ranks of the company again and really get those great numbers on stage,” she said, noting BQC got “thousands” of submissions from dancers wanting to audition. “There are just a lot of dancers looking for jobs in the world.”
“It is unique for a community of this size to have a long-standing company – this is our 25th season,” Long (who began dancing here in 2009 and has been on staff since 2018) said. “A company that has grown from one dancer to 13 dancers, and that puts on the caliber of the work that we’re able to present to this community. It’s pretty unique for the size of the area. So we’re super excited to kick off our 25th anniversary.”
“We have some really great energy, really different experiences,” she said of the dancers. “For me, choreography is always a really collaborative process, so it’s heavily influenced by the dancers, to some degree, especially when it’s a pair of dancers.”
“I let the music be my guide,” Long said of the “Lovers’ Waltz.” It’s just that one piece that will feature live music at Outing Club. “It’s a treat for the dancers; it’s a treat for me; it’s a treat for the audience.”
For Ballet on the Lawn Take Two (Sept. 12), she is creating a new take on “The Wizard of Oz,” starring Dorothy, which will comprise half that program. “It’s fun to have so many opportunities to create,” Long said of the added outdoor performances, which didn’t happen before 2020. The dancers this summer have been back since Aug. 4.
She’s looking forward to bringing “Alice in Wonderland” back to the Adler Theatre stage next spring, after it was done this year at the Outing Club ballroom. “It’s going to be incredible; it was so popular at the Outing Club last season, we thought we can’t wait to get this back on stage with lighting and everything,” Long said.
The Outing Club has turned out to be a great fit, especially for the outdoor performances, sold out last year six times. “We’re hoping to do that again,” she said, noting last year they limited 100 people per performance, which will be larger capacity this time.
Two new dancers bring excitement
Elizabeth Brooks, a 23-year-old North Carolina native, has already taught dance for four and a half years – to children and adults.
In 2014, she studied and performed under the direction of former Martha Graham company member, Kim Jones, in the re-staging of “Panorama.” Brooks spent the summer of 2018 studying in New York on partial scholarship at the Martha Graham Dance School. She has two years of professional performance experience with Charlotte-based companies such as Kinetic Works Dance Company and has guested in Charlotte Youth Ballet’s productions of “The Nutcracker” and “Cinderella.”
She recently completed a two year traineeship with Oklahoma City Ballet. During Brooks’ time with the company, she performed roles such as The White Cat in “Puss and Boots,” and Lead Angel in OKCB’s “The Nutcracker.” For the first time in two years, BQC is bringing back the beloved “Nutcracker” this holiday season with Orchestra Iowa at the Adler and the Paramount in Cedar Rapids.
“I didn’t realize how much knowledge I had to pass on,” Brooks said this week. “It also helped me in my own technique, in dancing. As they say, if you can teach it, you can do it.”
Oklahoma City’s ballet company was fabulous, and New York City was a dream assignment, the summer after high school, she said.
“It was amazing. They talked a lot about emotional maturity, and how you project emotions,” Brooks said. “It was just a totally different movement. I had a little experience with Graham before. It’s modern, of course. It’s very technical, though. It’s not like a lot of today’s contemporary…It’s very pure.”
She really enjoys the freedom of more modern dance, but said “the OCD in me” enjoys the precision of traditional ballet, she said. “Ballet is complicated because there are set steps, but you can take them and make them your own.”
Brooks said the collaborative process with Long in the new duet was “amazing.” In that piece, she had a good amount of input. “If this position wouldn’t look as good on one of us, she’d let us play around and experiment,” Brooks said. “In my experience, each choreographer has their own style of working – how they teach it. I’ve had a few choreographers I’ve worked with where it’s a very collaborative process and
I think that makes the movement more raw, and you can see those dancers’ personality more, through the movement.”
With live musicians, it enhances the performances, she said. “You have to listen that much more,” Brooks said. “There’s this energy about it, when you have the musician there, live on stage, and they’re playing for you and you’re dancing for them. I think that’s really magical.”
She appreciates that BQC is a women-run company, “which is really rare, even in the ballet world,” Brooks said. “I got the sense that this is where I’m supposed to be.” She also likes the smaller relative size of the company, which gives her more chances to be featured.
“I’m teaching for the school as well, which is very fulfilling to be able to do both,” Brooks said. “I think they’re very strong.”
The classes show a good balance between technique and artistry, she noted. “I started dance when I was 6 and I didn’t have the best home life, so it started as an escape, a way to emote, get out my anger,” Brooks said. “Eventually, I just fell in love with not only that, but being able to express myself through dance. And I got obsessed with the perfection of it all. It makes me happy.”
Ruby Anderson, a 20-year-old native of Iowa City, began dancing at the age of 3. She had foundational training at the University of Iowa
Youth Ballet under Kathy Smith and furthered her education at the Nolte Academy of Dance, where she graduated in 2019. Throughout her time at Nolte, she performed in ballets such as “Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake,” “Paquita,” and original dance works. Anderson attended summer intensives at Milwaukee Ballet, Houston Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.
