“I love the musical score,” said the dance company’s founder, artistic director and choreographer Alexander Van Alstyne. “The choreography is really hard but it is a beautiful ballet. I really like the classics.”
Van Alstyne, who founded the A.V.A. Ballet in 1994, said that the dance troupe has been working for more than eight weeks to perfect the classic fairy tale with a twist. Van Alstyne re-choreographed the ballet classic to incorporate his contemporary style of ballet and condense the performance from its original four hours to an hour and a half.
“I wanted to make it new and fresh,” Van Alstyne said.
Van Alstyne grew up with his parents being heavily involved in the arts. His mother was an opera singer and his father a conductor for Ballet West in Utah, where Van Alstyne finds his primary dancers for his pieces.
For the role of Cinderella, Van Alstyne flew to Utah to find dancer Kate Crews.
“She is a phenomenal technical dancer,” Van Alstyne said of Crews. “She is strong and this part is hard to do physically.”
Crews, who grew up in Chicago, has been dancing since the age of 4, and professionally since the age of 17. This is Crews’ third season performing with the A.V.A. Ballet.
Even though Crews is a full-time professional dancer with Ballet West, she has been working hard in her free time to perfect the role of Cinderella. Crews explained that normally a ballet company will have two to three weeks to put a performance together, and she has been working during her down time for nearly a month for the Reno show.
“A.V.A. is a gift for me,” Crews said. “It’s really great to have works created for me and work with the director. (Cinderella) is more a contemporary style that Alexander likes to do.”
However, Crews admits she doesn’t give much thought to the princess she plays on stage, even though little girls may dream of being Cinderella.
“When I’m working on it, it’s my passion, my craft and my job,” Crews said. “When I step back and look at it, that is when I think about how blessed I am to do this work.”
The A.V.A Ballet has not only enlisted top-notch dancers but also top-notch musicians. The Reno Philharmonic has been rehearsing to perfect Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s musical score.
“The Cinderella ballet is difficult for the orchestra,” said Reno Philharmonic conductor Barry Jekowsky. “The score is stunning. The music is lush, beautiful, haunting. It’s a real treat just to hear the score, nevertheless watch the ballet.”
Jekowsky said that members of the Reno Philharmonic have been practicing individually but came together Tuesday and Wednesday to practice before dress rehearsals with the dancers. He said that practicing for the A.V.A Ballet production is more difficult than a normal philharmonic performance.
“It is very different,” Jekowsky said. “The main reason, as the conductor, we strive for an interpretation of the music that is our own. It becomes more collaborative.
“The role of the conductor is to make sure the entire company is comfortable,” Jekowsky explained. “The tempos need to be as such that they dance comfortably. I constantly watch the stage to make sure the choreography looks comfortable. If it’s correct, the dancers feel that and it looks good.”
While Jekowsky may not often have the opportunity to conduct for ballet performances, he has worked with the A.V.A Ballet before.
“I enjoy collaborating with the A.V.A. Ballet,” Jekowsky said. “Reno is lucky to have a ballet company of that quality.”
“I hope that especially in this day and age, this performance can take people away from their daily lives for a moment,” Crews said of the enchanting performance. “There are still fairy tales.”
Jekowsky echoed Crews sentiments.
“I hope people leave the world at the door and feel refreshed, entertained and inspired,” he said. “Adults, wake up your young-at-heart feeling.”
Tickets for “Cinderella” are $26 to $51 for adults and $21 to $41 for children under 12 and seniors. Tickets can be purchased at the Pioneer Center Box Office, at www.pioneercenter.com or by calling (877) 840-0457.