Knox College was chosen over the summer as a location for a Moscow Ballet Summer Intensive, which took place Aug. 1-4 in the Auxillary Gymnasium and Harbach Theatre, Ford Center for the Fine Arts. The week concluded with a “Dancer’s Showcase” at the Orpheum Theatre on Aug. 5.
Classes and workshops were provided free to the dancers with support from Knox College, the Orpheum Theatre, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, Arts Midwest and the Illinois Arts Council. Funding from Knox came from the $75,000 Destination College grant which is intended to encourage youth to pursue higher education.
Knox College Professor of Dance Kathleen Ridlon explained how the intensive had to “expand the program offerings so it wasn’t just an intensive but also dance in higher education.”
In order for the program to qualify for Destination College funding the intensive included workshops discussing financial aid, physical therapy and dance research. Knox librarian Nicole Ream-Sotomayor held the presentation on dance research in Seymour Library where intensive participants gained a hands-on research experience.
All ballet classes were taught in the Vaganova method by Moscow Ballet Company member Nataliya Miroshnyk, or “Natasha” as she liked to be called.
“Part of what made it [the intensive] so successful was that we had a professionally gifted individual,” Ridlon said.
Miroshnyk was one of several Moscow Ballet dancers to visit eight U.S. locations this summer. Other locations for intensives included Pittsburgh, Pa., Chicago, Ill., Bloomington, Minn., Pikeville, Ky., and Temecula, Calif.
Among these more populous locations one might wonder just how Galesburg was chosen. The idea was proposed to Ridlon in July by Orpheum Theatre director Kate Francis. Ridlon and Francis applied with the Moscow Ballet and within a matter of weeks the project came together. Ridlon hopes this summer’s involvement with the Orpheum will help build Knox’s connection with the theater as a future venue for Knox Dance and Theater productions.
The Moscow Ballet Intensive was the first summer dance event put on by Knox College.
“As a pilot voyage into summer programming it was successful,” Ridlon said, “I feel encouraged to continue to pursue it and maybe perhaps we could design it at a time when we could reach more of our own students.”
Some Knox students, however, were involved in this summer’s program. Junior Kyla Tully and alumna Angi Rosa ‘11 worked as college ambassadors for the week. Both assisted Ridlon throughout the planning process often putting in 14 hour days.
“I liked the emersion to see what it takes to set up a program like that,” Tully said. She went on to describe the tiring but rewarding week that followed their extensive setup.
Both Tully and Rosa assisted Miroshnyk with her classes. Neither had any previous ballet training but both were able to easily help out and participate. They also added to the programming by teaching belly dancing and hip-hop to the students.
“We taught them three minutes of choreography in an hour and they nailed it,” Tully said.
Tully and Rosa both described the Dancer’s Showcase to be the most rewarding part of the experience. It was held in the Orpheum Theatre as an “open class” that parents and everyone involved with the intensive could watch.
“This was where you could see how much the kids got out of the intensive,” Rosa said. “What’s so great about kids that age is that they talk to you from their hearts and you can see their passion.”
Both ambassadors still keep in touch with students from the intensive over Facebook.
Ridlon, Tully and Rosa all remarked that while dancers thrived in the program, they noticed the dancers kept wanting more dance. All three hope additional styles can be brought into future summer dance programs at Knox.