Ballet Austin with the KCDC

Today the company traveled to the home of Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company (KCDC).

They live and work on a kibbutz (a rural communal settlement) in the region. Just like us, the company rehearses in their black box theater. Rami Be’er, Artistic Director and Raya Strauss, their benefactor greeted us. Stephen spoke and then KCDC performed.


Stephen with RamiThe work was incredible!  And what an astounding group of dancers. My favorite response from our dancers was “Can we learn to do that?” I can’t describe the beauty of their fluidity and control.



Next Ballet Austin danced. Yes, with jet lag and no real warm up, our dancers were still gorgeous. They performed an excerpt from Light. Honestly, I panicked a little when I thought about BA doing our version of a hora in Israel. But it worked! One of their dancers complimented the quality of our dancer’s movement (high praise from a dancer who had just blown my mind performing). Another added that he couldn’t believe that we could move with jet lag. As we all know our dancers can do anything (yes, I’m biased – and this trip has done nothing to change my mind).

Most of the KCDC dancers came through their second company just like ours who came through Ballet Austin II. Yoni, thier touring director showed us the studios and explained the kibbutz concept… “It’s based on communist and socialist philosophy… not like the United States.” While it is gorgeous there – and I am getting more and more in touch with nature, I’m not so sure agriculture would be a good fit for me.
BA dancing

The dancers had the afternoon off. Eugene and I had meetings with Isi and with Claudio – the videographer.

I admit Eugene and I had reached the point of delirious exhaustion so we had a quiet dinner.  We deemed it a great success.  The food was wonderful and we stayed awake all the way through the meal.

– Barbara Shack

(photos by Nevo Photography)

Ballet Austin Arrives in Israel

Sept 18th at 11am and we’re leaving Austin, TX – all 32 of us which includes dancers, crew and staff.  After a 3 hour flight we land at Newark airport outside New York.  Our international flight was departing from a different terminal so we found the subtly marked hallway that led to an unimpressive stairway that led to the shuttle bus to terminal C – our home for the next 7 hours.  We ate lunch and walked around. We ate dinner and walked around.  It is a very big terminal and we saw it all.  It seemed wherever we walked there were Ballet Austin dancers wandering the halls in a different pattern from ours.  Eventually we joined the BA colony surrounding the battery and computer charging station near our gate.  Next we went through a second security checkpoint – special for passengers flying to Tel-Aviv.


At 11pm we departed Newark for the 10+ hour flight to Tel-Aviv.  If there was any trepidation about the distance and time that separated us from our destination it was apparently relieved as evident by the sight of so many of the dancers interfacing with the touch screen of movies, television shows and music available at every seat.  United has lots of TV and movie options on the screens in the back of the seats.  Of course when presented with too many choices I was a bit paralyzed.  Finally, I chose a few episodes of “Elementary”.  We were served dinner and then breakfast.  It has been forever since I had airplane food.  It wasn’t bad – or maybe I was excited by the retro aspect of the compartmentalized food.  Most of us slept. It was very quiet – and dark.

When we landed I was prepared for drama with customs… Let’s say over prepared.   Our group seemed to be the only foreigners on the plane so there was no line.  Once the front folks (thank you Cookie, Orlando and Ashley) explained why we were coming to Israel the rest of us got questions like “What airline did you fly on?”  No one wanted to look at our luggage.  We were greeted by Lital (the logistical genius who made this trip possible) and Isi (Albert’s producer) with a sign with the Ballet Austin logo, a splendid way to arrive anywhere.

airport 2

We met Samir, our bus driver, and traveled one hour plus to the walled, medieval city of Akko.  Our hotel has a crusader era aqueduct running through the lobby leading to a cistern in the courtyard.


Akko Hotel

We are in Old Akko with a recorded history reaching back 4,000 years.  It is a remarkably mixed city with signage in Hebrew , Arabic and a few in English for the tourists.

After check in and a bit of breathing time Samir drove us to Morganfeld’s restaurant to eat with the members of the western Galilee partnership. Albert Ben-Shloosh greeted us at the entrance.  It is unbelievable that Albert’s dream of bringing Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project to Akko is a reality and we are here.  The food was delicious! I now know I have never really had hummus.  But the most beautiful moment of the evening… was when they brought out a brazier of meat and Albert called over to Bill Sheffield to say that the steak was for him. We knew we were very well taken care of.

Dinner-Night 1

-Barbara Shack

Mother Ginger voting ends Nov 30

Just 10 days remain in our 2012 Mother Ginger contest. As we draw closer to announcing a winner, we hope you’ll enjoy these backstage moments from a few of last year’s Mother Gingers.

To see the 2012 nominees and vote, visit

Inside a Sugar Plum Fairy’s dance bag

With our Golden Anniversary production of The Nutcracker opening in a mere few weeks, I thought you might like a peek inside a Sugar Plum Fairy’s dance bag.


Twelve-year Company Member Aara Krumpe really likes “the familiar.” Whether it’s wearing warm-ups she’s owned for years (pictured above), standing at “her” spot at the barre, or eating oatmeal for lunch every day, tradition is the name of her game.

How very fitting for a Sugar Plum Fairy…


Since Aara was 15, she’s warmed up every day at the barre in a pair of old, soft pointe shoes. As her rehearsal and performance pointe shoes “die”, she cuts off the laces and saves them for barre work. In her words, ‘they just feel better than wearing ballet slippers!’

