The students on stage will run the age gamut, from 4 to 18, though the show itself is pushing 40 — and it’s never looked better.
Bainbridge Dance Center’s 37th Annual Student Performance — coming to Bainbridge Performing Arts at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 28 and Friday, June 29, and 2 p.m. Saturday, June 30 — will see dancers of various experience levels perform short works choreographed by the BDC faculty, demonstrating artistry and technical skill in ballet, modern, jazz and tap techniques.
A celebrated island tradition since 1981, BDC’s performances showcase how young dancers develop over the course of years of training, said artistic director Christiana Axelsen.
“Students at all levels of modern, tap, ballet, and jazz, have an opportunity to share their hard work from the year,” Axelsen said. “There is something magical in seeing the progression from four year old dancers in their tiny blue leotards up to the professionalism and maturity of the advanced students.”
The performance will also include pieces from world class choreographers who came to BDC this year for artistic residencies, including a new ballet by New York City-based choreographer Christopher Williams, commissioned for the BDC Advanced Repertory Ballet Program: an original production of “Les Sylphides.”
“This ballet was made famous when it premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in 1909, performed by the Ballet Russes [and] featuring Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, and Vaslav Nijinsky,” Axelsen said. “This work has been a delight and a challenge for the students due to Christopher’s deliciously original movement vocabulary.”
First choreographed in 1909 by Michel Fokine for the Ballet Russes with music by Frederic Chopin, “Les Sylphides” is a romantic reverie of sylphs dancing in the moonlight with a young poet. This ballet is in the repertory of nearly every ballet company in the world, according to BDC officials.
Williams, dubbed “one of the most exciting choreographic voices out there” by The New York Times, and “the downtown prodigy” by The New Yorker, is a choreographer, dancer and puppeteer who has made more than 30 original and collaborative movement-based works since 1999.
His work has been presented in the U.S., France, England, Italy, Spain, Holland, Colombia and Russia.
Opening the program will be an excerpt from Molissa Fenley’s seminal work “Energizer” (1980), which is, Axelsen said, a tour de force of endurance, with careful polyrhythms and dense, interwoven spatial patterning.
“I had the pleasure of dancing in Molissa’s company for many years, and I was in the revival of ‘Energizer’ at New York Live Arts in 2013,” Axelsen said. “It was wonderful to bring Molissa out for a residency in the fall and to share this work with the students.”
BDC faculty member KJ Dye, a celebrated Seattle performer, choreographed and collaborated on a piece with the advanced dancers titled “We Are…” that responds to school shootings, lockdowns and the emotional experience of students in this day and age of gun violence, which will also be part of this year’s program.
Also on tap for this year, some strong solo showings from BDC’s senior students.
“We have three seniors this year; Ava Henderson, Brielle Kinkead, and Julia Edwards,” Axelsen said. “They will each perform solos, classical ballet variations from ‘Sleeping Beauty’ set by BDC faculty member Cait Wyler.”
Axelsen took over as artistic director at BDC last year, though she’s no stranger to the school.
From age 3 to 18 she danced at BDC, and has since twirled, leapt and pirouetted her way from there to the bright lights of New York City — with plenty of international stops along the way — and back again.
After her childhood/teenage tenure with BDC, Axelsen returned for the first time to teach alongside Susan Thompson and then-artistic director BryAnn Bingham after graduating from Holyoke College.
For the past 10 years, though, she’s been living the big city life in NYC, dancing professionally and working with many different choreographers and artists. She has danced in Bordeaux, France, Florence, Italy, Istanbul and San Francisco, too.
Tickets, $20 each ($16 for students, seniors and military members) are on sale at www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org.
Visit www.bainbridgedancecenter.com to learn more about the showcase program and BDC.