Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Natalia Bashkatova shares thoughts on Teaching and Performing

We are so excited to share a little bit about our 
Academy faculty member: Natalia Bashkatova!

We asked her a few questions and here is what she had to say:

Pictured: Natalia Bashkatova

1. What do you enjoy most about teaching?
The enjoyment of teaching begins where you start to see your students improving their skills! Ambitiously to say, but I love when my kids want to be in your class and their parents appreciate you for your involvement into their child's life! Every single student has a talent and it feels just right to be able to recognize it, work on bringing this talent to the maximum level! At the end of the day when they are standing on stage and bowing to the audience who is shouting Bravo!; it's my moment of satisfaction as a teacher and mentor!

Natalia Bashkatova teaching at the Central Florida Ballet

2. Do you pre-plan your combinations for class?
Of course I prepare my class in advance, not all of it, but the structure of it. Ballet class is all about the placement and logic.

3. Tell us about your dancing background; your school and companies you worked for. Who are some of the teachers that have inspired you?
My background starts in Moscow, Russia when at the age of ten I got accepted to the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. I graduated in the Summer of 1989 and was accepted to the Bolshoi Theatre Grigorovich Ballet Company.  During my school years, I had five amazing ballet teachers, but during the last two years I was in a class of ELENA Ryabinkina legendary Russian ballerina who also danced alongside Galina Ulanova, Maya Plisetskaya and Ekaterina Maximova! She continued to work with me in the Bolshoi Ballet and prepared me for my first Swan Lake principal role at age 20! I was very fortunate to start dancing principal roles at such a young age. I was touring around the world very intensively these years and was recognized as the Best Ballerina in 1993 at the Spoletto Festival in Italy. The major input into my professional career I would give to Mr. Yuri Grigorovich who choreographed semi-classical ballet repertoire for the Bolshoi. I was extremely lucky to work privately with this iconic choreographer!

Natalia Bashkatova performs the White Swan pas de deux in Swan Lake with the
Bolshoi Theatre Grigorovich Ballet Company

The next phase of my career falls on guest artist period! New York City Ballet tour probably most recognizable, I shared the stage with names like Heather Watts, Wendy Whelan, Valentina Kozlova, Jack Soto and of course partnering with those incredible male dancers like Damian Woetzel, Ben Huys and Igor Zelensky!

In the present time I am still performing full time as a ballet artist with worldwide known Cirque Du Soleil here in Orlando. Come to see La Nouba and you see me perform! I have been with Cirque since 1997. It's my second production which I started back in 1998.

Natalia Bashkatova in full costume for Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba

4. What do you work on in class?
In my class I mainly work on the classical form of ballet! I am representing Vaganova Style and very much follow the major roles and requirements of this style.

5. If you could describe your ballet classes in three words, what would they be?
Form - Style - Discipline

6. You recently choreographed a contemporary piece for the World Ballet Competition, did you enjoy the process? Was it difficult to think of original choreography?
I choreographed before, but not for the professional ballet stage. It was my debut as a choreographer to expose my work for a professional dance auditorium. I think the most important for a choreographer is their signature unique style. I was very surprised that many dancers already recognized my style.  My inspiration always is music! And I was very fortunate to work with this talented girl Jasmine Jasper who was at the time a student of the Central Florida Ballet's Academy. In September of this year she continued her ballet studies at the American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York City.

Contemporary piece choreographed by Natalia at the 2016 World Ballet Competition
(performed by Academy student: Jasmine Jasper)

For more information about the Central Florida Ballet and its Academy, please visit www.centralfloridaballet.com or call 407-849-9948

Friday, September 9, 2016

Dancer Pays Tribute to Friend who Died at Pulse

The Central Florida Ballet will commemorate the 15th Anniversary attack on the World Trade Center with its stirring performance "9/11 An American Moment” to be held at Northland, A Church Distributed this Sunday, September 11, 2016 at 2:00pm.

David William Scott will be a featured performer and sat down to share his thoughts on the production - and the personal impact of the Pulse attack in Orlando.

Where were you when you heard about the 9/11 attack?
I was in school in between two classes. They made an announcement that school was cancelled for the rest of the day and to go straight home.

What does dancing in this tribute performance mean to you?
It's a honor to be asked to perform in this show. I previously had been living in NYC that summer and I knew a couple of friends who had lost a loved one. I always dedicate my performance to them.

