'Snow Queen' ballet returns

When audiences are all Nutcrackered out this season but still want to see a beautiful holiday ballet filled with a queen, two snow-crossed lovers and a scary forest they need to look no further than the California Contemporary Ballet’s production of the “Snow Queen.”

The original ballet, conceived, directed and choreographed by Erin Holt, has been enchanting audiences for years. In this the 11th year of the performance, Holt continues to find new angles to the story.

“A friend told me to read the ‘Snow Queen’ by Hans Christian Andersen. She said it would make a great ballet,” Holt said.

She added that she had done the “Nutcracker Ballet” many times and had seen it over and over again and was looking for something different.

Holt admitted it didn’t seem that simple of a process to transfer a not-too-well-known fairy tale into a ballet.

“I had to read it several times but each time it became clearer,” she said. “The story is metaphoric; it lends itself to change.”

The result has turned into a holiday tradition that has audiences returning to year after year.

The company, which is based in La Cañada, held open auditions and the principals are professional dancers but students from the California Contemporary Youth Ballet school, founded by Holt, fill many of the other roles but they too must audition. Students come from all over the Foothills and beyond to study, and all the girls know the story of the “Snow Queen” well.

Sarah Eggleston travels everyday from San Dimas for a chance to study at the school. She takes a number of dance classes and has been cast in the ballet.

“I am from Texas. I couldn’t find a good school until now,” she said. “This is it and worth the drive.”

“Its fun,” said Elizabeth Woolf, a seventh grader that attends La Cañada High School. “We learn different styles of dancing and meet new people.”

The dedication and devotion to the school and the ballet is evident by the fact that the dancers continue to smile even through a rigorous rehearsal schedule.

The role of the Snow Queen has been something many have strived for as they grow as ballerinas. For the third year, Jackie Speas from La Crescenta plays the role of the queen.

“I started dancing here when I was 6 or 7 years old,” Speas said.

She added that she has danced almost every part of the ballet and was anxious to play to queen. Now that she has played the role she understands the power it has and how draining it can be.

“It takes a lot out of you,” she said.

For the second year Filip Stanak will play the role of Kai, one of the young lovers. He has traveled from the Czech Republic.

“Dance is a little different than at home,” he said. “I like working with other dancers.”

He dances at the Janacek Conservatory where Holt has been a guest teacher. He said he has learned from dancing with others away from his home and appreciated the opportunity to be at the La Cañada school.

Stanak dances with both Speas and Rebecca Eberhard, who plays his love Greta. The chemistry between these dancers is obviously strong as they not only glide across the floor but also convey joy and heartache through their dance and expressions.

“You just go into the role,” Stanak said.

“I think people forget that ballet is so much more than dancing, it is acting too,” Speas added.

It is also dedication and sacrifice as Eberhard has shown as she continued to rehearse while the recent wildfires grew ever closer to her home. Eberhard lives in Sylmar and during the last bout of fires was evacuated twice. At 15, Eberhard was awarded the role of Greta and knew how important it was to maintain the rehearsal schedule not only for her role but also for everyone in the casts.

The ballet now takes on a new meaning of renewal as she her home and neighbors were spared from the fires.

The “Snow Queen” performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Dec 19-20 and at 2 p.m. on Dec. 20-21 at the Glendale Community College Auditorium, 1500 N. Verdugo Road in Glendale. Tickets are in advance, adults $25, students $20 and at the door adults $30, students $25. To order tickets go to www.ccballet.net or www.snowqueenballet.com or call (818) 790-7924.


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