Small step or giant leap?
By LAURIE M. FISHER
hether it's a jig, a jump, or a jet & eacute;, dance fans will notice a new dimension in Ballet Western Reserve's annual spring performance at the Butler Institute of American Art.
This year, three men join the corps of female dancers to interpret eight paintings from the museum's permanent collection. The performances, which include ballet, modern, jazz and Irish step, will be March 8 and 9.
"The addition of male dancers allows more partnering and lifts," said Artistic Director Anita Lin. "They bring strength, energy and a more professional look to the company," she added.
Guest artist: Guest artist Brendan Trewella, ranked eighth in the World Championships of Irish dance, will perform a solo and join BWR dancers in a quartet. The 15-year-old freshman from Cardinal Mooney High School says he's accustomed to being one of a few male dancers among multitudes of females. He and his sisters have studied at the Burke School of Traditional Irish Dance in Youngstown.
Brendan said he knew he would have to work hard but was "honored to be a part of the Ballet Western Reserve's production."
BWR Irish Step instructor Erin Tisdale only recently met Brendan. She choreographed his solo to blend with the modern and Irish step styles of the dancers from Ballet Western Reserve. Tisdale and other BWR staff Anita Lin, Karen Westerfield, Stephanie Thiel and Jennifer Pirtz select paintings from the Butler collection to set a dance.
Selection: "The Wall," a painting by Walter Murch, inspired Tisdale. The green and yellow rectangle represents a piece of a wall, she noted. A lone pear is painted in the corner. Tisdale titled the dance "Responding." The dancers begin by facing each other on each side of an imaginary wall. Each group of dancers responds to the other's movement. Brendan dances traditional Irish Step dance in hard shoes for his solo. The Ballet Western Reserve performers dance in both bare feet and hard shoes during the seven-minute work.
Although this is Brendan's first performance with the BWR dancers, he has worked with Lin for several years. He participated in Cardinal Mooney school plays "Bye-Bye Birdie" and "Mame," both of which Lin choreographed. Lin also helped Brendan learn "some dancers' secrets" to stretching as he prepared for the Irish Step World Championships.
Proper stretching: "Learning to stretch properly allows dancers to jump higher," Lin explained. Proper stretching helps prevent injury, enhance flexibility, and make jumping easier, she added.
"He is this unbelievable talent right here in the Mahoning Valley," Lin said.
Tisdale, a dance and education student at Kent State University, enlisted the help of Joseph McCombs to synthesize music by Bill Whalen and percussionists to create the original music for the dance.
BWR company dancers Paul Miletta and Michael Lewis are more familiar with BWR rehearsals and styles. Although this is their first performance at the Butler, both men danced in other BWR productions. Most recently, Miletta danced the lead role in "Aladdin." Lewis was his evil nemesis the Visier in the fall storybook production.
Miletta said he prefers lyrical and modern ballet styles. He will join other dancers in more contemporary pieces called "Seer," "To Live" and "Prayer of the Children."
Michael Lewis will dance in Lin's traditional ballet choreography of "Giselle Divertisement."
XFor more information or tickets, contact Ballet Western Reserve at (330) 744-1934. Cocktails will be served at 6 p.m. with performance at 7 p.m. The cost is $25 per adult or $10 per student.