Art beat: Gwinnett ballerinas receive awards at Sera

Young dancers from both Gwinnett Ballet Theatre and Southern Ballet Theatre received honors and scholarships at the 2009 Southeastern Regional Ballet Association's annual festival held in Montgomery, Ala., on May 7 through 9.

Twenty companies from around the Southeast participated, including the pre-professional companies from the Atlanta Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theatre. That GBT and SBT received honors while in the company of many fine ballet companies speaks highly of our homegrown artists.

The festival consisted of dancers taking classes from nationally prominent artistic directors during the day as well as performing at night. Each teacher selected a Star Student who had impressed them throughout the weekend. Dancers took classes in classical ballet, modern, jazz and hip-hop.

Teachers this year included ballet luminaries Wes Chapman, ballet master of American Ballet Theatre and artistic director of ABT II, and Robert Barnett, artistic director-emeritus of Atlanta Ballet. For hip-hop instruction, the dancers were thrilled to be taught by Joshua Allen, the winner of last year's television hit, "So You Think You Can Dance." There were 12 teachers in all, each selecting a Star Student.

Gwinnett Ballet Theatre was the recipient of two Star Student Awards. Chapman, of American Ballet Theatre, selected 14-year-old Nancy Casciano. Jazz teacher John Virciglio selected Abbigrace DiPrima. Teacher Deidre Carberry, assistant professor of dance at University of Cincinnati, selected SBT's Cassie Trenary as her Star Student.

GBT also collected four scholarships. Nancy Casciano won a SERBA cash scholarship award which will go toward her summer intensive at the School of American Ballet in New York City, where she has already been awarded a scholarship. Nancy will begin Parkview High School as a freshman this fall.

Jessica Kaczor, who will be a junior at St. Pius this year, won a scholarship to the Glenda Brown Choreography Project at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. Nicole Ranieri, who just graduated from Brookwood High School, won a full scholarship to the Orlando Ballet. DiPrima, who will be an eighth-grader at Five Forks Middle School this fall, won a full scholarship to North Carolina Dance Theatre in Charlotte, N.C.

SBT's Trenary received a different but lovely accolade. During the festival's "partnering class," where female and male dancers learn the intricacies of "pas de deux," Cassie was invited by teacher Robert Barnett to help him demonstrate. Almost 50 years ago, Barnett had partnered Cassie's teacher, SBT's Artistic Director Phyllis Allen, and he told the class how he remembered partnering "Little Phyllis" in those days long ago.

Both companies performed to great applause. GBT opened the event on the Thursday evening's Emerging Choreographer's Concert with David Blumenfeld's "Floe." That evening also saw GBT perform a piece titled "Egoiste" choreographed by GBT dancers Allison Bridgers and Mallory Retter. GBT performed again Friday evening, presenting "Push the Bar" by Robert Dekkers. SBT presented a fantastic end to Friday's performance with a Circe du Soliel-like fantasy ballet titled "Defy" by Brandon Chitwood.

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