Ever since Alexander Graham Bell transmitted his voice into the back room of his science lab, the telephone has been a necessity of life. Back in the day, I remember my grandma sharing a phone line with many of the folk from her small town in eastern Washington; the telephone party line. Party lines were not always a party; people could listen in on calls (what we call eavesdropping), and they had to compete for phone time with the entire town. Telephone party lines as they once were known may be a thing of the past, but every spring I experience a different sort of telephone party line.
Beginning the first weekend in January Ballet Austin artistic staff travel all of the United States to audition students for Ballet Austin’s Summer Intensive. They see hundreds of students from coast to coast. My favorite part of this process is when they come home. I am handed a white binder containing the names of everyone who auditioned. I am the bearer of good news, “you have been accepted…” That’s when the party begins! Who doesn’t love to give good news? I am no exception. This year I talked to about 500 students to let them know that they are invited to attend Ballet Austin’s Summer Intensive. When I share the news with them in a personal conversation over the phone, a simple call becomes a celebration; a party.
From Dunwoody, Georgia to Kenosha, Wisconsin; from Port Moody, British Columbia to Miami, Florida; from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine; the telephone party line is almost always the same. Screams, tears, and cheers from excited students rejoicing over the news. Some respond in disbelief, some in relief, but all with appreciation and anticipation as they look towards summer. Countless hours of class, miles traveled to audition, passion, dedication, and commitment bring opportunity for summer. For the student it’s all about dance. For me, these telephone parties are just the beginning of new relationships; an opportunity for Ballet Austin to reach across 50 states. Who says the telephone party line is a thing of the past?
I love watching our kids explore the many-faceted world of dance.
One of the greatest joys for me as Schools Director is to watch our students explore the world of dance. Many try multiple styles of dance, combining of the codified syllabus of Ballet Austin Academy with the many varied offerings of the Butler Community School. A great example is Georgia Brinkman who just finished performing with Ballet Austin in La Sylphide. She is an accomplished young ballet dancer, but when she takes down her bun and replaces her pointe shoes with character shoes, I see a budding musical theatre performer. Each experience compliments the other and ultimately creates a more versatile performer.
Georgia Brinkman performs in Magic in Manhattan
This spring we will launch the latest addition to Ballet Austin’s roster of kid’s camps, The Broadway Kids. The camp is for kids ages 5-10 and will introduce a whole new generation to the joy of musical theatre. With every new venture, I see the opportunity to ignite a spark in the minds of the participants. When my daughter Madison was five she participated in a Broadway musical theatre camp. In the years that have followed, she has taken more dance classes than I can count. She has studied voice and performed a multitude of monologues. Her love of musical theatre has turned her passion into an aspiration to perform professionally. This fall she leaves for college as a musical theatre major. The spark ignited 13 years ago has started her down a very exciting path. Once lit, the possibilities are limitless…
When discussions began at Ballet Austin about relocating from our longtime home in an historic firehouse near the University of Texas campus, there were countless motivations at play. One of the paramount goals was to house all of the things we do – our Academy, our open Butler Community School classes, the professional Company, and the artistic and administrative staffs – under one roof. And when the leadership and Board of Ballet Austin located a former printing warehouse in the heart of a burgeoning entertainment district in downtown Austin, they knew that this building could not only meet that goal, but that it also had the potential bring dance to a much wider audience in Austin.
At that point, though, it was still just a warehouse with the lingering scent of printing ink. So we enlisted the help of the architect Marla Bommarito and the Bommarito Group to help transform an industrial space into one that could accommodate the many facets of Ballet Austin. Marla and her team laid out a plan that included cutting many windows into the exterior walls, as well as building studios with windows to the corridors in the building. This makes for an environment in which, no matter where you are in the building, you can see dance happening at all times of the day. On top of that, the plan included a 287-seat theater, offices, and wonderful public spaces. Out of this plan, and the generous donations of hundreds of Ballet Austin supporters, the Butler Dance Education Center was born.
As proud as we are of our building, we did not have a way to show the life of the building to those who haven’t had a chance to visit. And as much as we love the beautiful pictures we have, we wanted movement. So we enlisted the help of longtime friends and collaborators, photographer and director of photography Andrew Yates of Andrew Yates Photography and Beef and Pie productions along with editor Ariel Quintans of Beast Editorial, to produce a video that shows the life of the spaces that we are fortunate enough to inhabit every day. Although I am of course biased, I think the result is incredible. Check out the video above for a virtual tour of our downtown Austin home, the Butler Dance Education Center.
Grab this chance to win a pair of autographed technique/pointe shoes from the Ballet Austin dancer featured in the quiz. This quiz’s deadline has been extended to March 10th, but don’t wait – post your answer without delay… today!
Originally from Seattle, Washington, I have performed with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ballet Pacifica, Redlands Festival Ballet, Ballet Austin, and as a guest artist with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet. I have danced principal roles such as Hamlet in Hamlet, Romeo in Romeo & Juliet, Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, Prince Ivan in The Firebird, Prince Charming in Cinderella, and Cavalier in The Nutcracker. I have been awarded the Austin Critics Table Award twice. Who Am I?
Click here and post your answer below! The deadline for submissions is March 10. Be sure to include your first and last name. A winning answer will selected at random from all of the correct answers. The winner will receive an autographed pointe or technique shoe from the dancer featured in the quiz.*
*You must be a current Ballet Austin Academy Student in good standing in order to be eligible to win. The winner will be contacted for further details on attaining the prize. Terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.