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ART BEAT: Dance companies perform at regional ballet festival

Two of Gwinnett's nonprofit dance companies represented the area brilliantly this past weekend at the Southeastern Regional Ballet Association Festival held in High Point, N.C., from May 6 through 8.

Gwinnett Ballet Theatre and Southern Ballet Theatre are long-standing members of this prestigious organization, and once again they showed audiences why they were chosen to become a member of this elite group.

Shortened to "SERBA," the organization is a branch of Regional Dance America, which has sub-regions all over the country and includes 85 companies and more than 3,000 dancers nationally. Unlike many dance competitions and other dance events, RDA's festivals "affirm standards of appraisal, evaluation and performance to which all members are held." Simply put, it is an honor to be a member of RDA, which adheres to very high qualification requirements.

The annual festival is also a time for lots of fun. The three days are filled with taking classes taught by nationally recognized teachers from outstanding professional companies, auditioning for special scholarships and, of course, performing.

The first evening's performance is dedicated to emerging choreographers and presents new works by young choreographers just beginning their creative journey. Gwinnett Ballet Theatre was honored to have one of its young dancer/choreographers, Lauren Clark, included in this program. Her piece, "Finem Respice," was further recognized by being given the honor of opening the last portion of the program.

The second evening of performances features a variety of styles and music. Southern Ballet Theatre spokesperson Tracy Kaluba said, "Southern Ballet Theatre performed a Frankenstein-inspired piece called 'Trompe L'oeil,' choreographed by Brandon Chitwood. Not only did Chitwood choreograph the piece, he also composed the music and built the set. Adjudicator Richard Rein gave Southern Ballet Theatre Gala Credit."

The last evening is the gala, where the audience dresses in their finest and a party atmosphere prevails. GBT had the honor of again opening the last section of the program with a piece titled "Still," choreographed by Norbert Nirewicz. The central portion of this piece was originally created as a solo for GBT dancer Abigrace Diprima to perform at the Youth Grand Prix competition this past January, where she was a finalist.

Both companies also received their share of scholarships. GBT's Jessica Kaczor received a scholarship to the RDA Craft of Choreography conference, as did SBT's Bethany Smith and Dana Egan. Egan also received a scholarship to Atlanta Ballet's summer intensive. GBT's Diprima and Erin Sipsey both received cash scholarships in memory of Antonio Sisk donated by Roswell Dance Theatre and Eurotard Activewear.

Most of all, the young dancers had a lot of fun. Kaluba said, "Aside from the wonderful classes with amazing teachers, the girls had a wonderful time and appreciated the instruction they received to take them to the next level."

To find out more about GBT, visit www.gwinnettballet.org or the Facebook fan page, "Gwinnett Ballet Theatre." To learn more about SBT, visit www.southernballettheatre.com.

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