Maria Hirsch has plans for the Columbus Ballet. Some of them don’t have anything to do with ballet.
Next year, she plans to add other genres of dance -- jazz, lyrical and modern. That’s quite a departure from her “ballet only” philosophy.
But watching her students graduate and go on to audition for university dance programs or professional companies, Hirsch has realized the importance of her dancers having a broader background in dance.
“These girls are getting ready to go to summer intensive (programs),” she said. “I have to get them ready for that.”
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Another way to get them ready is to get her dancers out of their comfort zone of ballet.
She’s working on that plan now. Character-driven “Peter and the Wolf” and “Carnival of the Animals” are the shows Columbus Ballet will do for their Spring Performance.
Hirsch chose these two ballets to let the dancers “bring out their personalities. And that’s very hard for some of them.”
Hirsch also wanted to reach out to the community to get more children to see the ballet.
“I wanted to do something not as big as ‘The Nutcracker.’ I wanted to challenge the girls.”
It certainly is a challenge for Paige Park, 15, a freshman at Columbus High School. She’s dancing in a duck costume in “Peter and the Wolf.” Dancing in the costume was hard at the beginning “but it should get easier,” she said.
Jonathan Demko, 18, a 2010 Pacelli High School graduate, is one of the few boys currently enrolled in the Columbus Ballet.
He’s been dancing for only 3½ months but absolutely loves it.
“I’d always had an interest in ballet and I fell in love with it,” he said. Demko is playing Peter, the inquisitive young boy who finds animals in the score of the Prokofiev classic.
“It’s such a hard art (ballet),” Demko said. “It takes time and effort and determination.”
Demko said the girls in the classes have made him feel welcome and help him with technique. He is also playing a horse in “Carnival of the Animals.”
While “Peter and the Wolf” is the story of a little boy and a hungry wolf, “Carnival of the Animals” is “a ballet without a story,” Hirsch said. The setting is a zoo and its animals are the stars.
“I don’t know why there is a piano in the middle of zoo,” Ashley Moss, 15, a sophomore at Northside High School, wondered. She’ll represent the role of Piano by wearing a costume with a full, short skirt, decorated with piano keys.
Lacy Flynn, 15, a Columbus High freshman, is the dying swan in “Carnival of the Animals.” If you listen very carefully to the score, you’ll hear some familiar music from “Swan Lake,” but the choreography will be different.
“I don’t think about it; I just dance,” Flynn said about her featured role. “Everyone gets something special to dance.”
Ron Anderson, associate artistic director of the Springer Opera House and director of the Springer’s Children’s Theater Academy, is the narrator of “Peter and the Wolf.” Isiah Harper, the drama teacher at Northside High, is the narrator of “Carnival of the Animals.”