The curtain rises as a hush falls on the crowd. The spotlight flashes onto the stage, revealing the pitter patter of feet moving from one end to the next. Each movement has a beautiful fluidity that only dancers can express. The Children’s Ballet Theatre (CBT) has been grooming young dancers for 35 years. They opened their doors as a dance company focused on teaching youth ages eight to 18. To audition for the company it’s required that dancers have at least two years of experience so that they
CBT is primarily operated by the parents of children in the company, and they are just as dedicated to the company as the dancers are. “It’s such a huge time commitment,” Cindy Kangas, a CBT board member says, “It takes hours and hours to make a production happen. You have to really love it.”
The board is divided into committees that keep the company running smoothly. Some parents handle marketing, some sew the costumes while others paint props that make the stage come alive. Without their work, the show would not go on.
CBT performs two main shows each year: The Nutcracker and a spring show. Dancers perform ballets such as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. Because these young dancers perform shows that are usually performed by professionals, they gain so much experience at a young age. Cindy noted that, “most of these kids want to be principle dancers; we make that happen and provide the kids with a wonderful performance.”
Roughly 55 dancers are brought into the company each year, with some traveling from as far as Detroit. Occasionally, they borrow guest male dancers from local colleges, including Grand Valley State University and Alma College. The dancers are selected by Choreographer and Artistic Director, Gregory George. From there, three different levels of dancers rehearse the choreography with the Ballet Mistress, Patricia Villanueva.
The children selected to perform with CBT rehearse on the weekends and dance with their own studios during the week. All dancers are required to dance a minimum of one hour a week, with some of the dancers in the studio for at least four hours a day, just to keep up their skill level. Dancers may also use the Children’s Ballet Academy to meet their dance requirements. The drop-in studio opened about two years ago to give the dancers a place to improve their skills with guest instructors.
During the school year, the company teams up with other local nonprofits, including the Children’s Miracle Network, which brings children who are differently abled to dance with CBT. Some of these kids are wheelchair bound or have walkers, but they are still incorporated into the shows seamlessly.
Being a dancer takes an incredible amount of discipline, physically and mentally. Some of the rehearsals are held from 10 a.m. and last until 5 p.m. These children commit so much time to their craft because they love what they do. Being a part of CBT is like joining a family, where everyone involved is dedicated to their love of dance.
2015 CBT Summer Co Tour Schedule:
Aug 1st: Grand Ledge Island Art Festival
Aug 8th: Bath Days
Aug 15th & 16th: St Johns Mint Festival
Aug 21st: Dewitt Ox Roast