Something else Aara can’t live without is her yoga block, which she uses to do splits, stretches and to lay flat. In another note on tradition, Frank Shott – with whom Aara will dance for the 7th year and her barre mate since 2001 – constantly steals the block.


Aara brings her ballet bag, originally a diaper bag given to her by Trainees, to and from work each day and then keeps a smaller separate bag in the studio for rehearsal. Her must-have dance bag essentials? A surprisingly small number of things:

  1. Cheap White Rain hairspray (she is the “wispy tamer”)
  2. A tupperware of oatmeal for lunch each day – “I realized I’m not a protein person. I need carbs. Oatmeal gives me enough energy and stays with me all day.”
  3. Emergen-C, just in case
  4. At least one unsewn pair of shoes and her sewing bag
  5. Thera-band for stretching and strengthening


With The Nutcracker rapidly approaching, I asked how long a pair of pointe shoes – which take her 30 or 40 minutes to prepare – will last. Her answer? “Two run-throughs.”

Last but not least, I asked Aara if she has any secret tricks or tips. She had two suggestions for me:

  1. Elasticized pointe shoe ribbons (available at Discount Dance Supply), which are more comfortable over her Achilles tendon
  2. Perry’s Pork Chop Fridays. See you there?


You can see Aara on stage this holiday season dancing as Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. For tickets, click here.

From Angel to Sugar Plum Fairy

From the children who perform as Angels to the professionals who dance the principal role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, The Nutcracker is as much a part of ballet as tendus and pliés.

This year, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating the Golden Anniversary Production of Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker. Tickets here.

Dancer Preview: Taking “Light” to Miami

Today, Ballet Austin heads to Miami to perform Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project. See what’s going through Company Dancer Anne Marie Melendez‘s head as she prepares.

There has been a buzz of excitement around the Ballet Austin studios over the past couple of weeks. There is something about touring that charges us dancers up like few other things. The idea of traveling somewhere, all expenses paid, sounds glamorous at first glance. But going on tour can definitely bring its own set of challenges, obstacles, and concerns especially when it involves a ballet such as Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project.

Having performed Light as recently as March certainly aided in putting the ballet back together rather swiftly. Still, we took it section by section, reviewing the mechanics of the movement as well as the musicality. These elements are so important when presenting a ballet like Light because those pieces have to be so clear and must lay the foundation for the narrative and the emotional element that comes with performing the ballet.

In addition to rehearsing Light, we have also been busy revisiting The Nutcracker, as it will be fast on our heels once we return from Miami. The two ballets couldn’t be more different from each other as I literally spent a few days going from being the Snow Queen in a tutu, to running around barefoot and being dragged across the floor by my arms. It was quite confusing for my body – my calves and ankles would be tight and sore from the classical work, and my back and neck would be stiff from the more modern movement. Let’s just say there were quite a few hot baths, ice buckets, yoga sessions, etc…

As we prepare to leave for Miami on Thursday, I have a list of logistical concerns. What do I pack? In addition to what I would normally pack for any other trip like clothing and toiletries, I also need to bring an entire list of things that are dance and performance related. Outside of the obvious leotards and tights, I need my performance shoes, extra shoes for my understudy duties (which of course I won’t need – *knock on wood* – but they must be packed!), stage makeup, dance bag and all associated peripheral devices like my calf roller. And yes, yoga mat, you WILL fit in my suitcase. I have a list, and I’m checking it twice!

My other concern is food. Yes, clearly there is food in Miami, great food no doubt, but this is not a vacation. Just as most sports athletes have their eating, sleeping, and training routines leading up to events, dancers are quite similar. I normally take into consideration what I eat, but I am never pickier than I am during performance week. It’s not so much of a superstition as it is a need to efficiently fuel my body so that it can function as best it can when the time comes. Performance week is not the time to try something new, so my concern, being out of my element and out of my own kitchen, is how to maintain my routine. So far I’ve decided to bring Clif Bars, instant oatmeal, and head to the market once we get to Miami to stock up on some bananas and other easy to grab snacks.

All of these logistics are not unlike the mechanics of the choreography – they are the foundation of what we are ultimately trying to present. Overall, I am both nervous and excited. I think a certain amount of nerves is healthy, it means you care about the outcome of something. I’m excited to share Light and Ballet Austin with a new community, and I’m curious how both the company and the work will be received.

This evening, Paul, Ashley, and I just finished watching the documentary “The Last Days.” I think continuing our education is an important way to prepare before we leave on Thursday, as it continually informs the work we are doing in the studio and on stage, and most importantly, it reminds us of how vital it is to keep telling this story.


In Miami? You can see Anne perform Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project on stage this Saturday and Sunday. Tickets here.

“Light” in Miami

This weekend, Nov 3-4, we are presenting Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project at the Arsht Center in Miami.

The past few weeks, our Company Dancers have alternated between rehearsing the siren-filled Light and joyous Nutcracker. If you, friends or family are in Miami, you will not want to miss this:

“Art can only start a conversation; people solve problems. But hopefully art can be a catalyst to get people thinking about things in a way they don’t ordinarily.” – Stephen Mills in this Associated Press article.

Below, watch our two :30 video promos, “From the Darkness” and “Into the Light”:

For tickets and information, please visit the Arsht Center‘s website.