Local Ballet Hops Onward
I cross my legs and make myself comfortable in my faded green plush seat as the lights of the theater begin to dim, but instead of the expected low rumble of voices fading into silence, I hear clusters of playful screams and exaggerated gasps. On this particular Friday morning, Ballet Fantastique’s performance of The Tales of Beatrix Potter happens to be directed towards an audience of roughly 500 elementary school kids.
After several “shushes” from teachers and parents, the curtain opens, the ballet begins, and the audience is taken into the world of Peter Rabbit and his many animal friends. Sneaking into Mr. McGregor’s garden to snack on various vegetables, sailing to Owl Island to collect nuts, and having an unusually large trout swallow them are few of the adventures the audience becomes a part of during the hour-long performance. Ballet Fantastique’s fresh artistic depiction of Potter’s stories enchanted the hundreds of grade-schoolers and inspired in me a deep sense of nostalgia.
Donna Bontrager, artistic director for Ballet Fantastique, and daughter, Hannah Bontrager, executive director and instructor, started the company in 2000.
“It started as a business. Both my daughters are dancers,” Donna says. “It grew to be the first non-profit professional training school in Eugene by 2003.”
Donna and Hannah Bontrager, who, like her mother, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon, instruct and choreograph at the studio alongside Leanne Mizzoni and Naomi Todd. The studio’s next project is the Summer Dreamworks workshop, which runs mid-July to mid-August and provides classes and workshops for dancers of all levels.
“Our summer program is going to be great,” Mizzoni says. “We have added some new classes and we are very proud to say that our program is a true summer intensive, meaning the dancers are being challenged and we expect them to work very hard.”
This summer Ballet Fantastique plans to perform at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the main stage production of Pride and Prejudice.
In the fall, the company will open a new, larger studio to meet a recent increase in community interest. The new dance center will be located around the corner from the current studio on the corner of East 10th Avenue and Oak in downtown Eugene. Next year’s season includes many new collaborations, which will be posted on Ballet Fantastique’s website.