Three For The Crowd: Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet’s Spring Gala

“Hansel & Gretel”; “Sleeping Beauty Waltz & Excerpts”; and “Carmina Burana,” were featured in the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet Spring Gala on Saturday, June 18, staged at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts in Jamestown.

Monika Alch, artistic director; Elizabeth Bush, production manager; Taylor Morse, technical director; Casey Nellis, lighting designer/stage manager; and Sandra Mangusing, costume mistress. The Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet family is deeply saddened by the loss of their greatest fan and champion and Miss Monika’s dear husband. His unending encouragement, support, and joy inspired each and every dancer in the studio. The fifth movement of Carmina Burana was dedicated in his honor.

“Hansel and Gretel,” music by Englebert Humperdink was choreography by Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet Faculty: Monica Alch, Jennifer Barczak, Sandra Manguising, Elizabeth Schmitz, Gina Smeragliuolo, Sue Spencer and Shawn Spankle. The story narration was read as Hansel, Aaron Mecham and Gretel, Alyzza Zuech danced their character movement roles surrounded by vivid costumed dancers as Little Birds, Forest Creatures, Sand Fairies, Angels, Flowers, Dewdrops, Gumdrops, Gingerbread People, the Sandman with his assistants, The Witch, and the Dew Fairy. Commendable recognition is warranted to these dancers for assuming character roles with scenic freezes and intricate blocking including choreography with beginning pointe application. Hansel and Gretel was danced by students from Creative Dance through Intermediate One, according to Bush.

The ambient upstage forest drop and stage legs with woodland leaf border was background to the creative bushes of candy positioned up center. A scrim with green leaf breakaway Gobo projection created the forest as Hansel and Gretel went deeper and deeper to find a cottage made of chocolate, candies and cake which appeared on stage via the fly gallery. The angels danced on pointe angelically costumed in white-tiered ruffled chiffon tutus, corset topped and complemented feather textured wings. The witch was colorfully portrayed in red velvet and satin by Spankle who eventually from pushed by Gretel into the oven that generated explosive applause from the appreciative audience. All of the dancers in unison performed a victory dance the witch is dead. As the curtain closed on Act One the audience was buzzing in acclimation “wasn’t that so cute.” The young dancers that just had performed filtered into the audience to receive hand tied bouquets from their families and friends in support and encouragement. Cell phones and cameras were engaged in every direction around the theater house to document this wonderful event. One father walking his daughter down the aisle presented her with a huge hug in acknowledgement, “that was such a good show!” The audience continued in congratulations returning from intermission with a beverage of choice: water, wine or a draft beer.

The work entitled: “Sleeping Beauty Waltz” was choreographed by Barczak and Spencer. The troupe of pointe dancers was costumed in classic white dress highlighted by a tuft of flowers at breast. A black traveller and suspended abstract swag complemented their movements, which was beautiful as a cyc for many colors. The movement opened with a waltz danced by the Intermediate students. Historical works by Ballet Master Marius Petipa with adaptions by Monika Alch were featured in “Sleeping Beauty Excerpts.” Promenade escorts by the male principals young and old introduced each of the select solos, duets or small ensembles, many with classic pointe, quick rapid descents and many forms of pirouettes. Noteworthy was the energetic character role of the Canary danced by Cecelia Johnson. All of the historical works were gracefully executed with increasing grace and complexity as danced by Advanced and Pre-Professional students.

“Carmina Burana” is a scenic cantata composed by Carl Orff in 1935 and 1936 and is based on 24 poems from the medieval collection Carmina Burana. Six poems or movements were selected and choreographed by Michael Cerwinski. The natural brick upstage wall created a cyc for the dramatic red, orange and yellow light cues which anchored each movement. Stark blackouts were effective in transition. Telly Ortiz was intense clean strong and masculine wearing a tabbed vest, dance tights, man bun and bare feet. Grace McMillan, Maya Swanson and select company complemented his artistry. McMillan and Swanson wear costumed in burgundy hand painted watercolored knee length dresses. The company wore yellow hand painted watercolored long tiered dresses. The dresses flowed with intensity in articulated movement of elevation or in collapse to the stage floor. Dance sequences were unusual and abstract. The music varied often sounding and pounding similar to a Gregorian chant. Movements were acrobatic at times where one of the complementing dancers was quadruped on the floor basing for the other to leap into the arms of Ortiz. Sideward movements with barrel postured arms were intense. Pop-ups from the floor added visual excitement. A heavy throne chair in a single spot staged a beautiful lyrical dance.

Michael J. Cerwinski, resident chorographer was born in Red Bank, N.J., and raised in Greene, N.Y. He began his dance training at the age of fourteen at Ballet Arts Theatre. Two years later he started studying modern dance at the Amber Perkins School of the Arts in Norwich, New York. Cerwinski received his Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in the Conservatory of Dance SUNY Purchase. He has studied intensively at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, the Ailey School and with Ben Levy in San Francisco, California; and now owns his own dance company Michael James New York. The Chautauqua Regional Community Foundation sponsors his residency.

Ms. Alch began her ballet training at age four in the Vienna Conservatory, Vienna, Austria and completed her training at the Vienna State Opera and she received her diploma as a soloist in dance at age 15. In the summer in 1960 in Cannes, France, she studied in an advanced student seminar and 10 years of professional experience followed in opera theaters around Austria. In the United States, she performed with Ballet Metropolitan for five years before choreographing her first production Smetana’s The Bartered Bride, an opera theatre production at SUNY-Fredonia. Alch has held staff teaching positions in ballet and ballet history at Shenandoah Conservatory of Music, in Winchester, Virginia. She operated her own private ballet studio while living in Columbus, Ohio, and served as rehearsal director for the Columbus Dance Ensemble. Ach taught on the staff of Ballet Metropolitan. Most recently she served as a guest ballet instructor at SUNY Fredonia, and has been artistic director with CRYB since 2000.

Significant benefactors, foundations, grants and individuals who recognize the cultural and educational significance of classic and historical ballet, ground the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet financially. These resources afford them a talented faculty, resident choreographers, significant costume wardrobes and professional staging at the Reg Lenna Center For The Arts. This company is progressive featuring contemporary works such as Carmina Burana and acknowledges summer acceptances for their Pre-professional students as follows: Cate Walter, 13 & Maya Swanson, 12 School of American Ballet, New York City; Cecelia Johnson, 11 Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive Connecticut; and Grace McMillan, 13 New York State Summer School of the Arts in Saratoga Springs, New York. Emily Rose, graduating senior was acknowledged for her growth in twelve years of dance with the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet as she emotionally acknowledged her plans to attend Niagara University. Summer Dance 2016 opportunities include in part: Tutus, Tiaras and A Prince or Two; Beginning Ballet for all ages Child through Adult; Pilates; Exciting Workshops & Master Classes for Advanced Dancer. Additional information may be obtained by contacting the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet at (716) 664-9766 or cryb.net/summerdance.