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Dance gala tours classical, Spanish, African styles

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Audience members can expect everything from Spanish pop music to African dance as dancers combine classical and modern styles during FestivALL's dance gala.

The gala features performances by principal dancers with the National Ballet of Canada, the Charleston Ballet and River City Youth Ballet Ensemble. It runs from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. June 21 at the Culture Center Theater.

Sonia Rodriguez, principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, has studied dance in Madrid and Monaco. After joining the National Ballet of Canada in 1990, she was promoted to principal dancer in 2000. She has performed principal roles in several of the company's productions, including "Swan Lake," "Romeo and Juliet" and "Sleeping Beauty."

Dancing with Rodriguez is Piotr Stanczyk, who was born in Poland and studied there before beginning his studies at Canada's National Ballet School. He joined the company in 1998 and was promoted to principal dancer 10 years later. Stanczyk has also held principal roles in many company productions, including "Don Quixote," "Giselle" and "The Nutcracker."

For the gala, Rodriguez and Stanczyk will perform "Lady of the Camellias," choreographed by Val Caniparoli and set to music by Frédéric Chopin. The style of the piece, which is about a man and his mistress, is classical, and the dance is performed en pointe.

The number requires trust among the partners to make the choreography appear smooth and also demands strong acting skills so that the story makes sense.

Rodriguez said the final three minutes of the piece are her and Stanczyk's favorite to perform.

"It is the part when the characters truly give into each other's passion," she wrote in an email. "The choreography beautifully reflects that with slow, intricate partnering that makes the dancers move as one."

The dancers' second number, "Por Ti," is performed to a Spanish pop flamenco song by Yasmin Levy. The piece has a more "earthy" quality to it, and it tells a story primarily through movement.

"Por Ti" is usually an audience favorite because of the music, Rodriguez said, and she likes dancing to a song that has words, as it helps complement the story.

Although the dancers from the National Ballet of Canada are headlining the gala, there will also be a performance from the Charleston Ballet.

One selection will feature a trio of dancers performing to chamber music for piano, cello and violin. The dancers will be dancing en pointe, and the number has a neoclassical style, said Charleston Ballet artistic director Kim Pauley, who choreographed both pieces the company will perform at the gala.

The company will shift genres for its second number. The dancers will perform "African Images," part of the ballet's staple repertoire, in its entirety. The piece is usually an audience favorite.

"The music is wild," Pauley said.

For the number, the dancers trade their pointe shoes for slippers -- so they can pound their feet on the floor -- and don long skirts with colorful prints.

Pauley said the number began as an experiment because she was interested in choreographing something with modern movement.

Many people wouldn't expect such a performance after hearing the term "ballet," she said, and noted that the word is used for all presentation of dance.

"They think of women in short tutus and pointe shoes, or they think of a children's dance recital, and it's neither of those things," she said.

Also participating in the gala is the River City Youth Ballet Ensemble. One of the company's pieces will be a setting of local writer Colleen Anderson's poem "Bob Thompson at the Piano," said Michelle Raider, who directs the ensemble. Thompson, a jazz pianist, will provide live music, playing "Coming Home to You." Raider said she's hoping Anderson will read her poem.

Dorothea Hereford choreographed the number, which is a contemporary piece en pointe, Raider said.

Other pieces will include a contemporary number choreographed by Raider called "Touching the Stars" and a romantic, classical piece choreographed by Margaret Lieberman.

Raider encouraged people to come see the dance gala because of the guest artists and the variety of the show.

"It's nice to have the collaboration between the groups," she said.

Want to go?

WHAT: FestivALL dance gala

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. June 21

WHERE: Culture Center Theater

TICKETS: $20

INFO: www.festivallcharleston.com

WHAT ELSE: Purchase tickets at the Clay Center box office, Backstage Bodywear, Taylor Books, Charleston Ballet and River City Youth Ballet Ensemble. Suttle & Stalnaker PLLC and Aqua-Clear Inc. sponsor the event.

Other FestivALL dance events

DANCE AT TASTE-OF-ALL: 12:30 to 4:15 p.m. June 17 The West Virginia Mountain Valley Cloggers and West Virginia Kickers start things off, followed by open swing dancing, a swing dance contest and more open swing dancing, all in the Civic Center Grand Hall.

MASTER CLASSES: 4 to 5:30 and 7 to 8:30 p.m. June 19. Central Florida performer and dance instructor Daniel Ryan Hunalp will teach master classes in jazz/musical theater in the Clay Center Walker Theater. Admission is $20 per class and open to advanced adult and middle school dancers. Enrollment is limited. Call 304-561-3570.

DANCE IN DAVIS PARK: 1 to 1:30 and 5 to 5:30 p.m. June 23. Carli Mareneck, of Lewisburg's Trillium Performing Arts Collective, and others will dance "Chagall's Village Goes to Town," inspired by the artist's paintings of Russian village life and circus imagery, in Davis Park.

BELLY DANCE: 1 and 3 p.m. June 23 and 24. Belly dancer Jenna Brooke Swanson will perform on the BB&T Stage, in front of Taylor Books.

WEST VIRGINIA PROFESSIONAL DANCE COMPANY: 12:30 and 1:15 p.m. June 24. The state's only professional touring dance company will dance a blend of entertaining and thought-provoking modern compositions at Charleston Town Center Mall.

Reach Alison Matas at alison.matas@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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