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Getting to know the new dancers: Emily Dixon

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

1. Where are you from? I was born in Lubbock, TX but I grew up in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in a city called Colleyville, Texas.

2. Where did you train/dance before coming to Colorado Ballet? I received my early training at the Ballet Academy of Texas under the direction of Lisa Slagle, Tom Nicholson and Jenny Johnston. After graduating high school, I joined Tulsa Ballet II where I stayed for two seasons. Next, I moved to Sarasota, Florida to dance with Sarasota Ballet under the direction of Iain Webb. I performed with the Sarasota Ballet for five seasons until I moved here to Denver to join the Colorado Ballet.

3. What did you do with your summer break? The word that comes to my mind when I think about my summer break is "transition." I spent the summer at home in Texas with my family as I prepared to make the big move to Denver. It's a heavy thing to leave a place that you've lived in for five years. I have so many wonderful friends and memories of my time in Florida, so it was both exciting and difficult to leave. It was great to spend time in Texas to mentally transition and gear up for the next chapter in my life. There's something about home that reminds you of who you are, and I believe that before a big life change it's important to remember that. I was poured into by many close friends and my parents which I'm incredibly grateful for! Aside from preparing for the move, I kept myself in shape by taking ballet and yoga classes every day. I also taught ballet to little ones quite a bit- that's always fun!

4. What age did you first start dancing? What do you remember from your first class? I took my first ballet class when I was five years old. I wish I remembered it, but I don't. My mom tells me that she first took me to a gymnastics class, and I insisted that I wear a tutu to that class. I did! The gymnastics teacher came out after and told my mom to put me in ballet!

5. Who are your ballet role models? Dancers that inspire you. Kelly Yankle. I met and danced alongside of Kelly in Sarasota. She taught me so much. Not only is Kelly a beautiful dancer, but she's a beautiful person. Kelly took me under her wing, so to say, and coached me from the inside out. She immediately recognized my battle with fear and made it her goal to battle alongside with me. Kelly constantly reminded me to be bold and to not apologize for who I am no matter what. I saw that fearlessness in her dancing, and it's something I want to be someday. I strive to be the bold and tenacious, yet gracious dancer and person that Kelly embodies. 

6. Proudest moment in your ballet career? Goodness, that's a hard one! I just think of many times that I've been overwhelmed with gratitude over the opportunity that I've been given to do what I love. I remember coming off stage after performing a pas de deux choreographed by Sarasota Ballet Soloist Alex Harrison called The Blue Hour, in which I was partnered by Ian Tanzer. We had one shot at this difficult pas de deux, and we did it. We had the most beautiful and emotional time on stage, and we both left feeling so grateful for that chance! Another proud moment was after performing Ashton's Monotones II with Juan Gil and Daniel Pratt. That ballet is all about partnership and teamwork between the three dancers, and when you do it, you feel such a sense of gratitude for your partners...and their patience haha!!

7. Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher? I'm going to twist this one a bit and use a teacher, but not a ballet teacher- my father. I admit that I struggle with intimidation a lot in the studio. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a flashy technician. I'm not the strongest, but I love to dance. I love to perform. I want to tell a story, my story, and it's my aim in this profession to convey a message to the audience and leave them wanting more of the story. That being said, my dad (who knows me well, right?) told me this one time, and it's stuck with me ever was before a performance. He said, "Em, don't dance to not mess up. Dance to give your gift to the audience. If you dance in fear, you are withholding and hiding. Give yourself freely and confidently. Don't withhold. Give." My heart is full of a story that I want to share with the audience, and I'm continually learning to give and to not withhold. We've been entrusted with a gift- and everyone's gift is different- but it's a shame to hide that gift just because you're afraid of being rejected or of failing. Thanks, Dad :)

8. Favorite ballets to dance? Which are favorite to watch? Three ballets immediately came to my mind, and they're all made by George Balanchine : Who Cares?, Diamonds,  and Serenade. I found such freedom in performing all three of these ballets. I was one of the 5 girls in Who Cares? and I had SO much fun. The 5 girls part is incredibly hard, but it was a joy to dance because the movement was cute and playful, and who doesn't love a good Gershwin score?!? Diamonds holds a very special place in my heart because while we were learning and performing this ballet, I really came to know who I am. We live environment that can easily steal our identity as women and point out all of our flaws, and Diamonds reminded me of my worth. Despite my imperfections, I'm a priceless and rare creation of God- like a diamond. I was challenged to remember that. Last, Serenade. I've yet to meet a girl who doesn't love this ballet! The music alone is enough to make one cry. I found my own personal story in the four movements of Serenade,  so performing it felt like I was out there giving a testimony through my way of speaking- dancing. 

