Isabella Bunting of Glendale, CA Performs Lead Role Of Princess; Guest Performer from Hungary Added To Cast
La Cañada, CA (November 25, 2011) 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 thirteen 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 thirteen years. This year’s Snow Queen performances will be on December 16, 17, and 18 at the Glendale Community College Theater.
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 explains, “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. “It’s a difficult lift, but we’ll get it”, he says with a wide grin.
As the production’s choreographer and Artistic Director, Holt has faced many 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 certainly makes rehearsals faster for the dancer and easier for a director to produce.
However, this previous familiarity is clearly 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. Holt states “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”. Still, Holt boasts 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 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”, which actually originated in Hungary. This season, he joins “The Snow Queen” performing the principal roles of Reindeer and the Crow. He will also be seen as a gypsy. States Mr. Banki “I enjoy living in Los Angeles very much and am learning a great deal about American culture. I particularly like the California Contemporary Ballet’s version of “The Snow Queen”, as it is a very popular story in Hungary.” Mr. Banki will appear in all four performances.
Since its inception, California Contemporary Ballet has attempted to plant the seeds of a new tradition by integrating a cast of professional career talent with well trained, pre-professional dancers from the Company’s youth division.
With a beautiful original musical score composed by Randall Michael Tobin and set against a beloved Hans Christian Andersen story, audiences have the chance to meet a young girl and boy with lessons to learn, exotic creatures performing aerial ballet, gymnastic gypsies, forest animals such as reindeer and crows, and magical characters such as an enchantress and guardian angel. With a supporting chorus that includes an array of characters, from snowflakes and rivers, to flowers and trees, the cast numbers a total of 60 performers.
Bunting admits that she was initially apprehensive about her new role. However, once she dedicated herself to the challenge, she became determined. While watching the couple rehearse, Holt observed, “It was important to them that they be cast together. They wanted to impress and make it happen. They earned their roles”.
Recognizing that the roles of Prince and Princess are so demanding, Bunting and Zerman have committed to daily rehearsals until the opening of the show in mid-December. Holt decided to follow a precedent established by a well-known choreographer. George Balanchine was famous for challenging his young, talented dancers, as evidenced in his famous “Baby Ballerinas”, when he thrust young teenagers into the performing spotlight. This has only added fuel to Holt’s enthusiasm. “There is something truly impressive about a thirteen year old who can handle such difficult professional level choreography.”
“The Snow Queen” by California Contemporary Ballet will be performed at Glendale Community College on Friday, December 16 at 7:30pm; Saturday, December 17 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm; and Sunday, December 18 at 2:00pm. Tickets can be purchased at www.snowqueenballet.com. Tickets purchased in advance: $25 for adults, $20 for child; tickets purchase at the door: $30 for adults, $25 for child. Group rates available. Call Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006. For more information, call California DanceArts 818-790-7924.
California Contemporary Ballet, (http://www.calballet.com) established by Erin Holt, the company’s visionary Choreographer and Artistic Director, is one of Southern California’s burgeoning dance companies. The company is established as a professional company featuring the talent of 5-7 career dancers performing a unique brand of classical and contemporary dance works. They are a non-profit company, providing its members with the opportunity to perform an exciting repertory of innovative and original dance projects performed in concerts, theatre and festivals throughout Southern California. California Contemporary Ballet is the resident troupe of the California DanceArts Academy (http://www.caldancearts.com) located in the foothills of Los Angeles. The school and company share one goal, “to nurture and encourage students professionally and to develop artists performing for audiences with the creativity, imagination and joy of dance.” The company’s annual signature ballet titled, “The Snow Queen”, (http://www.snowqueenballet.com) is a delightful winter production each December starring the career members of California Contemporary Ballet, accompanied by the California Contemporary Youth Ballet, and select dancers from the community, resulting in a cast of 60-70 dancers.