In the performance, you will be dancing a pas de deux titled "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. It's a very emotional piece with lots of lifts. What do you think about when you perform the piece? How do you connect with your partner emotionally?
Jenna is a beautiful dancer and I feel as if we have a great chemistry together. As I perform this piece I try to emote the beauty and emotion this piece requires. It is a little difficult with all of the lifts but Jenna is great and is very dedicated.

Do you know anyone affected by the Pulse attack? If so, tell us more.
I lost a very dear friend in the Pulse attack: Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado ❤️. He was an amazing dancer, father and most of all friend . I've been to the nightclub on numerous times growing up. It was very hard for me when I first found out because I was supposed to be there that night but decided I should stay in instead. It has made me a stronger person and reminds me to tell my friends and family how much I love them everyday. 

Pictured: Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, a victim of the Pulse attack.

Have you been to New York and if so, what is your most memorable experience there?
I had the opportunity to dance with the School of American Ballet for their year-long program. I absolutely loved it. My most memorable experience was being asked to do a dance photo shoot in Central Park!

Do you have any pre-performance rituals and how do you prepare?
I always review my choreography before I go out and dedicate my performance to someone (usually my mom!)

Anything special we should know about your performance on Sunday?
It's hard to believe that it's been 15 years since this has happened. I am so thankful for the opportunity to perform and this performance will be dedicated to those who have lost a loved one at Pulse.

Pictured: David William Scott

To purchase tickets for the 9/11 Tribute Performance visit: http://www.myboxoffice.us/program/911-an-american-moment-784 or call the Central Florida Ballet at 407-849-9948 ext 10

Use code: northland for 50% off your ticket order (valid for tickets up to $30)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Israel Rodriguez Talks 9/11 and Upcoming Tribute Performance

The Central Florida Ballet will commemorate the 15th Anniversary attack on the World Trade Center with its stirring performance "9/11 An American Moment” to be held at Northland, A Church Distributed this Sunday, September 11, 2016 at 2:00pm.

Audience favorite, Israel Rodriguez, will be a featured performer and sat down to share his thoughts on the production.

Where were you when you heard about the 9/11 attack?
I was in my apartment when my wife, Katia Garza, woke me up. At that point we thought it was just a fatal airplane accident.

What does dancing in this tribute performance mean to you?
It does mean a lot to me. I can't imagine what those families go through every year at this time. I wish I could do more. It is an honor to be part of this tribute to them.

In the performance, you will be dancing a solo titled "That's Life" sung by Frank Sinatra. It's a very New York piece. Who choreographed the piece and what is the inspiration behind the choreography?

The choreographer is the talented Terrance Henderson. We all know we live in a life full of “ups and down”. When I dance this piece, I don't think only of my own "ups and downs" I have gone through but also my friend's and family's. That is my inspiration!!

Have you been to New York and if so, what is your most memorable experience there?
Yes I have and I love New York. I remember one day I was running late for an audition for the “Dirty Dancing“ Broadway show. Then I got there and they told me I had to sing to get the part Haa! and nope I cannot sing to save my life.

What NY tourist spot would you recommend to visit?
I would say all of them but I would recommend the New York Public Library.

Pictured: The New York Public Library

Do you have any pre-performance rituals and how do you prepare?
I always thank God for the opportunity given and then pray for my and everyone's health and success on the show then, I listen to music.

The way I prepare may be a bit different. Besides my daily classes and rehearsals, I practice and train a lot of Martial arts, boxing and running like if I will fight for a title :)

Anything special we should know about your performance on Sunday?
We all will be dancing from our heart. We will be celebrating the life of those who left us, we will dance for Orlando.

To purchase tickets for the performance visit: http://www.myboxoffice.us/program/911-an-american-moment-784 or call the Central Florida Ballet at 407-849-9948 ext 10

Use code: northland for 50% off your ticket order (valid for tickets up to $30 and expires 9.9.2016)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

9/11 Tribute Performance Announced

The Central Florida Ballet will commemorate the 15th Anniversary attack on the World Trade Center with its’ stirring performance entitled “9/11 An American Moment” - to be held at Northland, A Church Distributed on Sunday, September 11, 2016 at 2:00pm.

Created in 2006, “9/11 An American Moment” is an original production that pays tribute to the victims of 9/11 and to the first responders, armed forces, fire fighters, and law enforcement officers who risk their lives daily to protect our country. The production captures the poignancy of tested and proven American patriotism; her courage, faith, resolve and pride in response to the World Trade Center attack.

During the hour-long performance various types of dance are featured and take you through a storyline of scenes describing the before, during, and after the attack. It gets “very real” with the inclusion of news-broadcast sound bites and a depiction of a child praying on the loss of her father after the disaster.

