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New costumes will be featured as part of the GNBC ballet performances on March 15-16 at the NACC. (Photo by Mary Schnepf)
New costumes will be featured as part of the GNBC ballet performances on March 15-16 at the NACC. (Photo by Mary Schnepf)

GNBC staging spring show featuring classic, new ballet

by jmaloni
Fri, Mar 1st 2024 10:00 am

By Joshua Maloni

GM/Managing Editor

For the Greater Niagara Ballet Company, everything old is new again.

The GNBC’s spring performance will pair two classics with a brand-new presentation.

“We're putting on three pieces. The main piece of the night will be ‘The Firebird.’ This is the very first time the company has put on ‘The Firebird,’ ” Artistic Director Mary Schnepf said. “ ‘The Firebird’ is a classic ballet choreographed by Michel Fokine back in the early 1900s. We're very excited to be putting it on.

“We have ‘Concerto,’ which is contemporary ballet, and this was choreographed for the Niagara Civic Ballet Company – which is what we used to be called before we changed our name to Greater Niagara Ballet Company – back in 1990 by the National Ballet of Canada's Alexandra Auld, and it was exclusively for the company. It's in Concerto in B minor, by Vivaldi. And we haven't put that on in about 20 years or so.

“And then we're also putting on the pas de deux from ‘Don Quixote.’ It's the final pas de deux in that particular ballet. We also haven't put that on in about 30 years.

“We're bringing back some of the classic repertoire from the company, and we also have this very brand-new piece.”

The Niagara Arts and Cultural Center is co-sponsoring the spring ballet, which will be staged at 6 p.m. Friday, March 15, and 2 p.m. Saturday, March 16. Shows will be held in the NACC Grand Theater, at 1201 Pine Ave., Niagara Falls. Tickets are available at the door or online. Visit www.greaterniagaraballetcompany.org.

Relative to “The Nutcracker,” the GNBC’s well-known holiday showcase, the spring production is “challenging,” Schnepf explained. “ ‘The Nutcracker,’ we make small changes every year. But it's often the same choreography, and we know it well. So, about 80%-90% of the show we know; it's ingrained in us.

“When we do a spring show, it's either brand-new – that we have to learn from step one – or it's work that we haven't done in so long that we have to review it and learn it.

“I've had to learn all three ballets to be able to direct the show. It's a lot more choreography to remember. The dancers are not familiar with the music, as much as they are for ‘Nutcracker,’ so that's another challenge – just getting used to all the differences. ‘The Firebird,’ in particular, is (an Igor) Stravinsky score, which is also very difficult to count, if you're at all familiar with Stravinsky’s work.

“So, there are challenges, but we're getting through it.”

New costumes will be featured as part of the GNBC ballet performances on March 15-16 at the NACC. (Photo by Mary Schnepf)


The choreography won’t be the only new thing on display.

“For the most part, it's all-new costumes for all three shows,” Schnepf said. “We had a few things in stock, but most of it is all brand-new. We have a brand-new tutu for ‘The Firebird’; all-new ‘Concerto’ costumes, as well.

“The sets are interesting, because we're at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center stage, and there's only so much room right now for backdrops. You can pretty much put one up, but you'd have to leave it up. So, we have built a set for ‘The Firebird.’ Some are pieces from our ‘Peter and the Wolf’ set, some are brand-new. Our stage manager and board member, Mark Yerger, is really helping out with that, with very interesting lighting. We are somewhat limited with the lighting at the NACC, as well.

“It's looking really fantastic. I saw it last week. It's still in process, but it’s looking really good.

“And for the other pieces, we're just leaving it nice and plain, very minimal. … But for ‘The Firebird’ though, it's going to really transform that stage. I hope people are pleasantly surprised when they see that.”

Schnepf said, “Since taking over as artistic director a couple of years ago, I've been trying to mix in some of the company repertoire with new pieces, so we're not putting on an evening of all-new work for us. This is our 57th season, and I just like bringing those pieces back in.

“But we also want to put on new work, and ‘The Firebird’ we chose because there were parts for all ages. We have parts that are for professional dancers, and we have parts for children like 6 and 7 years old and on up. So, it seemed to be an ideal choice to put on for the company in the spring just because it's so versatile. And it's a very popular ballet, too.”

While the GNBC often stages shows at Niagara Falls High School, Schnepf said, “We like performing at the NACC.”

“We’re always really happy to be there,” she added. “It's our home. We've been there for over 20 years as a dance company,” with a studio on site.

“We like working with them,” Schnepf said. “We do hope for more shows to come at the NACC.”

Dancers prepare for the Greater Niagara Ballet Company’s upcoming spring ballet. (Photo by Mark Yerger)

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