We had the pleasure of visiting most of the Lower School classes in the last couple of weeks to take photos. The dancers shared with us some of what they love about dancing. Their comments and the photos are on display in the hallway at Amherst Ballet. Check them out! We have articulate, graceful, and dedicated young dancers, with great senses of humor.
Pick up an empty card and pen while you’re looking at the display - we’d like to know what YOU love about dancing, too!
Happy Valentine’s Day from Amherst Ballet!
The production of Snow White is just over two weeks away and while the dancers rehearse and parents hustle to buy tickets, behind the scenes the costume designer, Deborah Shumway, is putting final touches on costumes she has been working on since September.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Debbie and learning about what goes into ensuring that each dancer has a costume that not only conveys their role, but feels good and allows them to be confident and comfortable on stage.
Debbie was a dance teacher for 40 years and has been sewing her whole life. One of her first jobs was as an alterationist at a dry cleaners. These two passions give her not only the skills she needs to ensure fit and functionality, but the knowledge as a former dancer to recognize what will work on stage and what won’t.
For Snow White Debbie kept costs down by using costumes that had previously been used in other productions. This meant that she had to take apart and redo many of them to fit dancers of vastly different sizes.
One of the most challenging sets of costumes were the Dragonfly costumes. These beautiful winged dresses had previously been used on dancers that were significantly taller than the young dancers that will wear them in Snow White. Debbie wanted to ensure that the costumes could be returned to their current size in the future so instead of cutting them she carefully pleated the sleeves and bodices. The result is a custom fitted costume that can be worn again with just a few alterations.
There are many considerations when making costumes for dance as opposed to theater. Dancers must be able to move, bend, leap and twirl and their costumes must be able to stay on, and allow for movement.
Additionally, some dancers have multiple parts or different costumes for the same part and at times must change their costumes in the wings very quickly. A good costumer must be aware of this and must ensure that the costumes can be quickly, and easily, taken off and changed, sometimes in the dark. This means sometimes fitting one costume piece under another or having helpers back stage to assist with fastening dresses and bodices.
The costumer’s work continues through the show, ensuring that the costumes arrive at the venue, fixing last minute problems, and then washing, repairing and rehanging costumes for future use.
Debbie loves working with the dancers, seeing them dance confidently in costumes she has made and watching their progress from year to year. For her this is a true labor of love and Amherst Ballet is lucky to have her!
By Lisa Gallant, parent
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am writing you all to express my deepest gratitude to two members of our community who are long overdue for an acknowledgment of their ongoing commitment to our school. It gives me great pleasure to officially announce two awards for Outstanding Service to Amherst Ballet, for the years of 2016 - 2017.
Beth Eagleson is the parent of a dancer, has served on the Board of Directors including a term as Vice President, and is now the leading voice of the new Amherst Ballet Family Association. She has volunteered at countless events, and brings positive energy and good cheer to the school every time she walks in the door. Her belief in the success of the school is one of the things that inspired myself and our Business Director, Josh Pearson, to accept our current positions.
Nicola Metcalf is also the parent of a dancer, and has served multiple terms on the Board of Directors. She is now also involved in the Family Association, and continues to volunteer her time and offer assistance to the general running of the organization. Nicola has been a member of the Amherst Ballet community for a very long time. Her unwavering commitment to the school has been the cause of many positive changes, and her presence has been felt in the studio itself when she attends class as an adult dancer, at performances, and in the administration of our programs.
There are many things at Amherst Ballet that would never have happened if it were not for the generosity and good will of Beth and Nicola. We are honored by their service and our gratitude to both of them is limitless. Please join us in thanking them for their exceptional contributions!
In honor of these awards, Beth and Nicola's names are being engraved on plaques, that will join the others hanging up at the school outside the studios.
Thank you Beth and Nicola, on behalf of myself and Josh, and from the whole school community. I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!
“Dwarves, I’m sorry… we’re going to run scene five, and then you can eat!”
“You’re going to run here and there and here…. And bow.”
“Where’s the chocolate?”
“On Amy’s desk.”
“He’s probably already married.”
“1 and 2 and 3… then, whew!”
“Flowers, go back to where you turn, please.”
“Okay! Good! Does everyone understand?”
“I have a question…”
“Do we have to leave? I want to stay.”
Whispers. The impossibility of homework. The squeak of shoes on the dance floor. Giggles. Shhhh….
And, of course, Beethoven.
Yep, it’s the first full-cast rehearsal of Snow White.
The ballet bun is as synonymous with ballet as tutus and pointe shoes. But to the new dancer and their parents it can feel like quite a challenge. Buns serve a practical role in that they keep the hair out of the dancers’ face, minimize distraction for the dancer and teacher and even help with balance. They are as important a part of the ballet uniform as the tights and ballet shoes. I remember before one recital Mia’s grandmother offered to help cajole her head of huge curls into a bun fit for the stage. She had Mia hang off the couch upside down while she braided her hair from the bottom up to the middle, then braided her hair from the top down, met in the middle and somehow twisted it all together into a bun. To say making a bun was a daunting task would be an understatement. Until one day when Mia was about 10 and Amherst Ballet offered a bun making workshop. They paired off the upper school kids by hair type with the younger dancers and had them practice on each other. From that day on she was able to do her bun herself! AB is again offering these workshops and to see the excitement on the faces of the young dancers as they begin to learn this new skill is priceless. Check back often to find out when the next workshop is taking place!
