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Gwinnett dancers garner applause in Austria

Four dancers from Gwinnett Ballet Theatre gained international performing experience when they participated in the Young! Tanzsommer Dance Festival in Tanzsommer, Austria, in June. One of four pre-professional dance companies from the USA, GBT was represented by Mallory Retter, Allison Bridgers, Lauren Ring and Maggie Ellington, with the splendid addition of Atlanta Ballet soloist David Blumenfeld who performed with the young ballerinas.

Beginning June 14, the Festival's first tour, titled "Solaris," saw GBT dancers performing four ballets: "Something," "Mind FX," "Impromptu" and "Five Points." The venues in which they performed were locales such as the Austrian ski villages of St. Johann and Lienz. They performed in the famous Dogana Theatre in Innsbruck, which was built in 1630, to an audience of 3,000 people.

GBT Artistic Director Lisa Sheppard Robson said, "The public at all venues stated that this was the highest quality performance and talent overall from the Tanzsommer Tour to date." The festival is 10 years old this year.

Robson continued, "The highlight would be the performance at Elizabetina, a school for physically challenged children. The children watched every step with such excitement and enthusiasm. The dancers mingled with them after the show and signed autographs. The children were precious and star struck with delight."

The dancers didn't want the tour to come to an end. Lauren Ring, a Brookwood High School graduate who will be going to Point Park University this fall on a scholarship, said of the experience, "This is the best time I've ever had in my life."

Parents went along as well. Cathy Ellington accompanied Maggie, and GBT new Board Chairman Matt Retter and his wife, Meredith, accompanied their daughter, Mallory.

Retter was also impressed with the event.

"The dancers experienced performing in front of hundreds of Europeans and in various historical venues with other young performers from across the United States," he said.

The addition of David Blumenfeld was another big plus for the Gwinnett dancers. Blumenfeld is not only a highly acclaimed soloist for the Atlanta Ballet, but he is also one of the company teachers and on GBT's faculty.

"David treated the girls as if he was their big brother," Robson added. "He added so much to their enjoyment of the venues and performances."

She added in summary, "I was so proud of our dancers. They took advantage of every minute, sightseeing, shopping, getting to know the other dancers. And just when I thought they were exhausted, they would perform with a vengeance. They were so professional and performed with perfection and artistry."

To learn more about the Young! Tonzsommer Festival, go to www.youngtanzsommer.com. For more about Gwinnett Ballet Theatre, visit www.gwinnettballet.org.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail hcalmes@mindspring.com.