“With the recent Pulse tragedy, this performance has an even greater impact on our community." says Vasile Petrutiu, Founder and Executive Director of the Central Florida Ballet. "We hope to use this performance to continue uniting our community and a portion of proceeds will benefit the One Orlando Fund. We are also giving veterans, first responders, and family members of a Pulse/9-11 victim or survivor a free ticket."

New for the 15th Anniversary tribute will be audience favorites: Israel Rodriguez and David William Scott who are featured among a cast of local talent. Furthermore, the Boone High School Choir was selected to open the performance.

CFB's production received national recognition in 2007 by the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. The Honorable Tom Feeney recognized Central Florida Ballet as “the only company in the Nation to have choreographed a ballet based on this fateful day.”

 Photo from Central Florida Ballet's 9/11 An American Moment production

Tickets are $20 standard viewing area, $30 prime viewing area, or $50 VIP Donation (and is tax-deductible). Tickets can be purchased online or be made by calling the Central Florida Ballet – Box Office at 407.849.9948.


About the Central Florida Ballet: Innovative ballet productions, educational programs, and international partnerships are the keystones of the Central Florida Ballet with glowing recognition from ABC News, CNN, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and the U.S. House of Representatives. The Central Florida Ballet is a not-for-profit organization.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ashton Gordon talks moving and life in Canada

Ashton Gordon at the National Ballet School of Canada

We recently sat down with Ashton Gordon to discuss her move last fall to the National Ballet School of Canada and reminisce on her time training at the Central Florida Ballet.

Ashton Gordon came to the Central Florida Ballet (CFB) from a local competition studio. Her teacher recognized a deeper focus in ballet at age 8 and recommended her to join CFB's official school: The Ballet Academy of Central Florida. She progressed quickly, going on pointe at age 9 then competed in the World Ballet Competition the following year and took the Bronze medal in the Introductory Category. Ashton also received scholarships to Ballet West and Valentina Koslova's Dance Conservatory of New York. She was a student company member through her years at Central Florida Ballet and performed featured roles in many performances: including Maria (Clara), Spanish Lead, and Doll in The Nutcracker.

At what age did you start training at the Ballet Academy of Central Florida?
I started training at the Ballet Academy of Central Florida when I was eight years old.

What have been some of your favorite performances or experiences with the Central Florida Ballet (CFB)?
One of the best experiences I've ever had with CFB was performing Maria/Clara in The Nutcracker in Romania. It was an amazing performance opportunity, but it was also just a fun trip with the whole studio, like going on a not so relaxing vacation with all your best friends.

Ashton performing the role of Maria in the Central Florida Ballet's The Nutcracker.
Photo by: Deedee Sherman and Virginia Trudeau

How did you receive admission into the National Ballet School of Canada?
Describe a typical day.

I was accepted into the National Ballet School of Canada after attending their four week summer program in July of 2016. The whole four weeks was an audition for the year round program, but I also had to send in a video audition for the summer intensive.

In a typical day for senior students, academics run from 8:15 to 12. Ballet class is at 1, and takes an hour and forty five minutes. Then we have a fifteen minute break to put our pointe shoes on and pointe class is usually an hour and fifteen or an hour and thirty depending on if we have rehearsal afterwards. If there's no rehearsal then we will have an hour and a half of modern or yoga, ending the day at 6:30. Then we go back to residence to eat dinner and do homework until it's time for bed, then we get up and do it again!

How do you keep in touch with family and friends?

This sounds really bad but I don't really keep in touch hahaha. I've always been awful at replying to messages and I prefer to be with people in the moment. Thankfully I have friends who understand that about me and when I come home, it's like I never left. On a whim I'll just call a friend, or check in to see how they're doing and we'll talk for hours, but I'm not sure that'd be good for my grades or my social life if I did that all the time. As for my family, we just send messages randomly of things we find funny or what we think they might like, and we have a group chat that's always open for encouragement and conversation.

Have you visited any landmarks or exciting places? What is popular among locals?

The great thing about living in a big city is that there's always something to do or explore. I've been to almost all of Toronto's attractions like the CN tower, Toronto islands, Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery Ontario, and Casa Loma. Coffee shops are really popular with locals, but most of the students just go to the grocery store as an outing because it's only a block away and there's food there.

Ashton at Sorry Coffee Co. with a view of in Canada the background.   

Ashton (2nd from right) stands in front of a Museum in Canada. 

How are the classes different from CFB?

