A Year at City Ballet
Welcome to City Ballet! Your dancer(s) and you are about to start a productive year with our program, whether you take ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip-hop or character. City Ballet’s goals are to nurture a love of movement, music, and performance while training dancers through a structured syllabus that builds their technical expertise and their physical strength. Because of this, a season with City Ballet has a distinct pattern that seeks to accomplish these goals for dancers over the course of a dance year.
Fall – Beginning or Moving Up in Your Discipline
A year of regular classes runs from August to May. Summer classes are offered in June, July and early August. Dancers who have previously studied with City Ballet will use their teacher’s recommendations as to class level; new students should consult with City Ballet’s Director, Sandra Zellinger, as to their best placement. Many students choose to take classes in more than one discipline (ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip-hop or character).
The fall is spent refreshing skills for students who have taken the summer off, and building classical technique for all students through various structured exercises. Ballet classes are traditionally organized, including stretching, barrework, port de bras, adagio, pirouettes, petite and grand allegro. Students are also offered the opportunity to choreograph short dances during various holiday classes. The techniques and skills begun in the fall are built on throughout the course of the year.
The Nutcracker – A Performing Opportunity for Selected Dancers
City Ballet performs a full length, richly costumed and staged version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet the first weekend in December at the Stewart Theatre at North Carolina State University. This is a wonderful, professional performing opportunity for students, and is made possible through the efforts of City Ballet staff and parent volunteers. City Ballet dancers are joined by guest artists, which in past years have included Carolina Ballet dancers.
Auditions are held at the beginning of the dance year (usually late August). There are roles available in the production for dancers and actors (male and female) from the ages of seven through adult.
Parents and dancers alike must realize ahead of time that a dancer who receives a role in the Nutcracker is making a serious commitment of time and energy from the beginning of rehearsals in September through the performance on the first weekend of December. Rehearsals are held on Saturday and Sunday through the fall (although not all dancers will have to rehearse every weekend) and dancers are expected to attend each rehearsal unless they have cleared their absence in advance with Mrs. Zellinger. In addition, the entire week before performance weekend, dancers will be attending class and technical rehearsals at the theatre after school.
The performance is always scheduled for the first weekend in December. There are four performances: Friday evening, Saturday matinee and evening, and Sunday afternoon. Tickets are sold at the studio.
Parents of dancers will be asked for their volunteer help with some aspect of the program – from ushering, to costume mistress to prop construction. Each dancer is charged a costume fee for the maintenance of the production costumes.
Dancers and parents who have not seen a City Ballet Nutcracker are encouraged to view a video from a previous production if they are considering auditioning. This is a wonderful experience for children and adults alike.
N.C. School of the Arts – A Weekend for Selected Dancers
N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem sponsors the annual Festival of N.C. Dance in February. Selected dance schools are invited to attend, bringing a limited number of dancers for a very intense weekend of dance classes taught by the distinguished faculty of the School of the Arts. The City Ballet faculty invites a small number of dancers, 11 years and older, to attend and represent City Ballet. Dancers stay two nights at a hotel near campus and are responsible for their hotel, food costs, and dance tuition.
City Ballet also auditions a repertory piece for the Festival. This piece is choreographed by a guest choreographer working with selected advanced students. The piece is adjudicated in January, and if selected, is performed at the Stevens Center at the end of the Festival weekend.
Cecchetti Exams – Technical Skills Testing for Ballet Dancers
City Ballet belongs to the Cecchetti Council of America and is the only dance program inRaleigh that trains dancers in the Cecchetti method, an internationally recognized method of classical ballet training. Beginning in early winter, ballet classes begin to focus more intensely on Cecchetti technique. The Cecchetti syllabus focuses on the technical and artistic accomplishments of students who have been prepared by member teachers. Each level provides attainable goals that build self-confidence in developmental progress and successful achievements. Optional Cecchetti exams are offered for selected students in March. These exams allow students the opportunity to demonstrate technical abilities and an understanding of the course material. Students recommended for examination are chosen with consideration to dedication, level of technical skill and willingness to study and practice. National adjudicators travel to Raleigh to administer the exams. Not all students take the exams any given year. It usually takes 1-2 years to reach the level of competency required to successfully dance for an examination. Students may take examinations for 4 levels of student exams and 3 professional levels. There is a fee to take the exams. Students who pass the exams receive certification from the Cecchetti Council of America. City Ballet students may also apply to attend a 2-week summer program sponsored by the Cecchetti Council of America at Hope College in Holland, Michigan during July.
Spring Recital – A Performing Opportunity for All Students
In mid-May, City Ballet holds its annual recital for all students in its dance programs. Like our Nutcracker, this is a fully costumed and staged production that offers all dancers the opportunity to experience a professional performance.
Each class performs one dance that is rehearsed during the spring months in their regular class. If a dancer is taking more than one class at City Ballet, they will be in a dance for each one of their classes – including all ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip-hop, and character classes. Parents will be responsible for the cost of the costumes for each dancetheir dancer is in and students will keep their costumes after the recital. The recital costume fee will be posted at the studio.
The week prior to the performance, dancers will be required to attend after school and occasional early evening rehearsals on stage at Wakefield High School. Some of these rehearsals can be lengthy, although every attempt is made to dismiss the youngest dancers as early as possible. There are four recital performances: Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon. Younger classes will alternate casting with similar level classes with each class dancing in one, or two performances. Tickets are available in advance by mail. For dancers and parents who wish to commemorate this high point in their dancer’s year, videotapes, photographs, and t-shirts are available for purchase. City Ballet families receive 2 to 4 free tickets, depending on the number of students enrolled in classes.
Like the Nutcracker, the style and quality of recital that City Ballet produces is only possible because of the generous efforts of parent volunteers. A parent meeting is held mid-winter to solicit volunteer participation for everything from set painting, costume preparations and prop constructions to ushering and dressing room supervision.
City Ballet is very proud of its recital productions, and suggests new and prospective students and families may want to view the videotapes of past recitals that are available at the studio.
Summer Program – A Time for Experimentation and Fun
The regular dance year ends with the annual recital; however, City Ballet runs a summer program with short, intensive workshops offered in ballet, pointe, tap, modern, hip-hop, and jazz. Classes are available for several weeks of the summer. Students can select which individual weeks they would like to dance. Offerings range from “Sugar Plum Variations” to “Angelina Ballerina Camp”. A limited number of on-going classes are also available during the summer.
The relaxed atmosphere of summer classes makes them an excellent time to try a new discipline. Dedicated ballet dancers might want to try jazz, modern or tap for a change of pace. Summer classes also allow serious dancers a chance to maintain or improve their technique in order to aim for a more challenging role in our next production. Professional guest artists run 1-2 week variation workshops.