In the year 1989, Tim Berner-Lee made a proposal for an information system that would become the World Wide Web. The wreck of the Bismarck was found. Driving Miss Daisy was declared Best Picture. The Berlin Wall came down.
And, in a picturesque Arts & Crafts style edifice that was once the home to the Swarthmore Women’s Club, Swarthmore Ballet Theatre was born.
Artistic director, Lori Ardis, had been dancing and teaching professionally for many years already. But something magical happened when she brought her love for the craft to Swarthmore. Since 1989, SBT has nourished thousands of students with self-discipline and joyful learning, and treated audiences to wonderful performances through the non-profit that shares SBT’s home, The Lori Ardis Ballet Company.
In celebration of SBT’s 30th anniversary, Mrs. Ardis and her daughter, Amber Flynn, have choreographed a sumptuous production featuring the absolute fan-favorite dances from three decades of performances. This production soars from the sweet strains of The Nutcracker to the drama of Giselle, and everything in between – including The Dream Weavers conceived by Ardis & Flynn, and two ballets composed by SBT fixture, Ray Lindsey.
The anniversary collection program allows SBT to highlight many more dancers than in a single ballet production. Behind the scenes over one hundred volunteers are responsible for dozens of sound cues, hundreds of beautiful costumes and thousands of hours of classes and rehearsals to culminate in a performance that will take your breath away!
The production opens with a pas de deus from The Firebird. Eleanor Runiewicz is magnificently birdlike in her manner. She and Donn Guthrie as the Prince perform thrilling lifts and dance with a crisp formality appropriate for a man accepting a magical feather from a fantastical fowl. Other wonderfully dramatic dances include the death-defyingly difficult Arabian pas de deux from The Nutcracker (Elizabeth Si and Donn Guthrie), a swift and spine-tingling pas de deux between The Black Swan and the Prince from Swan Lake (Mia Davis and Donn Guthrie) and a dance from Giselle that has veteran SBT ballerina, Grace Hodges, descending believably into madness in a solo that puts the final episodes of Game of Thrones to shame.
The audience is understandably excited by the sheer volume of incredible pieces. The
energy in the intimate space is at its peak during joyful dances like Kitri and Basilio and their tornado of pirouettes in Don Quixote (Rose Hodges and Theo Runiewicz), The Hungarian from Swan Lake (Lillian Hodges and Alexander Voelker) and the stageful of energetic dragonflies from Cinderella.
In all, Ardis and Flynn fly the audience through forty-three dances from fourteen ballets in a tight two hours that feels much, much shorter. The small stage is transformed again and again, and is occupied by dozens of dancers who are each fully committed to his or her role. It is a daring production that delivers a performance worthy of the decades of dance it represents.