Classes here are much slower than at CFB. Mr. Vladimir and Mr. Vasile have taught me all of the ballet curriculum, and the NBS staff has been refining the movements and developing all that I learned at CFB. We also tend to keep the same class for days, even weeks, at a time to work on technique; whereas I always got fresh combinations everyday at CFB which is an essential skill for auditioning.

What did you learn from CFB that has helped you during your time there?

CFB has always encouraged me to work to my fullest potential everyday. I received positive feedback from the administration of NBS on my hard working attitude and teachability, which was a major factor in my acceptance to the school. A piece of advice I received from Mr. Vasile has stayed with me, as I know it has with many other CFB  students, to not just work hard but to work smart; and I feel like that has had a huge impact on my training.

Ashton Gordon during her time training at Central Florida Ballet.

What has surprised you most?
Well for one, the weather came as a bit of a shock, even though I knew it was coming. And the building, as well as studios, are so much more beautiful in person than pictures, but other than that nothing has taken me by surprise in the best way possible. All of my expectations were met, and exceeded as far as the quality of the training, and all the students are extremely supportive of one another.

What are you looking forward to the final days in the Spring Semester and what are your summer plans?
What I'm most excited about in the spring semester is the spring showcase performance that features grades 10, 11 and 12. We will be performing Yondering by John Neumeier, which was choreographed on NBS students, as well as Balanchine's Serenade that is both challenging and incredibly beautiful. It could be anything though honestly, I just love performing!

*For information on classes at the Ballet Academy of Central Florida, please visit http://www.centralfloridaballet.com or call 407.849.9942 ext 10.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Leap into Dance with our Biggest Sale of the Year!

The Central Florida Ballet's Academy is now enrolling students for summer programs and fall classes. 

Those who enroll for fall classes by April 9 will receive:
*A complimentary placement class
*Annual Registration fee is WAIVED
*Two general admission tickets to the June 11, 2016 Recital
Total Value You Save $85 

Classes are offered Monday through Saturday. Courses are designed for everyone, from tiny beginners to advanced dancers. 

 If you would like to set up a placement class or have any questions, please call us.

Central Florida Ballet
Phone: 407-849-9942 ext 10
Website: http://www.centralfloridaballet.com
Studio Address: 3306 Maggie Blvd, Suite B, Orlando, Florida
Located seconds away from Holy Land and Orlando Metro Gymnastics! 

Photo by: Rodrigo Athie Photography 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Interview with Meredith Harrill

CFB Alumna: Meredith Harrill
Photo by Michael Cairns

Meredith Harrill began her ballet studies at the Central Florida Ballet and later studied at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C. on scholarship. She competed in the Finals of the Youth America Grand Prix in New York City, was a finalist in the World Ballet Competition, and a trainee with the Joffrey Ballet and BalletMet Columbus. Since joining State Street Ballet in 2013, Meredith has toured nationally and internationally with the company and has been a featured soloist in numerous ballets by resident choreographers William Soleau and Robert Sund.

We sat down with Meredith to discuss her time at the Central Florida Ballet, her recent engagement, and what it has been like to become a professional ballet dancer.

At what age did you start training at the Ballet Academy of Central Florida (BACF)?
I started at BACF when I was eleven years old

How did BACF help you transition into being a professional dancer?
Before training at BACF I had been a competitive gymnast and lacked basic knowledge and technique in ballet. BACF provided a solid foundation to build on and then push even farther. Whether it be an extra pirouette, longer balance, or more expression, the instructors at BACF always encouraged you to push past your comfort level and do more than the day before (while maintaining cleanliness).

 Meredith competing at a Gymnastic Competition

What performances did you enjoy dancing the most with the Central Florida Ballet?
I enjoyed performing 9/11 An American Moment while with the Studio Company. It has a really powerful message and the choreography allows a certain amount of individual expression and interpretation. I also always looked forward to Nutcracker each year. It was inspiring to watch the dancers you looked up perform certain roles and then as the years went by have the opportunity to perform them yourself. It was also a treat to perform in the Linda Chapin Theater and be a part of such a large scale performance (with so many amazing professional dancers) as a student.

How did you receive your scholarship offer to Kirov and your first company offer with the Joffrey Ballet? Was it tough to leave your family and friends? How did you keep in contact with them?
I attended two summer intensives at Kirov Academy in Washington, D.C. and each time was offered a scholarship to attend year round. The second year, when I was fourteen, I felt I was ready to make that commitment and leave home to pursue training there. It was very difficult to leave my family and my second family at BACF. I was so excited initially, I don't think it really hit me until I moved into the dorm and had to say goodbye to my parents. I made some really close friends at the school, and since we were all in the same situation we provided a great support system for each other. After my Junior year at Kirov I auditioned for the Joffrey Ballet's Summer Intensive in Chicago and received a letter I had been accepted in to their year round Trainee program. Since Joffrey was a company I always aspired to and their program had strong contemporary training as well as ballet, I decided to attend there my last year of school. With Facebook and other forms of social media, it has been fairly easy to keep in contact with my friends from BACF as well as the other schools I attended.

