The series of rehearsals for California Contemporary Ballet’s “The Snow Queen” Ballet (www.snowqueenballet.com) have been underway for over five hours and for Isabella Bunting of Glendale, her most challenging rehearsal of the day lays ahead of her.
When director Erin Holt enters the rehearsal studio, Bunting dutifully ties her Pointe shoe ribbons and tests her weight while balancing on her toes. With flaming red hair and a presence that suggests a level of maturity well beyond her 13 years, Bunting is about to perform one of the most challenging roles in the ballet, a delightful holiday favorite performed to sold-out audiences in Glendale for the past 13 years.
The role of Princess is normally performed by one of the professional ballerinas employed by the Company each year. In fact, many advanced and professional-level dancers auditioned for the coveted role this year. However, Holt explained, “Since this is an original ballet with new choreography, we usually teach the role to a professional just as we would to a student. Isabella is working hard and proving that she can handle the challenging role. She is light and she works extremely well with her partner Nick.”
Reprising the role of Prince for a second year to Isabella’s Princess is Nicholas Zerman of Altadena. He effortlessly lifts Bunting high above his head in a spin and then gently places her back onto her toes.
As the production’s choreographer and artistic director, Holt has faced challenges during the 14-year run of the ballet at Glendale Community College. Many professional dancers seek out opportunities to perform in the myriad of Nutcracker productions rather than face the challenges of learning new choreography required for an original ballet. After all, most Nutcracker variations are an integral part of the training curriculum offered in ballet schools around the nation, so good ballet dancers are already familiar with many sections of the Nutcracker before ever stepping into rehearsal. This makes rehearsals faster for the dancer and easier for a director to produce.
However, this previous familiarity is not the case for any dancer who chooses to audition for The Snow Queen, where all of the choreography is new and the roles are unknown.
“Some dancers are intimidated by the vast amount of new material they have to learn and some dancers just don’t feel they have the time to dedicate to the learning process,” said Holt. Still, she adds that the Company gets plenty of interest from professional talent looking for new opportunities. “We offer dancers the rare opportunity to be involved with something new.”
This year joining the cast is professional dancer Zsolt Banki who recently arrived in California from Hungary where he was a graduate of the Hungarian Dance Academy and was voted Best Hungarian Dancer in 2007. He was the lead choreographer for the popular show “So You Think You Can Dance” that actually originated in Hungary. This season, he joins “The Snow Queen” performing the principal roles of Reindeer and the Crow.
“The Snow Queen” by California Contemporary Ballet will be performed at Glendale Community College on Friday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 17 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m; and Sunday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at www.snowqueenballet.com. Tickets purchased in advance: $25 for adults, $20 for child; tickets purchased at the door: $30 for adults, $25 for child. Group rates available.
For more information, call California DanceArts (818)790-7924.