Montana ballerinas show off the Treasure State in China
The ballerinas that make up Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre are in the middle of a trip to China, where thousands of people are filling theaters to watch them dance.
As the Missoulian’s Emily Foster explains, the trip is a part of an effort to show off the Treasure State through the internationally-understood medium of dance.
Here’s one of Foster’s stories about the tour:
BEIJING – Anna Horejsi, 15, has been dancing since she was 2 years old, and she said her experiences on tour with the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre through China will stay with her forever.
“Dance is such a universal way of communication; we can still connect with people here, even though we don’t speak Chinese,” said Horejsi.
The RMBT is six days into its two-week journey through China. About 1,200 people crowded into the Tianquo Theatre in Beijing to watch the Missoula-based troupe’s third performance, which included newly added solos from master violinist Henry Gronnier and master dance instructor Carlton Wilborn, who joined the theater for the tour.
“It’s exciting and different – it’s very different from America and even than Europe,” Horejsi said of performing in China.
Horejsi and the other RMBT dancers, whose ages range from 11 to 26, have a skill set that is rooted in classical ballet. However, artistic director Charlene Campbell Carey said her dancers’ choreography is based on much more than mastering the perfect pirouette in her studio.
“It’s more of a laboratory. I’m a scientist doing experiments with people,” said Campbell Carey.
“Charlene trains everybody in the base of dance, which is ballet. I believe the base of all dance is ballet and after you have your ballet you can extend it to any other form of dance,” said Jenifer Kerber, Campbell Carey’s assistant and an RMBT performer/choreographer. “She will build a program based on what a dancer is already good at and what will make them a better dancer.”
Campbell Carey said another experiment – bringing aboard Wilborn and Gronnier for the China tour – not only elevates the performances, but their accompaniments and solos become a unique and integral component of the overall program.
Take “Baby Antelope,” for example. During the piece, 13-year-old dancer and Meadow Hill Middle School student Maddie Sager performs a classical ballet solo on pointe.
Her movement is set against the violin music of Gronnier, a French-born, award-winning master violinist. Campbell Carey said it’s this kind of performance that creates the “contrast and conflict” that make the RMBT unique.
“We don’t do ‘The Nutcracker,’ we don’t do the full-length ballets,” said Kerber. “Not many studios are run in that fashion, so the girls get personal growth.”
Also on tour with the RMBT is Pablo Sanchez, 26, a dancer from Chicago who met Campbell Carey when he was 17.
“She came to teach a master class at the dance studio I was training at,” explained Sanchez.
Campbell Carey picked him out of the crowd, and Sanchez was invited to join the RMBT’s first China tour in 2008.
“Being involved in this as a performer – it’s absolutely the reason why we do this, to be able to share our experiences through art for different people,” he said.
Sanchez dances with the RMBT female dancers in cowboy clothes for several numbers and performs solo on stage with Gronnier.
“It’s different for me because I’m not from Montana, so for me to be involved, and this culture exchange is really great for me because it’s new for me, too, to see the Western culture be presented in a different place entirely,” he said.
Sanchez said he’s grateful for the opportunity to be part of the 2014 tour.
“It’s important because we’re all part of the same world, so it’s very important for people to experience what’s on the other side of the planet,” he said.
Kerber said it’s gratifying to see the dancers taught by herself and Campbell Carey experience the arts so far away from home.
“It’s pretty amazing to see them gain some independence and confidence, being able to travel and figure out how to communicate at such a young age,” Kerber said.
“If they see the world and the opportunities it has to offer, they’ll take them,” Campbell Carey said.
It can be exhausting, leading the troupe across thousands of miles and through daylong rehearsals on little sleep, but Campbell Carey said in the end, it’s all worth it.
“Watching my students earn scholarships to Julliard or win a national award for dance is one of my biggest motivations to keep the program going,” she said.
The dancers arrived in Zhengzhou in the Henan Province midweek and will put on two performances before heading to Nanning.
Sneak peak: Eastern Montana takes center stage in our Nov/Dec issue
We’ve focused our sights on the East in the Nov/Dec 2014 issue of Montana Magazine, which should be arriving in mailboxes across the country later this week.
We probably don’t need to remind you that Eastern Montana is a big place. And, as we show off in our latest issue, its a beautiful and diverse place that produces stories like that of our cover star, Riley Jones. The image of Riley and her dad, Ryan, was made by photographer Leland Howard. Riley first sat on a horse at age 2, and was riding on her own by age 4.
Along with the image of Riley, we’ve got a beautiful lineup of images from Howard, who traveled 10,000 miles across the eastern part of Montana to make images for the new book Eastern Montana. We used a sampling of those images for our Portfolio and for the cover image. It’s a Portfolio worth seeing.
Don’t think we’ve forgotten that with the fall and early winter comes hunting season – a time in Montana that has created some of the most storied and longstanding traditions. In that spirit, we’ve got an essay from writer Jack Ballard, whose family has hunted from the same elk camp for more than 5o years.
We’ve also got a feature on an up-and-coming knife maker from Missoula, who is provided hunters with some new tools to aid in their adventures.
One more teaser for one about a story about a hunter who, as he battles colon cancer, is giving back in a big way to his hometown of Glasgow. Skip Erickson has donated an almost unbelievable collection of animal trophies to the Children’s Museum of Northeast Montana – a place that can now transport kids from all over the Hi-Line across the world as they look through the rooms of Erickson’s animals.
There’s more too, of course, so keep a lookout for more teasers on our Facebook (fb.com/montanamagazine) and Twitter (@montanamagazine). We’ll have our preview content from the Nov/Dec issue up at montanamagazine.com later this week.
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