 Meredith with fellow classmates at the 
Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C.

You have been a member of several companies - describe some of the differences between the companies. How was a "typical day" different from each company?
After being a Trainee with Joffrey and BalletMet and a company member at State Street Ballet, I've had several different experiences of company life. All three companies are the same in that we start the day with a technique class, followed by a short break and then about four to five hours of rehearsal. Because I was a trainee at the first two companies rehearsals usually involved a lot of understudying and learning from the back, which was sometimes more stressful since you had to be prepared to step into any spot at any given time. Joffrey and BalletMet were also larger in numbers and therefore there would be some rehearsal periods you weren't called to. State Street only has about twenty company members including apprentices, so were usually being used at all times and there aren't enough people for understudies, or even a second cast. It allows for a lot of opportunities and stage time I might not have received at a larger company.

How were the cultures/daily life of the cities different or the same?
The cultures of each city I've lived in have been very different. Chicago (my personal favorite) allowed for a city life, but with a midwest attitude. There was always something going on and a lot of dance and art to experience. If you weren't performing there was always another company that was. The dance community was also very connected there, so there was a good chance you would know someone in the performance. Columbus was a bit of a slower pace. Once I settled in and found my way around it had some really awesome areas, and things to see. Now I live in a total change of scenery in Santa Barbara, CA. It's about as close to paradise as you can get, but we are one of very few dance companies in the area, so you have to keep yourself motivated and inspired and not get too lost in the laid back lifestyle.

Meredith with her father, Don Harrill, in Chicago

What did you learn from the Ballet Academy of Central Florida that has helped you as a professional dancer at these professional companies?
One of the most important things I learned at BACF that has helped with my professional career is proper etiquette and demeanor in class. The determination to stay focused and work on bettering yourself will get you farther in a company than you might think. The way rehearsals were run is similar to how it is in company life and those long Satudays and Sundays, were a great preparation for what was to come in the future. I remember there was one time when I was worried I wasn't ready for a competition and I wanted more time to rehearse and Vasile told me it didn't matter how much rehearsal I had, if I was confident in my technique I should be able to perform anything the day I learn it. I still think of that whenever we're learning a new piece of rep. It's a great reminder, especially now when we typically have about three weeks to learn and clean a ballet before opening.

What is a typical day like at State Street Ballet?
My typical day begins with arriving to the studio at 8:30am to warm up for 9:00am class. We have a fifteen minute break after class and then a two hour rehearsal period followed by another half hour break and two more hours of rehearsal. I'm currently working on five different pieces of choreography for some of the students in our school, so recently I've been in the studio a bit more.

Meredith performed the Doll in
 State Street Ballet's 2015 Nutcracker production

What have been some of your favorites roles/productions/experiences with State Street Ballet?
My favorite productions at State Street thus far have been Tango Rain, Scheherezade, and Common Ground. Tango Rain by William Soleau was my first opportunity to have a pas de deux at State Street and Bill's choreography is always so fulfilling to perform. Scheherezade is one of my favorite scores and we had to opportunity to work with Autumn Eckman, which made it an extra special experience. Common Ground closed our season last year and it opened with another one of William Soleaus pieces, which was made of three different pas de deuxs each one representing a different relationship. It was a technical and artistic challenge and made me develop a new idea of storytelling and interacting onstage. The other part of the program, a contemporary piece by Edgar Zendejas, was a collaboration with two other companies and experimented with our physical limits.

Meredith performing with the State Street Ballet

Have you started any wedding planning?
I haven't started any actual wedding planning, we're going to take our time and enjoy being engaged, but I haven't been able to help myself from browsing wedding dress sites.

 Meredith with fiancĂ© Kyle Peete

What is the next performance you are working on and what can we expect from you in the future?

We're about to start working on Don Quixote, which has always been one of my favorite ballets and will be very exciting. Recently I've been choreographing a lot more and have some exciting endeavors coming up involving both choreography and dancing. Currently, I'm just focusing on improving and continuing to push myself to develop every aspect of my dancing.

*For information on classes at the Ballet Academy of Central Florida, please visit http://www.centralfloridaballet.com or call 407.849.9942 ext 10.