WILLIAMSBURG — The Movement Ballet (TMB)’s inaugural season will open this weekend with the comic ballet, “Coppélia.”
This is the first production in TMB’s Discover Tradition series, which features classical story ballets.
Unlike other dance studios in the area, Institute for Dance is not a competition studio. Instead, it focuses on students’ technique, training and performance quality through classes.
“The mission is to bring the love of dance as an art to our students, to the community, and to give our dancers performance opportunities,” Director of Operations Melissa Cantrell said.
The studio offers performance opportunities for students throughout the year, including an annual showcase in June and a holiday show called “Christmas Dreams.”
The studio has self-funded, audition-based companies under its umbrella, including The Movement Dance Company, which performs in local events such as 2nd Sundays and Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars.
Amy Haley, director of the new TMB company, was first asked to form a performing ballet ensemble in the spring of last year.
“I spent a few months getting ready for auditions and thinking what a performing ballet ensemble would be like in this day and age,” Haley said. “Did we want to be traditional or more innovative?”
She decided to make it a balance of both. The seasons will be divided between two productions, first starting with the Discover Tradition series that will take place in the beginning of March and will always be a classical story ballet.
“We will not necessarily tell it exactly as how it as been told for the last 150 years,” Haley said. “We have a more fresh take on it, but every Discover Tradition will be a classical story ballet that teaches the company members about the legacy that comes before them in the classical ballet world, and also gives them a repertoire of choreography that they really need if they’re going to take their talent and their drive into a professional career as dancers.”
As the company is for serious ballet students, these types of performances also give the dancers a repertoire of choreography that they will need if they plan to move onto a professional career as dancers.
“Every company still performs “Swan Lake”, every company still performs “Coppélia” and “The Nutcracker,” Haley added. “So these are things that are very useful to them, just as a pragmatic part of their training, but also for the audience because these are old-fashioned, family-friendly stories that everyone likes.”
The company features 15 dancers between the ages of 10 and 16 years old. Haley said that, despite the wide age range, the students have formed a close friendship with one another since coming together for the first time in September.
“They’re not just gifted dancers, they really are extraordinary, strong and kind human beings,” she said. “It’s a really magical group. The whole ballet is about friendship, and these 15 young women are really close and kind friends to each other. It’s been a wonderful first year with them.”
Haley chose “Coppélia,” as the company’s premiere show, describing it as a “fun and lighthearted” ballet.
“I thought that after the terrible few years that these children have had that we really needed something that would lift our spirits, even while we are learning very technically difficult classical choreography,” she said. “So I hope that it’s been a nice mixture for them as serious discipline, but also learning how to tell a sweet and fun story on stage with their ballet technique and acting skills, which we’e been working very hard on.”
The second production that splits up the season is Discover Breakthrough, which will take place in May. Rather than looking into the past, Discover Breakthrough will feature a more innovative and progressive look into the ballet world, Haley said.
Recently, Haley has also established a Dancer Support Fund to assist company members who want to audition for and attend prestigious professional ballet company training, but may not be able to afford to.
“I often see young dancers in our community not having the opportunity they deserve because they don’t have the money to get to an audition a couple hundred miles away,” she said. “So I thought that I would start it small, but just give them a little pot of small awards that they could apply for if they really felt they wanted to pursue something.”
Haley said that while the company is not taking on too much during its first season, she is excited for what is to come.
“I feel really blessed to have this opportunity, and I’m really grateful to the Institute for Dance for supporting us,” Haley said. “The Institute for Dance board has been really amazing to give us this space and just the autonomy to really figure out who we want to be as a ballet company.”