The dancers of the Columbus Ballet went from the final performance of “The Nutcracker” on Nov. 29 immediately into rehearsals for Act II of “Swan Lake.” About 20 dancers are also taking part in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which is being presented by the Montgomery Ballet.
The dancers have been practicing since that Thanksgiving weekend.
Kelsey Hirsch, a 17-year-old senior at Northside High School, said they only took a few days off during the holidays. Her mother, Maria, is the interim executive/artistic director of the Columbus Ballet.
Learning the choreography
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The dancers learned the new choreography in three days. The rest of the time was spent “cleaning up” what they learned, Maria Hirsch said.
Colin Hislop of the Montgomery Ballet will play the role of Prince Siegfried in “Swan Lake,” partnering with Kelsey Hirsch, who is playing Odette.
Hislop worked with Kelsey for the first time on Jan. 18 on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
“It makes a big difference” to rehearse with a partner, she said. “I didn’t realize it would make such a big difference. I would go over my part, pretending he was there. But when he was there, it was a different feeling.”
Kelsey said with Hislop at her side, it was much easier to play her character.
What the ballet is about
The story of “Swan Lake” is often told in three or four acts; the Columbus dancers will perform Act II.
The ballet tells the tale of Prince Siegfried, whose royal parents want him to find a bride. In Act II, the prince has fled his castle, and he comes upon a lake with swans swimming. He sees one swan wearing a tiara. As he watches, she comes out of the water and becomes a beautiful princess, Odette.
Odette explains that an evil sorcerer cast a spell on her, turning her and her handmaidens into swans. Only at night do they reappear as humans.
Only the love of a pure-hearted man can break the spell. Siegfried is poised to profess his love for Odette when the socerer appears and prevents the prince from freeing Odette.
In Acts III and IV, the sorcerer returns changing another swan, Odile, into Odette to trick Siegfried. The prince falls for the trick and professes his love to Odile.
Devastated, Odette decides to commit suicide. Siegfried comes to the lake, professes his love for her and begs for forgiveness. They jump to their deaths, breaking the sorcerer’s spell, and Siegfried and Odette are reunited in the afterlife.
The other senior
Alyssa Gantner, an 18 year old who is finishing her final year of high school online, is sad that she’s in her last production as a Columbus Ballet student.
“I think I’m kind of in denial,” she said. “It doesn’t really feel like it’s the last one. It will probably hit me when I’m on stage.”
Ganter said she will continue to take dance classes, but will not pursue ballet as a career.
She’s been accepted to Berry College and the University of Tennessee. At either college, she will study nursing.
“It was a hard decision,” she said. “It took a year.”
Others in the cast
The other tall swans are: Ashley Fortenberry, 16, junior, home-schooled; Rachel Green, 17, junior, home-schooled; Bridget Adams, 27, instructor and Lacey Flynn, 14, eighth grade, Richards Middle School.
The students say “Swan Lake” has challenging choreography to learn.
The performance requires the dancers to spend a lot of time on stage, standing in one position.
Jessica Baldwin, one of the instructors, said this ballet is a good one because it teaches acting.
“This is a very mature ballet,” Baldwin said. “They make it happen.”
Maria Hirsch said “Swan Lake” is challenging and it gives the dancers the opportunity to become better.
“This ballet helps them develop their artistry,” Hirsch said. “They learn to become their characters.”
Sue Simoncini, who is one of the Columbus Ballet’s costumers, is astounded at the dancers’ dedication to learn and become better.
“You can tell they are excited and how much they love it,” she said.