The Butler Ballets

MALLORY DUNCAN AND BREANNA MANLEY | Arts, Etc. Asst. Editor and Staff Reporter

The Butler University dance faculty is contemplating adding a sixth ballet to its repertory.

The dance department has been rotating five ballets—Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Swan Lake and Coppélia—for many years.

“As a faculty we are trying to enhance what we offer to the students,” said Larry Attaway, dance department chair.

But some students are concerned about the potential ballet changes. The current junior class put together a letter outlining its concerns and sent it to the faculty.

“We are not trying to tell the faculty what to do. We’re just trying to say, ‘If you want our opinion, here it is,’” junior Conner Horak said.

But Attaway said no decision has been made yet, and it all depends on funding.

“The only piece of (the potential ballet change) that has any foundation is that we have been discussing (adding a new ballet) for a long time,” Attaway said.  “We have this series of five ballets that we do and we’ve been discussing finding a way to insert a new one along the way. Whether this would’ve been the time to do that, we as a faculty haven’t made a decision yet whatsoever.”

Horak said the students trust the faculty but want to be involved in the potential change.

“We respect the faculty so much,” Horak said. “They are one of the reasons we all came here, for their training. We don’t want to disrespect them at all, but along with that another reason we came here is for the performance opportunities.  We feel like, if any of those are being compromised, we (students in the department) should say something.”

Another factor that opened up conversation about the addition of a ballet is the Butler ArtsFest, Attaway said.

“As the ArtsFest grows and changes, we want to be sure that our spring ballet can be a substantive part of it,” he said.

This year, by sheer coincidence, the spring ballet “Cinderella” coincided perfectly with the ArtsFest theme, “Fairytales, Fables and Physics.”

Attaway said Cinderella is a great ballet and one of the first ‘story ballets,’ meaning that it tells a cohesive story throughout the ballet.

“It’s very different than other really classical pieces,” Attaway said. “The music is far more contemporary. You don’t see tutus, you see some pretty outstanding dresses.”

Horak, who is cast as the Mazurka soloist and Prince’s understudy, said he is looking forward to his role as a ball guest.

“It’s a great role,” Horak said.  “There’s a lot of dancing. The entire second act is mostly the party guests dancing. It’s really technical. It’s hard and fun.”

While some dancers’ roles are more technical, other roles like Cinderella’s stepmother, portrayed by Erica Johnston, require more acting.

“It’s a lot of acting,” Johnston said. “I don’t dance at all, but I get to be showcased a lot. I’m on stage almost the entire ballet; I get to practice my character’s role.”

As for the rest of the ballet, the story is told through dance. Attaway said the ballet tells the story perfectly because the dialogue is not relevant when you see everything.

If you are looking for a classic retelling of the story, you will not see that in this version. There are no mice that turn into horses, the fairy godmother appears as a beggar woman at first, and the prince is pompous and stuck up before he meets Cinderella.

Another big change is that men, instead of women, play the stepsisters.

“I usually have fun (in rehearsals) because the guys who are playing my daughters, the stepsisters, are hysterical to work with,” Johnston said.

The men took on many challenges when they accepted the roles.

“The two male actors are doing a marvelous job learning how to dance in heels, wigs and other things they have to deal with,” Attaway said.

The rags-to-riches performance will bring to life Sergei Prokofiev’s score under the lights for three magical nights. The music is said to be a favorite of many. Johnston’s favorite part of the production, however, involves another facet.

“I’m biased to the costumes, but that’s just me,” Johnston said. “I actually made Cinderella’s ball costume myself from scratch this year.”

Along with the different aspects of the production, “Cinderella” is a crowd favorite.  Attaway said the biggest difference in the audiences for “Cinderella” compared to other ballets will be age.

Attaway said they have been marketing to children to come see the production. He said they will have little girls walking through the door in princess costumes.

In conjunction with the ArtsFest, a story time will be held for children before the Sunday matinee performance of “Cinderella.” Butler has hired Happily Ever After Productions to bring in some “princesses” for a meet-and-greet before the show. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Tiana and Rapunzel will be there to take pictures and listen to the story with the children.

“(The story event) sold out before we could hardly talk about it,” Attaway said.

He said having children in the audience is great because they so readily believe everything they see.

The dance department is prepared for the long weekend of productions—including costuming, dancing and even collaborating with the Butler Symphony Orchestra, conducted by music professor Stanley DeRusha.

“It’s going to be a really good show,” Horak said. “Everyone’s just so flipping talented.”

Cinderella will open this weekend and run April 25-27. For tickets, contact the Clowes Memorial Hall box office.