9. Dream role? Definitely Juliet Capulet. I love to act, and her role is so raw with emotion.

10. What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)? Well, there's lots of things I enjoy doing. I really enjoy taking yoga classes after work every day. I also love spending time alone digging into the Bible. I'm a believer in Jesus Christ, and I love learning more and more about biblical history and diving into the text. So I'm a bit of a book nerd in that sense! I also have some dear friends that live here in the Denver area, and I love spending time with them when I can. I'm always one for a good heart to heart conversation- I'm fueled by those deep friendships! I'm also a big shopper, so I try to keep myself out of the stores :)

11. What are some of your indulgences? Oh dear, this is a dangerous question! The earlier question about free time brought up my love of shopping. When it comes to shopping indulgences, I'll admit that I'm a Lululemon addict. When it comes to food, everyone who knows me well knows that I LOVE peanut butter. If you give me a jar of peanut butter, I'll gladly indulge :)

12. Do you have any pre-performance routines/rituals? I gain my inspiration and confidence from my faith in Jesus Christ. Before a show, I will usually spend some time in the Bible getting strength from His promises. You can find me with my ipod in and turned up with a playlist of encouraging music to get my heart and head in the right place. Then, you can usually find me taking in a spoonful of peanut butter before hitting the stage :) 

13. What production(s) are you most excited about this year? Considering that my favorite ballets are all Balanchine, I'm excited about Concerto Barocco. Concerto is definitely different that the three ballets that I mentioned earlier, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. I've never performed a Balanchine ballet that I didn't fall in love with and many of them have pushed me outside of my comfort zone.

Getting to know the new dancers: Emily Speed

Thursday, September 11, 2014

We sent out a questionnaire to our new dancers to get to know them a little better.  

Here is the response from one of our new Corps de Ballet dancers, Emily Speed:

1.  Where are you from?

The Dallas/Fort Worth, TX area

2.  Where did you train/dance before coming to Colorado Ballet?

I have danced with several different companies including Alabama Ballet, Ballet Tucson and Boulder Ballet. Before graduating, I trained with Marina Almayeva.

3.  What did you do with your summer break?

My husband and I were married and he moved here to Denver. I also went with Kevin Wilson to Jackson, MS and competed in the USA international ballet competition there. We performed a classical pas de deux and a contemporary duet.

4.  What age did you first start dancing? What do you remember from your first class?

My first dance class I was only 3 years old but didn't start my classical training until much later. I just remember I always loved dancing and performing.


5.  What was your first ballet you remember attending?

It was a gala, but I remember they performed "Le Spectre de la Rose."

6.  Who are your ballet role models? Dancers that inspire you.

I love watching Natalia Osipova because she is such an amazing technician and isn't necessarily what you first think of when you think of a ballet dancer.

7.  Proudest moment in your ballet career?

It is hard to pinpoint one, but I am really proud to be where I am right now and it was a culmination of many events that has made me the dancer I am today.

8.  Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?

Amanda McKerrow has always told me to just "stay present" on stage. It seems simple but for me it is always a good reminder to not think about what's already happened or what will and to truly focus on the role no matter how big or small.

9.  Favorite ballets to dance? Which are favorite to watch?

Don Quixote has so much life and is always fun to perform  and I also loved performing Serenade. I love watching all the classics but especially GiselleSwan Lake and La Bayadere.

10.  Dream role?

Medora in Le Corsaire or Kitri in Don Quixote

11.  What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?

I really enjoy spending time with my family and husband. I love yoga, cooking, and traveling.

12.  What are some of your indulgences?

Chocolate :)

13.  Do you have any pre-performance routines/rituals?

I get really chatty when I'm nervous or excited for a show but I like to have my hair done first and wait to finish my makeup until just before curtain. Depending on the part, I check certain sections from the piece on stage. If I do it well once I leave it there but I have to do it well once. I also like to say a quick prayer thanking God for the opportunity to do what I love.

14.  What production(s) are you most excited about this year?

George Balanchine's "Concerto Barocco"!!!!!

15.  What would you say to people who come to see the Colorado Ballet?

Denver is such a wonderful place with so many great things to do but there is something really special about participating in the arts. Thank you for watching and sharing in a wonderful part of this community.

Colorado Ballet promotes two Soloists to Principals, adds six new Corps de Ballet dancers

Monday, August 04, 2014

Colorado Ballet promotes two of its Soloist dancers to Principals and adds six new Corps de Ballet dancers, for a total of 30 Company dancers.

