BWW Previews: FANTASY TO DVORAK at First State Ballet Theatre

By: Oct. 07, 2021
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BWW Previews: FANTASY TO DVORAK at First State Ballet Theatre

Each time Aisle Say attends a rehearsal of First State Ballet Theatre, he is stunned by the athleticism, the precision, the synchronicity of movement, and, yes, the joy exuding from the faces of these young professionals.

Ballet is a lifelong endeavor. It's not a sport where an athlete plays for a short career. And, like with most other sports, dancers cannot take the season off. Their bodies must stay fine-tuned. Maybe a pizza and a beer from time to time, but in disciplined moderation. Their bodies are the vehicle to create art.

Today's statewide professional ballet company birthed from humble beginnings and political intrigue. A troupe of Russian dancers were stranded in Philadelphia in the mid 90's. A matron of the arts brought them to Wilmington and they performed for a few years at The Playhouse.

In November 1999, shortly after opening the Russian Ballet Centre in Newport, Pasha and Kristina Kambalov asked long time ballet supporters to serve as the board of directors for a new 501 (c)(3) ballet school with Robert Grenfell as Board President.

Knowing what Aisle Say knows presently, nothing would have happened sans Robert Grenfell.

They chose the name First State Ballet Theatre to signal that they intended tokno be a ballet company for the entire state. In early 2003, the company was invited to relocate to Wilmington's Grand Opera House. With funding from the city, the Longwood and Welfare Foundations and individuals, state-of-the-art studios were built.

Pasha Kambalov, the lead dancer in the 90's, and his wife, Kristina have spurred the growth of both the pro company and its school. The school begins at age 4, instructing possibly the cutest kids in the 302 area code.

Along this journey the Kambalovs and their staff have created a strict but embracing culture that has professional dancers the world over flocking to the marley floors of FSBT. Young dancers in a relatively smaller arena are given the opportunity to increase their repertoire.

Many dedicated behind the scenes staff made everything congeal, not the least of them costumer Joanne Epstein (matriarch of backstage) and photographer Tisa Della-Volpe, who has the uncanny knack of shooting every dancer at his/her apogee.

The troupe is now preparing for the October 8-10 World Premiere of Viktor Plotnikov's FANTASY TO DVORAK, a contemporary piece, which to the eyes of Aisle Say, puts the dancers in contorted attitudes their bodies were not made to attain. The choreography is wildly innovative, similar to his breathtaking DRACULA of last year.

Aisle Say had the opportunity to meet with 3 veteran dancers and 3 "rookies". (btw, please visit Dancers - First State Ballet Theatre-First State Ballet Theatre- Ballet Company, Ballet School, Dance School to read all the bios. Quite varied and fascinating.

Rie Aoki, born and raised in Tochigi, Japan, is 8 years in. Rie was considered impetuous and hyper active by her parents. She does not remember never dancing. "It is my life. I will never be separated from ballet." One of Rie's favorite roles was Kitri in DON QUIXOTE. Aisle Say heartily agrees.

Richy Romero has been with FSBT for 6 years. "The Hispanic side of my family was always dancing. I just joined in and found ballet." Richy said that ballet training made him a much better athlete in high school. Aisle Say agrees. It's all about technique. He played Renfield in Plotnikov's DRACULA.

Here since 2015 is Andrew Matte. "None of us knew what to do during the pandemic. We were devastated with no dance, no camaraderie. We're thrilled to be back." Andrew also choreographs for the dance school.

The new dancers come from a diverse background. Marina Profy has studied all forms of dance including ballet, jazz, contemporary and tap and attended summer intensives with the Orlando Ballet and The Rock School for Dance in Philadelphia. "Many in the dance community knew of the excellence of FSBT and were eager to audition."

Taylor Ciampi of Baltimore, was promoted to the Atlanta Ballet full professional company in 2018 and danced with them for two seasons. "During Covid I took an online course from Pasha and Kristina (from their dining room!) and was given the opportunity to audition after that."

Leo McGrath of Savannah Georgia began tap at age 7. He has danced around the US in several companies. When asked does he prefer classical to modern? "It's wonderful to have a full repertoire of classical. But modern - learning a completely new choreography - enhances our growth as dancers and makes us take risks. We are all up for the challenges here at FSBT. I want to learn it all!"

FSBT is a jewel in the our state. We must support them. Aisle Say wishes The Grand Opera House management would step up to the plate as well.

FANTASY TO DVORAK: October 8-10 @thebabygrand

UP FRONT ON MARKET: November 12-4 @Studio 1 in the baby grand

THE NUTCRACKER: December 10-12 @TheGrand

Tickets for all: 1-800-37-GRAND or 1-800-652-5577


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