BWW Previews: DON QUIXOTE at First State Ballet Theatre
As Artistic Director Pasha Kambalov was introducing me to his cadre of young professional dancers, he smiled and said "they could all be your children".
(I have news for you my friend, some could be my grandchildren!).
Full disclosure: I am privileged to play the comic character of Gamache in the upcoming Don Quixote. My subsequent dancing career may be kaput for poor Gamache gets a face full of flounder as he is carried away).
The ensemble includes members from around the country and, in fact, the globe. They not only perform but also teach; students range from age 4 to adult.
FSBT graduates have gone on to dance professionally with Festival Ballet Providence, Milwaukee Ballet, Alabama Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Staatsballett Berlin, Washington Ballet, Universal Ballet, Ballet du Capitole, Tulsa Ballet and First State Ballet Theatre.
Aisle Say took the opportunity to chat with 3 of these uncommonly talented and devoted dancers on their experiences with FSBT.
Leonid Goykhman was born in the Republic of Moldova, a landlocked nation between Ukraine and Romania. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the family moved to suburban Philadelphia to an area with many Russian émigré families. Followed were years of watching Mr. Rogers and tv sitcoms and the young Leonid acclimated quite well.
Dance had been part of the school curriculum in Moldova and, now in the US, he began asking his parents for more and more ballet classes. After years of study a scholarship to Philly's University of the Arts followed, which eventually led him to FSBT. He is now in his 9th season and has had many lead roles with the company. In addition to his employment here, he contracts out to other companies in various roles and also teaches in a PA studio, choreographing competition pieces for his students in both contemporary and classical.
Hannah Epstein considered herself an "energetic" 3-year-old. To channel this pizzazz, Mom Joanne (who also creates beauteous costumes for FSBT) enrolled her in a local ballet school. At 6 she appeared in her first Nutcracker. "I was smitten by 'Arabian' (a sequence in Act II) and fell in love with being on stage".
From there ballet was an integral part of Hannah's life. She attended Wilmington Friends and continued with 6 day a week practice. Inquiring about the discipline it takes to be a dancer, Hannah replies, 'I have always thrived in an environment with clear standards and rules. This is what ballet demands".
Discipline? Aisle Say should say! Hannah became a FSBT company member her freshman year at UD. "I had a day planner scheduling every hour of the day, even lunch"! I asked if she wrote on the planner what she was to have for lunch. "No, not that far".
Now she was a full-time student and a full-time professional dancer at age 18. Hannah feels her English Lit degree gives her insight on the stories in ballet, exploring and analyzing its characters. At FSBT studios, she teaches Ballet 1 for 4-year olds. "I absolutely adore these kids. They achieve so much so quickly. Dance builds their self-esteem. If you expect certain things of them, they invariably rise to the level of expectations".
Zane Winders hails from deep in the heart of Texas and is in his 3rd season. Knowing nothing about ballet (probably why I was 'hand-picked' to be Gamache), I asked Zane about the difference between classical and contemporary ballet. He comments, "in classical, there are set steps. With contemporary, you use your upper body to create different movements. And, it is generally more athletic".
Zane has quite the schedule. In addition to FSBT, he teaches in 3 schools in 11 different classes. Zane has been with a few other national companies. "At First State, we are a family. We so care about everyone. It's not just a place to dance. Pasha pushes us and wants us to be the dancers he thinks we can be".
My personal experience during rehearsals with these special people can be summed up in two words...A BLAST!
Photo by Tisa Della-Volpe
DON QUIXOTE Oct 19,20,21 the baby grand 800.37.GRAND