Spokane Youth Ballet features students, professionals in ‘Midsummer’
In the more than 400 years since William Shakespeare wrote “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” it’s been reinterpreted as movies, in music, in dance and art.
In Spokane, the play will be re-imagined by Spokane Youth Ballet, with cast members from Spokane and professional dancers from the Oakland Ballet Company.
Kristen Potts, who runs the Academy of Dance in Spokane Valley, first choreographed the play as a one-act ballet 30 years ago in California. She and choreographer Phaedra Jarrett have collaborated for this original full-length production and are bringing it to the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on Saturday.
“It’s my favorite Shakespeare comedy,” Potts said.
When creating this ballet, Potts said it was important for it to be funny, which she feels other productions haven’t been.
“People guffaw at this play,” she said. She added that sometimes Jarrett will bring her 4-year-old daughter to see rehearsals.
“She just cracks up,” Potts said.
Potts said it is important for dancers to have a chance to perform. While Spokane has the symphony and an active theater community, there isn’t a professional dance troupe in the area for her students to learn from and perform with.
“I want to create an audience for dance,” Potts said.
In 2011, Spokane Youth Ballet performed “The Dancing Princesses,” which sold out at the Fox. Like that performance, she has brought in professional dancers to perform with her students.
Potts includes her younger students in the production, with age-appropriate roles and movements. There is a group of 6- to 8-year-old girls that performs the roles of butterflies and flowers. There are three little boys who perform the roles of frogs.
“It’s inspiring for them,” she said of the younger students. They get to watch and work with the older students as well as the professionals, which is what inspired Potts when she was 9 years old, learning ballet in San Francisco.
Gregory DeSantis from the Oakland Ballet dances the role of Oberon, King of the Fairies, in this production. He said it is important for him to work with students, too.
“It’s good for them to partner with professionals,” he said. “It’s a good reminder in our day-to-day (work).”
DeSantis is joined by Megan Terry, another dancer from the Oakland Ballet, who will perform Titania, the Queen of the Fairies.
“We come from a company with all professional dancers,” Terry said. “It’s nice to work with students.”
Potts sent the two of them videos to learn the choreography before they arrived and they put everything together with the two of them the week before the show.
Another addition to the show is Justin Schlabach, who performs the role of Bottom. Schlabach is a local actor who has only been dancing since he was 20. He’s 26 now.
“He’s a very accomplished actor,” Potts said.
“(I started) taking classes to learn as much as I could with the body structure I had,” Schlabach said.
Potts said she is planning more performances at the Fox in the coming years, including a one-act performance of “Hansel and Gretel,” to keep the momentum of ballet in Spokane going.
“People are so visual,” she said. “Ballet is a natural thing.”