Ballet Renaissance, musings by Phil

Dear SOS friends,

On Sunday, Hanna and I enjoyed a performance by Ballet Renaissance (see www.balletren.org) students and instructors, “Ballet with Bach,” at the Detroit Institute of Arts auditorium. With at least three DSO musicians leaving Detroit to join the Dallas Symphony, it may be of interest to you to know that a gifted ballerina and ballet teacher, Brianna Furnish, came from Dallas to study (at Wayne State) and live and work in Detroit some years ago, and she has put down roots here; fourteen years ago she founded Ballet Renaissance, a non-profit organization “committed to establishing quality, affordable professional ballet training and performance opportunities in the heart of Detroit” (from the group’s mission statement). In 2006, a Polish-born professional ballet dancer named Radoslaw (Radek) Kokoszka, joined Brianna as Co-Director of Ballet Ren. I learned about Brianna and her organization from her father, a good friend and college classmate of mine (at Cornell College of Iowa) whom I have kept in touch with over the decades; he is a retired professor (of theology) at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. (He and his wife came up from Dallas last weekend to visit briefly, and to attend this performance, and we had the pleasure of lunch with them at the DIA Cafe beforehand.)

What is special about Ballet Renaissance, and about Sunday’s performance? (1) Brianna and Radek teach students of all ages, girls and boys (although there are many more girls), all economic and racial backgrounds, from the ages of four on up to adults, and they all get a chance to perform at least a couple of times a year. They now hold many of their classes at the Detroit Opera House. (2) At the end of a performance, all the groups who have participated are invited back to the stage, and each child or young person or adult is identified by name and presented with a red rose. The parents who work back stage are also recognized. Love, support, safety and appreciation characterize the whole process. This time, parents of both co-directors also came to the stage and were introduced and acknowledged. (3) The fact that the music of Bach was choreographed for this performance seemed to me to be both daring and appropriate; it was very satisfying, both musically and visually. (4) While much of the musical “accompaniment” was recorded, Nadine Deleury, principal cellist with the Michigan Opera Theater Orchestra, provided exquisite cello accompaniment (from Bach suites for unaccompanied cello) for certain of the dances, and a young woman named Klara Eikoff–just finishing her freshman year in high school–sang a beautiful Bach aria for another. (5) Two other groups, the Madame Cadillac Dance Theatre of Detroit, which has been celebrating Detroit’s French roots since 1981, and a group of guest dancers from the Detroit High School for Fine and Performing Arts, also performed and added to the interest of the afternoon’s program.

I mainly wanted to alert you to the fact that, with several DSO musicians abandoning Detroit for Dallas, at least one gifted artist from Dallas has established herself in Detroit and adds importantly to the cultural and educational life here. Not only do Hanna and I support our DSO musicians, but we are pleased to support Ballet Renaissance and the important–and not well enough known–work this organization is doing.

Phil


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