Beyond Waiting in the Wings: Boston Ballet School's Next Generation

I was once a small child waiting in the wings. The heat and glow of the stage lights pressing against my face as I waited for the music’s cue to step out onto the small stage at the University of Waterloo at Carousel Dance with an audience full of eager and anxious parents and distracted and disgruntled siblings. So many of us have been there; dancing in small town performances that were mini milestones in a life that lead us elsewhere and off stage. Within those classes and performances though, there was always a dancer or two with a different dream and the drive and talent to make that dream a reality.

Boston Ballet

Whether you are a student of the arts, of ballet, of music or you are a parent or teacher, taking part in what is a pivotal moment for the artists of Boston Ballet’s Next Generation performance is something really special. In a field with lots of insecurity and unknowns, inspiration is priceless. Because I am at the studio often, taking my daughter to her classes, I get a behind the scenes look at the amount of time and energy that goes into creating Next Generation. It isn’t luck or chance that puts a dancer right in the middle of his or her dream. It is an incredible amount of hard work along with just the right kind of talent. That is something worth celebrating and sharing with the students in your life whether they are studing dance, music, art, science, engineering or some other field.

As a child, I idolized Karen Kain. She was my prima ballerina from the National Ballet of Canada.  Since those days, many have followed in Karen Kain’s footsteps and Kain is now artistic director of National Ballet of Canada.  As a teen I moved to New York and learned of my new dance teacher, Allegra Kent’s, famous history. Occasionally, Ms. Kent would bring in a young dancer from New York, Damian Woetzel, to teach us and all we knew was that he was older, cute and kind of a big deal. Allegra Kent was known as Balanchine’s ballerina and after retiring from the stage she passed on her teachings and her stories to us: her students. She continued to work with her next generation, the ones that followed in her footsteps. As time goes by, dancers lifelines grow and change.

In a way, the dance world is very small. It is broad and international, but to be a professional dancer takes talent and a degree of talent that isn’t something that can be taught or learnt. Even the most talented dancers don’t always land where they think they will.Each company has something they are looking for and it can’t always be pinned down. Boston Ballet has a Pre-Professional program that is a very specific path for dancers that are hoping to become part of a company some day soon. Next Generation is a milestone for the Pre-Professional students and BBII, which is Boston Ballet’s trainee company.

Boston Ballet School, members of the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra from New England Conservatory, and Conductor Jonathan McPhee in Next Generation; photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy of Boston Ballet
Boston Ballet School, members of the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra from New England Conservatory, and Conductor Jonathan McPhee in Next Generation; photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Next Generation is one of the most professional student performances I have seen and my daughter and I both look forward to going each year.  The orchestra for the evening is the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra from New England Conservatory.

Next Generation features Boston Ballet II, Boston Ballet’s second company, members of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and 98 Pre-Professional program students, ages 13–19, from across the United States and around the world. The program opens with an orchestral performance of Beethoven’s Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus. Then, the entire Pre-Professional program performs Les Passages, a piece set to the music of Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi and choreographed by BBS faculty.

Following Les Passages is The American with music by Antonín Dvořák and choreography by Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, known for his work with New York City Ballet and his Broadway adaptation of the film An American in Paris.

The evening continues with a new work choreographed by BBS faculty member Igor Burlak titled Double Concerto and set to music by Bohuslav Martinů. Burlak danced with Miami City Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, and Minnesota Ballet before joining the faculty at BBS in 2011. Burlak has been instrumental in cultivating the BBS Student Choreographic Initiative, which premiered in February of 2018.The program closes with Act III of Raymonda by ballet master and choreographer Marius Petipa set to music by Alexander Glazunov with additional choreography by Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen. The Pas classique hongrois (or Raymonda Pas de Dix) from the final act of the ballet is one of Petipa’s most celebrated and enduring excerpts, and widely considered the ultimate test of the classical ballerina.

“Next Generation is a wonderful opportunity to see BBS Pre-Professional students and BBII on stage,” said Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen. “It gives you a sneak peek at future Boston Ballet dancers.”

For Boston Ballet School, Next Generation is a very big deal.  Hanging in the ballet library at Boston Ballet, is a photo of the cast from a Next Generation performance many of whom are now dancing with Boston Ballet and other companies. The performance is open to the public, and is an experience worth sharing with the greater dance community. Boston Ballet Company members show up in the audience taking a night to see the Boston Opera House from a different angle for a change.

“This performance propels our students into the professional realm, providing them with the opportunity to showcase the culmination of their training years,” says Director of Boston Ballet School Margaret Tracey. “As a ballet school, this traditional model of a graduation is one of the most defining moments in a young dancers experience; their careers begin with the final moments of their student life in our Next Generation performance.”

In a sense, this performance is like an extravagant audition for many of these students, but not a nail biting kind of audition.  This is what they have been preparing for their entire lives. From those first days of standing in the wings just a few feet high with the heat and glow of the stage lights warming their cheeks and igniting a glow in their hearts and souls telling them that this is the path they will travel to become who they know they are meant to be. This is where they want to be. It is where they need to be. It is what they have trained so hard to become. And you, you are invited to be there to witness it all.

Next Generation is a one-night-only performance will take place on Wednesday, June 6th at 7:00 pm, at the Boston Opera House.Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased at bostonballet.org or 617.695.6955.

Third in a Series: Boston Ballet School’s Next Generation from Boston Ballet on Vimeo.

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  1. Pingback: World Ballet Day | Leah's Life: Pearls and Oysters

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