Former county residents dance in Reno |

Former county residents dance in Reno

Michael Levine, a Joffrey Ballet dancer living in Chicago, always hoped for the opportunity to perform closer to his hometown of Grass Valley.

Levine realizes his wish tonight and Thursday when he and his wife, Maia Wilkins, are on the Reno Hilton stage. Levine is the son of artists Howard and Peggy Levine of Grass Valley. Howard Levine is also the executive director of the Grass Valley Downtown Association. Wilkins grew up in Truckee and trained with the Nevada Festival Ballet in Reno. Michael Levine met Wilkins when he joined the company in 1993.

“I just saw Michael and Maia at the Hollywood Bowl Saturday night. Michael was in the ‘Nutcracker’ on a 12- to 15-foot screen. I never saw him so big; they were awesome,” said Howard Levine, who along with his wife will attend the Reno shows. “I’m overwhelmed.”

Michael Levine’s parents won’t be the only representatives from the Grass Valley-Nevada City area. Foothill Flowers’ owner Marie Johnson and 51 other area fans will take a chartered bus today to Reno for tonight’s performance.

Johnson decided to rent a bus after viewing Robert Altman’s “The Company” – which features a year in the life of Joffrey Ballet dancers – during the Nevada Theatre Film Series almost four months ago at the Nevada Theatre. Levine and Wilkins came back home to introduce the film at the two movie screenings, which doubled as a benefit for the Nevada Union High School dance program and Center for the Arts.

“I was motivated to get a bus because two principal dancers in the Joffrey Ballet are Michael and Maia. I’ve known Michael since he was a little boy,” Johnson said. “I knew there’d be a lot of interest (at the Nevada Theatre screening), but I was amazed when I got to the theater and saw people lined up two blocks and six deep to get in. I was thrilled to see that.”

Bus rides sold out several weeks ago by word-of-mouth, and a waiting list was established.

“It’s very exciting; everyone going can hardly wait,” Johnson added. “Individuals from here are also driving in their own cars.”

Michael Levine said he appreciates the support from his hometown.

“It’s really great that all these people my parents know and that I knew growing up here can see us,” he said Tuesday. “I feel immensely flattered they’re coming up to see the show.”

The Joffrey Ballet’s two-hour performances are tonight and Thursday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35, $45 and $60. Call the Reno Hilton Box Office at (775) 789-2285 for ticket information.

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