Artistic Director Gil Boggs promoted Dana Benton and Domenico Luciano to Principals.

Benton is now in her 14th season with Colorado Ballet.  In 2001, she joined Colorado Ballet as a Corps de Ballet member and was promoted to Soloist in 2007.  Her notable roles include Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Swanilda in Coppélia, Cow Girl in Rodeo, Ave Maria Pas de Deux, Clara and the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Gulnara in Le Corsaire, Tinker Bell in Peter Pan, Lucy in Dracula, Princess Florine and Diamond Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, Pas de Trois in Swan Lake, Peasant Pas in Giselle, Flower Girl and Cupid in Don Quixote, Hermia and Peaseblossom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the featured role in Amy Seiwert’s Traveling Alone.

Luciano is in his second season with Colorado Ballet.  He joined Colorado Ballet as a Soloist during the 2013-2014 season after serving as a Principal dancer with Dominic Walsh Dance Theater in Houston.  His repertoire includes many of the classical principal leads including Romeo, Paris, and Benvolio in Romeo & Juliet, Solor in La Bayadere, The Prince in The Nutcracker, Albrecht in Giselle, Onegin in Onegin, and Don Jose in Carmen, as well as several contemporary works.

Colorado Ballet’s new Corps de Ballet dancers include: Joshua Allenback, Ariel Breitman, Emily Dixon, Oliveira Fernanda, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch.

In addition to the new Corps de Ballet dancers, 20 Studio Company dancers will join the 30 professional Company dancers this season for the productions at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.  Colorado Ballet's Studio Company is a pre-professional training opportunity for dancers with the potential and desire to become professional dancers.

Colorado Ballet’s preview and repertory performance of An Evening Under the Stars will take place on August 16 at the Arvada Center Outdoor Amphitheater.  The company will officially open the 2014-2015 season with A Midsummer Night’s Dream on September 26 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

Dana Benton


Domenico Luciano

Dancers of Colorado Ballet to host Fancy Footwork

Monday, April 07, 2014

Fancy Footwork poster - photo by Francisco Estevez Photography

The dancers of Colorado Ballet will host Fancy Footwork from 7-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 10 at the Colorado Ballet Studios.  The event has a suggested $10 donation at the door.

Join the dancers of Colorado Ballet for a one-night only show featuring pieces chosen by the dancers themselves. Selections will range from excerpts of the great classics to new contemporary works by choreographers within the Colorado Ballet family. Along with an awesome show, guests will have the opportunity to bid on one-of-a-kind items and experiences, in a silent auction, tailored by the Colorado Ballet dancers. Join us for what will surely be a great night of dancing and fun.

Click here for the event page on Facebook

Photo: Tracy Jones, Kevin Hale and Sean Omandam
By Francisco Estevez Photography

Here is a promo video created by the dancers:

Colorado Ballet's Cinderella - Waltz Rehearsal

Friday, February 14, 2014

This video features artists of Colorado Ballet rehearsing Cinderella.

Colorado Ballet Interviews Jesse Marks - One of the Cinderella Stepsisters

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

This video includes an interview with Colorado Ballet Soloist Jesse Marks and features rehearsal footage of artists of Colorado Ballet.

Colorado Ballet Interviews Sharon Wehner - Cinderella

Monday, February 10, 2014

This video features an interview with Colorado Ballet Principal Dancer Sharon Wehner and rehearsal footage featuring artists of Colorado Ballet.

Colorado Ballet's The Nutcracker - Interview with Dana Benton

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Colorado Ballet's The Nutcracker - Interview with Klara Houdet

Thursday, December 05, 2013

This video includes rehearsal footage featuring artists of Colorado Ballet.

The Nutcracker - by Sharon Wehner

Friday, November 22, 2013
By Sharon Wehner, Colorado Ballet Principal Dancer 

The Nutcracker. No other ballet in the history of dance has become so synonymous with Christmas and American tradition.  It’s hard to believe that the ballet originally flopped when first premiered at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in 1892.  In fact, it did not truly become the phenomenon it is today until re-staged by Willam Christensen and the San Francisco Ballet more than fifty years later.  Tchaikovsky’s score, originally critiqued by some as “ponderous” and “insipid” is now employed for everything from football blooper videos to automobile commercials.  I once walked out of Macy’s in defiance when the “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy” came on over the speakers.  It was my first time dancing the role, and I had broken out in a sweat when the music infiltrated my unsuspecting psyche while innocently shopping for Holiday gifts. 

