BY SAM GAZZOLA | The Statesman When Robert Gardner was studying dance at the North Carolina School of Arts, he had never even heard of Duluth. Now, as the Artistic Executive Director of Minnesota Ballet, he is about to produce the company’s 50th Anniversary Gala.
The one-night-only show will take place on Saturday, October 24, at the DECC Symphony Hall in
Duluth. Tickets are currently on sale and range from $10 to $42 depending on age and the quality of the seat.
“There’s nothing like seeing dance live,” Gardner said.
The night will be highlighted by a non-traditional ballet performance. As opposed to a normal ballet, in which the entire show is one story, the 50th anniversary show will be a compilation of works, showcasing the company’s history. This will help keep the audience intrigued and will be easier to follow, especially for younger audience members.
The North Shore Big Band will accompany show’s finale, which will be a swing piece. For that number, Gardner has invited all of the organization’s past dancers, directors and choreographers back to dance with the current cast.
“If they’re still livin' and kickin', we’ve invited them back to join us onstage,” Gardner said.
Some of these dancers have gone on to become professionals and have moved all over the country. Others have retired from dancing and went on to very different professions and have stayed in Duluth. Gardner is hoping to have around 45 former cast members return for the show.
“The dance world is a small world,” Gardner said. “I try to bring them back … I think it’s important and I’m proud of it.”
One person who will be returning is former Artistic Director Nancy Gibson. The show will present one of her own works and she is also helping to choreograph the entire production. She started as a student in the MN Ballet school in the its first year of existence in 1965. Now, at age 57, Gibson guessed she will be oldest one back, but isn’t sure if she will be able to get on stage, due to a bad hip.
The segment in which returners will be a part of will only last a couple of minutes, but is still going to require some rehearsal. Some have done it in the past as members of the organization. Most though, have not. But this doesn’t worry Gibson.
“Dancers are really smart, and they learn really quickly,” she said.
Suzie Baer is a dancer as well a part time ballet master in the company. She is more excited than anything else to see all of her former dance partners, some of whom she hasn’t seen in years.
Baer explained that she’s not completely sure what to expect when performing with the alumni.
“We’ve never done this before,” she said. “I hope the flow continues and we keep the energy up.”
However, dancing with new people is one the smaller concerns for Baer. Because the show is a compilation, there will be a lot of costume changes, providing a test for the performers.
“Whether or not we can change fast enough to keep the continuity going, is going to be the biggest challenge,” Baer said.
Prior to the performance, there will be a champagne reception available by reservation only, which costs $20. The reception begins at 5:30 p.m. and will be held in the Symphony Hall Mezzanine. After guests have enjoyed their hors d’oeuvres and drinks, they can also enjoy a museum-quality display that will exhibit the Minnesota Ballet’s 50-year history.
Tickets can be purchased online at minnesotaballet.org, or at the DECC box office.
UPDATE 10/27, 2pm: The original story published was incorrect. This is the final version. We regret the error.