Gwinnett performers embark on summer full of learning

It's that time of year again, when Gwinnett area dancers pack their pointe shoes and stuff their leotards and tights into a suitcase. "Summer intensives" are being offered at major dance companies all over the country. Gwinnett is well represented as our talented youth embark on a summer full of learning and growing in their chosen art form.

Gwinnett has so many students attending so many prestigious national dance companies this summer that one Art Beat column isn't enough to list them all. A second Art Beat will follow in a couple of weeks to complete the listings.

For now, we shine the spotlight on Gwinnett Ballet Theatre, which has 20 young dancers attending summer intensives. Four GBT dancers auditioned for, and won, special summer scholarships when the company attended the Southeastern Regional Ballet Association's annual event in High Point, N.C., in May. As fellow dancers whistled and applauded at the final evening's gigantic party, the following GBT dancers were recognized:

Garet Erwin received a scholarship to the Milwaukee Ballet. Sabrina Sandoval was awarded a scholarship to the Atlanta Ballet and also to the Glenda Brown Choreography Project. Allison Bridgers was given a scholarship to the Glenda Brown Choreography Project, as well. Nicole Ranieri received a scholarship to the Orlando Ballet.

Auditions for scholarships and acceptance in summer intensives have been ongoing since the beginning of 2008. Held at various studios throughout the metro Atlanta area, these auditions give major professional company teachers and choreographers a chance to see young dancers grow from year to year. It is a great advantage for the young dancers to show these professionals how they are developing, and many young dancers graduate from high school directly into a company where they have been attending summer intensives for a number of years. Through this audition process, more GBT girls were accepted into summer programs.

Good friends can often attend a summer intensive together. This is the case for Maggie Ellington and Jennifer Hite as they head south to the Orlando Ballet for the summer. Erin Sipsy and Jessica Kaczor will be going to Joffrey Ballet Midwest in Flint, Mich. Clara Guyton will attend the Joffrey Ballet in New York City. Sisters Nancy and Kiley Casciano will attend North Carolina Dance Theatre along with Alison Bell.

Abigrace Diprima will be spending her summer at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Anna Mott will be attending the Kirov Academy in Washington, D.C. Trinicia Bodden and Bianca Melidor will venture to New York City to study at Alvin Ailey.

The Joffrey Ballet also has a Southern Campus in Milledgeville, where more GBT dancers will be found this summer: Claire Bockhop, Mackenzie Messick, Lauren Pappafotis and Jordan Silas.

Best wishes to these young ladies. They will surely return in August to begin the new season with strengthened skills and lots of stories about their summer adventures.

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