A weekend of masterpieces: Holt Ballet Conservatory selections showcase world of ballet | TheUnion.com

A weekend of masterpieces: Holt Ballet Conservatory selections showcase world of ballet

Katrina Paz
Special to Prospector

Dozens of Holt Ballet Conservatory students will take the stage this weekend, creating a show designed to showcase the talents of Yelena Holt's many students. Holt, a local dance icon, designed a program to feature as many of her dancers as possible while engaging the audience in a breathtaking visual odyssey.

Masterpieces of Ballet, presented by Grass Valley's Holt Ballet Conservatory, comes to the Don Baggett Theatre this weekend, with shows Friday and Saturday evenings. The show will consist of scenes from Leo Delibes's "Coppelia" and Igor Stravinsky's "The Firebird." A third act, "Variations," features dances from a variety of ballets, giving the audience a taste of ballet over the centuries.

Holt specifically chose these selections in order to showcase a wide variety of dancers, noting many ballets spotlight only one lead dancer. Dozens of Holt students, ages 3 to 60, will take part in the program.

"What I like best about the process of preparing a show such as Masterpieces 2018 is watching the amazing accomplishments of each student," Holt said. "Whether it is a seasoned professional or a pre-ballet student preparing her very first steps on stage, the light that shines from their eyes as they conquer each step and as they gain confidence in their ability to perform on stage is a joy to see and be a part of."

The dances & the dancers

"Coppelia," considered one of the greatest comic ballets in the 19th century, follows the story of the village beauty Swanhilda and her beloved Franz. According to the New York City Ballet, it remains one of the best-loved classical works in the ballet repertory.

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Dr. Coppelius, performed by Nora Heiber, creates a life-size dancing doll in the story. Franz becomes so infatuated with the doll that he turns his back on his true love, Swanhilda, played by Brenna O'Brien MacDonell.

MacDonell recently graduated from high school and plans on dancing with the New Mexico Ballet Company when she attends the University of New Mexico in the fall.

Christopher Selbie, who performs as Franz, danced professionally for several years in Denver, Colo., before returning to Nevada City and becoming an integral part of the Holt Ballet Conservatory.

Heiber is a founding member of Alonzo King LINES Ballet and danced with the San Francisco Opera for 18 years. According to Holt, Heiber, who is on staff at the conservatory, brings wonderful comic timing and inventiveness to the eccentric role of the doctor.

"The Firebird" is an enchanting Russian fairytale, telling the story of the magical Firebird and its hero, Ivan. Selbie and Amy Schultze are featured. Schultze danced Firebird 10 years ago as a professional dancer and enjoyed the role so much she performed with a torn meniscus.

"Revisiting the role has been such a gift and I have been able to fully immerse myself into the demands of the character," Schultze said. "I have also enjoyed creating original choreography for this ballet, noting the beauty and complexity of the Stravinsky score. "The Firebird" is a magical story with exciting music, gorgeous costumes and incredible dancing."

A wide range

Holt notes that "Coppelia" is a fun, audience-friendly story while "The Firebird" is exciting and dynamic.

"There's going to be lots of variety — color and sounds, great costumes. It's a feast for the eyes," Holt said. "Live theatre lends itself to an exchange of energy (with the audience). It's very uplifting, very inspiring."

Holt is no stranger to the Don Baggett Theatre. She created the dance programs at both Bear River and Nevada Union High Schools and helped launch the professional dance careers of many local students. In the public school system she taught dance and created a platform for students to learn about dance in all forms. She retired in 2010 to focus exclusively on ballet, which she says is the foundation for all disciplines of dance.

She launched the Holt Ballet Conservatory and now works with nearly 100 students of all ages. Her goal is to not only guide aspiring dancers and artists to become beautiful dancers and empowered people, but to create opportunities for the trained dancers to showcase their talents.

"I hope, and know, from having produced dozens of shows over the years, that each performer feels the satisfaction of having done his or her best during the process and on the stage," she said. "The level of ability of this particular show is very high which makes the bar high for each performer. In rehearsal, each dancer has taken this task of measuring up very seriously. It is an honor to be a part of an earnest dancer's training."

Katrina Paz is a freelance writer for Prospector and is a resident of Grass Valley.


WHAT: Holt Ballet Conservatory presents Masterpieces 2018 — Coppelia, Firebird, and Variations

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday. Box Office opens at 5:30 p.m. for walk-up sales before each performance

WHERE: Don Baggett Theater, 11761 Ridge Road, Grass Valley

TICKETS: Online from http://www.holtballet.com, $16-$20. Reserved seating.

INFO: Visit http://www.holtballet.com, email office@holtballetconservatory.org, or call 530-278-5131 for more information

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