Lisa Gallant, parent
The rehearsal process for Snow White is well underway! Since September the cast has been working extremely hard, and has learned the choreography for most of the performance. We have been working with three extremely talented musicians, who have generously provided us with practice recordings to rehearse with. We are very excited to share this performance with audiences in six weeks! It is shaping up to be a unique and very exciting show – we hope to see you there!
On Saturday, the Amherst Ballet Family Association held a Community Day in which the goal was to gather the community to help take care of a few things around the building. What a turn out! Dancers, parents and staff showed up to get the job done. While cleaning up the yard and windows were an important task, building community and working together to help create a stronger and more connected Amherst Ballet was the main goal. Volunteering is such an important aspect of being a member of Amherst Ballet, and it is something we are striving to get back to. We want to offer a great dance curriculum, but also an environment that people want to be a part of. On such a lovely day, it was great to see so many people helping out! If you weren't able to be there on Saturday, there will be plenty of volunteer opportunities to come! So a huge THANK YOU to all those who showed up and gave their free time to help out!
Before I was a ballet mom, I was a ballet sister. Amherst Ballet has been in my life in one capacity or another for the better part of 40 years. As a ballet sister I had to sit through many shows, watch my sister receive beautiful bouquets, and make the newspaper more than once. I might have been just a bit jealous of her strong and graceful body and her complete passion and dedication.
My daughter Mia has been dancing since she could walk. At 18 months she started her first ballet class and I became an official “ballet mom”. I had to learn to navigate the world of tights, leotards, ballet slippers and buns. As she got older that world expanded to dinner on the go, late rehearsals, stage make up and balancing homework, sore muscles and family time.
As a family having a serious dancer impacts us in many ways. We often schedule dinner around Mia’s class and rehearsal schedule, sometimes eating early, sometimes late and sometimes all separately. Her younger brother has gotten used to waiting during class and rehearsals and has the advantage of seeing a show come together start to finish.
As a parent I have enjoyed volunteering back stage or helping with costumes. I love the nervous excitement in the kids, being there to bring a bandaid for a sore toe, to give a pep talk to a nervous dancer or to help fix a last minute costume. Being involved in the dance community has given me the opportunity to spend some extra time with Mia and to get to know her friends and cohorts. Ballet keeps her away from home a lot and this extra way of spending time together has been welcomed.
As Mia has gotten older she has learned to tame her crazy curly hair into a tight bun, apply make up with more skill than I could ever dream of and has even become an expert on putting tights on in the car! The biggest issue we face these days is finding time to get to Ludlow or Easthampton for the pointe shoes she needs every few months!
Like any activity dance requires the cooperation and dedication of the whole family and community and has enhanced my life as a parent in immeasurable ways.
Lisa Gallant, Parent
A few weeks into the beginning of the ballet year, it is great to see dancers and their families catching up in the lobby and stairwells, getting (re)acquainted with new & returning classmates of all ages, and generally making Amherst Ballet warm, welcoming, and lively.
There have been some changes this fall at Amherst Ballet, and one of those changes is the establishment of an association for the Amherst Ballet family. If you’d like to join the Amherst Ballet Family Association (ABFA), it is open to dancers in the upper school, adult dancers, and parents/guardians of dancers. Our focus so far has been on community building, feedback, and volunteer coordination.
The ABFA meets in person once a month, on Thursday evenings; the October meeting will be Thursday, October 12, 6:15 pm at 81 McClellan Street. If you can’t meet (like, you are in an upper school rehearsal), but still want to be involved, email Beth (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask to be added to the ABFA email list. Most of us can’t make meetings at least some of the time, so we’re aiming to make good use of email as well.
Also, you may have noticed the new feedback boxes/envelopes in the first floor hallway and upper school changing room. Please make use of them! We want to hear how things are going:
One of the most exciting new opportunities at the studio this fall is the master class series with Eris Nezha. My son tells me I should have signed up for his beginning adult class, because his classes are great and I’ll never have this chance again. Consider enrolling in one of the last two classes this weekend.
Click here for more information and to enroll!
Finally, we are excited to be planning an upcoming DAY OF SERVICE on October 21 from 1-3 pm at Amherst Ballet. Part of the fun of being a non-profit is that we can all make a meaningful difference with small commitments. Please join in keeping our studio beautiful, while having the chance to get to know other members of the Amherst Ballet family. The main things that need to be done are weeding the beds in the front and along the side of the building as well as washing windows. ABFA will provide snacks/drinks. Questions? Email Beth: email@example.com.
Happy fall (although it felt like summer this week) and happy dancing!
Mary Hannah Henderson, dancer parent
You may or may not know this, but Amherst Ballet is a registered non-profit. What does that mean? In the simplest terms, it means that Amherst Ballet's goal is not to make a profit, but rather to work towards is's mission goal, which is the belief in our Ballet4All! initiative. We operate on a budget that is approved by our Board of Directors, and the goal for that budget is to break even at the end of the fiscal year. Some years, our expenses are greater than our income, and other years it's the opposite. This is the challenge when you are trying to figure out what your income and expenses will be months ahead of time. Our expenses are many and varied, and include things like teacher salaries, insurance, utilities, theater rentals, props, and since we own our building, a monthly mortgage payment! Tuition helps cover some of these costs, but we also rely on donations and grants. Because we are registered with the government as a non-profit, we are eligible to receive grants and donations on a tax-free basis, and those same gifts are tax-free to the donor, as well. So the next time you see an annual appeal letter, or a request for items or help with accomplishing something around the studio, remember that we need that help in order to bring quality dance instruction to our students!