She quit dance after high school for a couple years, going to University of Colorado-Boulder, where she majored in integrative physiology. “I felt a little burned out from dance and wanted to try to be a normal person,” Anderson said. “I actually realized I missed Iowa and the Midwest a lot, and I really missed dance.” So she returned to dance as a student at the University of Iowa.
“I saw a bunch of my peers from summer intensives in companies, and I was like, ‘I could do that’,” she said. “I had a couple people in my life who had taken breaks from things and came back to be really successful.”
“My technique came back a lot faster than I thought it would,” Anderson said, thrilled that she was accepted by BQC, after auditioning in June. “A lot of people had majored in dance or had already been in a company, or at least a pre-professional company.” After being offered a contract as a trainee, she said she cried with joy on the way home.
“I wanted to do dancing all day,” she said. “I’m currently going to do one online class for college, to continue making progress on my degree. If I wanted to dance all day, now is probably when I’m in the best shape to do that. It will only get harder the more you get older. And my
family has always been very encouraging, and said I could go across the country to do whatever you want. All right, I’m gonna do it.”
Coming back to ballet, it was hard for her to get her “tricks of the trade” back as second nature.
“It was hard to remember them, since when you’re dancing all day, you have lots of little things on your list and your routine,” Anderson said. “So I had to go through the whole process finding the kind of pointe shoe I wanted to wear; how I wanted to sew them, to prepare them. I lost
a lot of the strong skin on my feet, so I got a lot of blisters when I started.”
She got to be in a BQC “Nutcracker” at the Paramount in Cedar Rapids about 11 years ago, as part of University of Iowa Youth Ballet.
“For my birthday, when I was 13, I got to see ‘Dracula’ at the Paramount,” Anderson said. “That was really cool, because I didn’t know a ton about dance culture. I only knew about classical ballets, so their Dracula was a more contemporary ballet, so it was a really cool experience to see the different style of dance than I was a used to.”
“I’ve really always enjoyed the performance, the character and the presentation of dance,” she said. “I’m definitely not the most flexible or long-legged, but just your presence on stage, I’ve really been enjoying bringing that back – just having fun when you’re dancing. I’m enjoying the movement again.”
Working with more experienced dancers is always inspiring and helpful, Anderson said. “It’s really nice, and everyone has so much experience in different genres,” she said. “We have a tap piece, and it was so fun to watch. It’s fun to have so many different qualities to kind of absorb.”
“I feel like I can look up to everyone in the class, but I also feel like I mesh well with it, that I fit in here, and I’m wanted in the class as well,” she said. She’s also really looking forward to performing outside.
“I have a lot of friends who are coming to see it, and I feel like sometime performances can be intimidating when they’re in a big theater and you have to dress up,” Anderson said. “This is a lot more casual. With no curtains and no wings, people can get more of a look at what goes on, coming on and off stage.”
Special Sunday guest and rest of season
For Sunday’s program, one of the pieces was created by Lynn Bowman, a Bettendorf native who started her dance training at Ballet Quad Cities School of Dance. She graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, with a BA in Theater/Dance and studied in London at Trinity Laban Conservatory for Music & Dance, receiving a Professional Diploma in Dance Studies.
Bowman danced for several years in Washington, D.C. with Carla & Company and BosmaDance, she taught dance at Catholic University of America, Dance Place and for a variety of outreach dance programs for D.C. public schools. She attended the University of Iowa as an Iowa Arts Fellow and completed her MFA in Dance Choreography in 2009. While dancing and choreographing in Minneapolis, Minnesota from 2011-2014, she taught for Young Dance, Zenon Dance Company School and Minnesota State University, Mankato. Currently, Bowman is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance at Alma College in Michigan.
“It’s really a treat for me to have her in the studio,” Joedy Cook of BQC said this week. “She took classes at the school all through high school, then went on to have a wonderful career.”
After the Aug. 22 date, the rest of Ballet Quad Cities’ season will be:
Benny’s Gig and The Soldier’s Tale with QCSO
Oct. 9th, 7:30 p.m.
Galvin Fine Arts Center, Davenport
Disco Party at the Club
Oct. 21st & 22nd
The Outing Club, Davenport
Dec. 11th at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Dec. 12th at 2:30 p.m.
The Adler Theatre, Davenport
Dec. 18th at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
The Paramount Theatre, Cedar Rapids
Feb. 11th & 12th
The Outing Club, Davenport
Alice in Wonderland
April 9th at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
The Adler Theatre, Davenport
Tickets for Ballet on the Lawn (2109 Brady St., Davenport) are $25 for adults, and $15 for students under 12, available at http://balletquadcities.com/Buy-Tickets.