Brava, ballerinas

A new ballet, “The Black Gloves,” stars graduating Blue Heron dancers.

Christine Juarez lines up a group of dancers that have studied with her for 12 years.

When Chelsea Clark thinks back to her first memories of ballet, she recalls being cast as a fairy in a special piece Christine Juarez had choreographed for the tiniest students in Blue Heron’s dance program.

“I have vivid memories of how exciting it was to be a fairy,” said Clark, 17, now a willowy high school senior set to graduate from the dance program after 12 years of studying with Juarez.

Clark is part of a core group Juarez calls “the foundation of what I’ve built at the Blue Heron.”

Now, to honor these teenagers and celebrate the anniversary of her 12 years as artistic director of Blue Heron’s dance program, Juarez has choreographed a brand new ballet, “The Black Gloves,” by Seattle composer, author and recording artist David O’Suna.

The ballet, produced under the banner of Vashon Allied Art’s New Works Series, will have its world premier performances at 1 and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19, at Vashon High School Theater.

Juarez called the ballet “a major piece of work,” noting that “O’Suna has poured his talent into it.”

O’Suna began writing the piece in 1995 and finished it two years later. Although the music was mastered in 2000, the ballet has never been performed until now.

A total of 17 dancers will perform in “The Black Gloves,” a drama set in Spain in 1842 that is being billed as a “story of hope, romance and intrigue.”

Graduating seniors in the cast include Clarissa Boyajian, Molly Crosby, Chelsea Clark, Shannon Hennessey, Sami Ressler, Amorita Juarez and Sarah Balcom. They will be joined by advanced students Camille Kappelman, Madeline Morser, Clare Engelhard, Trudy Soriano, Veronica Jannetty and Meg Sayre. Maeve and June Haselton, Grace Derrer, Woody Waits, Tucker Lazare and Michael Kappelman will also perform.

Juarez, who admits to feeling especially sentimental about the older group of dancers, described the production as “a celebration of our time together.”

Molly Crosby, 18, says her 12 years with Juarez have helped define her childhood and smooth the passage into her teenage years.

“It’s stressful to be in high school,” Crosby said. “At ballet, I could release all that. Dance has really helped keep me focused.”

Chelsea Clark agreed.

“I can’t image what my life would be like without dance,” Clark said. “I’ve learned tons of life skills — how to pay attention and work with a group, and it has helped me with school.”

Juarez, who has watched the dancers grow up, said, “I really think my dancers are going to be the future leaders of the world.”

She noted that several of the dancers are academic achievers ranked at the top of their class.

“They are just exceptional,” she said.

“I really feel that they represent the characteristics of the Blue Heron dance program,” she continued. “Often, dance studios will be very catty and biting — it’s the competitive nature of the work. There has never been any of that here. I’ve set the tone and they’ve really embraced it. The studio is where they come to be nurtured and supported.”

Juarez has also made sure her most prized students have fun.

A few weeks ago, to celebrate the 18th birthdays of several of the dancers, Juarez and dance company accompanist Susan Reed hosted a party for the girls she has seen grow from tiny fairies to confident and graceful ballerinas.

To mark the rite of passage, Juarez and the dancers ate pizza and birthday cake, and then played a game of pin the tail on the donkey. They topped off the party by smashing a pinata.

“We played baby games,” she said with a laugh, “and we all had so much fun.”


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