It’s not that I don’t like the Nutcracker or its music.  On the contrary, it has become an inherent part of my life, my career--literally part of the fabric of my being.  I am not exaggerating.  To a professional ballet dancer Christmas without Nutcracker would be like Thanksgiving without turkey...we joke about its ubiquitousness, but deep down we are ever so slightly addicted to it.  I have numerous friends who have retired from dancing and they are still involved in the Nutcracker.  If not actually performing as a guest dancer, they are teaching other children how to be toy soldiers and Mother Ginger’s polichinelles, or at least attending as an audience member.  Like an old friend, the Nutcracker never really leaves a dancer’s life completely.

How did we become infected with such a virus?  Everyone has a different story.  My first experience with the Nutcracker was as a child watching Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov on PBS.  I can remember being all alone in the living room (my brothers were not so interested), entranced by the magical story unfolding before me.  The televised version of Baryshnikov’s Nutcracker was not only technically flawless from the dancing perspective, but also included close-ups of Clara’s enchanted facial expressions and Drosselmeyer’s ambiguous and mysterious side show.  In the final scene, I was truly convinced that Clara in fact had not been dreaming, but had journeyed to a magical place in another dimension--a place that I was dying to be a part of myself.  Little did I know that one day, I would indeed be a part of Nutcracker-land, over and over and over again.  

Every year, at least one person looks at me with pity and says that they don’t know how we dancers can stand performing the same thing 30 times year after year.  And in the next moment, another person will look at me with bright eyes when they learn I am a ballerina and exclaim, “Do you dance in that show...the Nutcracker...I LOVE that one!”  It’s an interesting dichotomy in which we are placed.

The truth is that most dancers don’t actually loath performing the same thing over and over again.  Most of them enjoy the opportunity to master their craft at something, to have it so in their system that they can relax enough to enjoy the experience of being on stage and connecting with an eager audience (it is rare to find any Scrooges attending the Nutcracker).  Of course, there are exceptions.  If there are particular roles or choreography that a dancer is not fond of, you can imagine the kind of torture it would be to put on a happy face in front of 2,000 people every day for the entire month of December. 

But boredom itself is not a problem for most dancers.  Ballet is a live performing art.  Even though the choreography is the same, there are an infinite number of ways to execute and find character, nuance and expression within those steps.  When I dance the Sugarplum Fairy, I feel as if I am dancing with three partners.  There is my Cavalier with me on stage, there is the conductor and orchestra in the pit, and beyond that there is the audience.  Each of these partners plays a crucial role in the art I am creating on stage, and they are different every performance.  In addition, my body is never the same body from day to day, moment to moment.  Although we may look light and effortless as we piroette and jete across the stage, in reality we may be having a serious conversation with a sore hamstring or knee in order to create that illusion.

The Nutcracker is a love-hate symbiotic relationship with all involved.  As dancers, we never get to go shopping on Black Friday, we have to check our gluttony on Thanksgiving and Christmas day (no-one wants to see a plump Plum or hung-over Prince rolling around the stage the next day), and Holiday Parties must go unattended.  Christmas shopping usually happens at midnight on the computer when we get home from the theatre.  Christmas cards get written in the physical therapy room while waiting to get an ankle adjusted between matinee and evening performances.  Often we are unable to go “home” to visit our families.  The theatre becomes our home.  The other dancers, musicians, and stage-hands become our family.  Every year Davie, our prop guy, sets up a fake Christmas tree in the Green Room of the Opera House.  Although we don’t sit around it singing Christmas carols, its presence is comforting as we fill our coffee cups in preparation for the second show of the day.  The sheer athleticism of performing six weeks straight inevitably takes a physical and emotional toll on us.  Compound this with the universal stress that comes with the Holidays, and most dancers are ready to collapse when the curtain comes down on the last performance.

That being said, there is also an intangible “specialness” that comes with being a performer during the Holidays.  If you can strip Christmas-time of its commercialism, emotional baggage and stress, there is a festive, beautiful, and generous spirit that can be tapped into.  For many, attending the Nutcracker is a way to fill that cup.  Ultimately we dancers understand our responsibility as magic-makers, and we feel honored to do so.  There is nothing more satisfying than finishing a well-executed Nutcracker performance and knowing a thousand little faces will leave the theatre smiling and wondering if Clara really did have a beautiful adventure with her Nutcracker Prince.


Sharon Wehner as Dewdrop in The Nutcracker, photo by Mike Watson



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