GBT uses past as a springboard for future


The Gainesville Ballet Theatre, shown performing “The Little Match Girl” in 2010, will perform two selections from the original ballet in a program Sunday at the Doris Bardon Community Cultural Center.(COURTESY OF THE GAINESVILLE BALLET THEATRE)

Published: Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 3:38 p.m.

Gainesville Ballet Theatre presents its winter concert, “Pointe to the Future,” 2 p.m. Sunday at the Doris Bardon Community Cultural Center.

The center, often affectionately referred to as “The Doris,” is a new arts facility and gallery at 716 N. Main St.

Admission is only $5 for the dance concert, which includes classical piano as well as guest dancers from Jacksonville.

The repertory performance offers excellence in dance, in an intimate setting and at a highly affordable price. I recommend it to audiences of all ages with enthusiasm.

The emphasis of the Gainesville Ballet Theatre repertoire is ballet in various forms, though “Pointe to the Future” also features contemporary and jazz works from the company, which is in its 38th season.

Choreographers include Samantha Reyes, (formal professional ballerina with Tucson Ballet and Arizona Ballet), Fiona Farrie (formerly of The Royal Ballet, London) and Joni Messler, GBT founder and director.

“It’s a really interesting, eclectic program; running a little over an hour, refreshments will be served,” says Messler, who is past president of the Florida chapter of Dance Masters of America and a recipient of the Florida Dance Association’s annual Nancy Smith Award.

Among the other choreographers, Farrie received the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award from the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars in 1989. This is the same year she created the Romantic ballet “La Bijou” for GBT, which is remounted for “Pointe.”

Sunday’s program will be centered around an original work by Messler. “A two-part ballet of mine, ‘Eclectic Nonsense,’ opens and closes the program,” she says. “We’ve divided it so that the first section is our opener, and the second is our finale. It really frames the whole program.”

Reyes will present guest dancers from Debbie’s Dance Company in Jacksonville, where she teaches. Reyes’ advanced students will perform original contemporary works as well as classical solo variations.

The Jacksonville guest artists are costumed in original creations by Reyes herself, who operates a classical costume company. In addition to her dancing career, Reyes holds a B.A. in design from FL School of the Arts. (GBT costumes are also original works of art, most notably by former GBT costumer-in-residence Marty Panone.)

In addition to Reyes, further “Pointe” contributing choreographers are Rasika Marletto, Lauren Kleiman and Laura Bratcher.

Marletto, a member of SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) is a professional dancer holding a B.A from Berkeley and a master’s from UCLA. She has choreographed a whimsical ballet piece “Dream a Little Dream of Me” for GBT’s Youth Ensemble.

Kleiman’s musical theater number, “Cinema Italiano,” is also new this season, set to music from the film “Nine.” Kleiman is an Orlando native and former Disney World cast member.

Bratcher, who grew up dancing in Gainesville Ballet Theatre under Messler, went on to perform with the professional Southern Ballet Theatre (now Orlando Ballet). For Sunday’s program, Bratcher has re-staged her 1991 lyrical “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Bratcher, Marletto and Kleiman are all currently on staff at Joni Messler Studio of Dance, GBT’s official studio.

The studio offers ballet, modern, jazz, Pilates and yoga, and both Broadway and rhythm tap. It is best known for Gainesville Ballet Theatre’s full-length ballet, “The Little Match Girl,” which will be represented Sunday by two brief selections. In addition to the dancing, there will be live piano played on one of The Doris’ two grand pianos.

Gainesville High School sophomore Derek Curtis will perform Haydn’s Sonata in F Major (First Movement), Sonata No. 84 in D Major by Antonio Soler and Tocatta Lyrica by Dennis Alexander. Derek, an experienced pianist at the state and regional competition level, will have the honor of playing the late Bardon’s Steinway.

The Doris opened last October in memory of Bardon, a longtime Gainesville arts patron and community activist who was beloved by many. To my knowledge, Gainesville Ballet Theatre is the first dance company to perform at The Doris, which should make a fitting location for the company’s performance. “The space accommodates 150, making it an intimate setting,” Messler says of The Doris. “It’s a bright, elegant atmosphere.”

Sarah Maze can be reached at sarahi@ufl.edu.

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