Celebrating 30 Years of Ballet in Swarthmore

The Arabian

Donn Guthrie & Elizabeth Si perform The Arabian dance from The Nutcracker (photo courtesy of Arbour Guthrie)

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. IMG_5389 (1)

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 Firebird

Eleanor Runiewicz & Donn Guthrie – The Firebird (photo courtesy of Arbour Guthrie)

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 production is bursting with amazing solos including two lovely performances by Ellen McCullough as Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, Michaela Venuto’s lively tarantella from La Boutique Fantasque, Geraldine Leach’ssweetRaymonda, Naomi Nelms’s delightful jester from Cinderella,and Leticia Prosser’s hauntingly beautiful Odette from Swan Lake.

The audience is understandably excited by the sheer volume of incredible pieces. The

Alex Lily bw for swarthmorean

Lillian Hodges & Alex Voelker – Swan Lake (photo courtesy of Kristen Herzel)

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. 

Though we seldom think of the ballet as a place to go for laugh-out-loud humor, SBT’s classic light touch gets roars from the audience in dances like the hilarious musician with the ballerina playing all his mischievous instruments  from Cinderella (Mia Davis and Theo Runiewicz) and the rescue scene from Coppelia, in which Dr. Coppelius (William Hodges) tries to make a doll (Elizabeth Si) into a real girl and is tricked by Swanilda (Naomi Si) into believing he has accomplished this goal so that she can rouse Franz (Theo Runiewicz) and get him out of the house. The delusional doctor learns within two minutes of having a “real daughter” exactly how frustrating parenting can be. Swanilda’s antics and the doctor’s dismay absolutely bring the house down.
The Black Swan

Mia Davis & Donn Guthrie – Swan Lake (photo courtesy of Arbour Guthrie)

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.

Coveted SBT tickets can be hard to come by, but a few seats are available for the performance this Saturday, June 8th at 7:30pm. Be sure to arrive half an hour before curtain to secure your ticket, first come, first served.
And if you really want to remember to get tickets early next year – sign yourself or your children up for classesLearn more about taking dance classes at SBT here!


Haughty & Flighty

Above: Letitia Prosser  and Elizabeth Miller as silly step-sisters Haughty & Flighty – Cinderella Below: Naomi Si – La Boutique Fantasque (photos courtesy of Arbour Guthrie)

Snobby doll

Amber 2 Naomi

Naomi Nelms as the Jester – Cinderella (photo courtesy of Arbour Guthrie)

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