The young dancers of the Hinsdale Ballet Theatre (HBT) will enjoy a moment in the spotlight that few have the opportunity to experience when the newly formed company stages its first-ever production early this month. HBT’s Giselle is a semi-professional production with students from Hinsdale Dance Academy dancing in the corps de ballet and some soloist roles while five professional dancers from the Milwaukee Ballet perform the lead characters.
The costumes and sets are on loan from the Montgomery Ballet and the Albany Berkshire Ballet. The Technical Director is from the Milwaukee Ballet. “It will be a top-notch professional ballet production like this town has never seen,” says Jennifer Grapes, owner of Hinsdale Dance Academy and Artistic Director of HBT, who has danced with all three companies during her 13-year career.
Jennifer’s own career makes this level of collaboration with the professional dance world possible. “Because I’m fresh out of the scene, I’m able to open doors for the kids, whether it’s bringing in colleagues for master classes or offering the opportunity to perform with professional dancers.”
“The level of professionalism in the studio is inspiring. Watching how hard the professionals work helps teach the kids to have respect for their art, and it also reminds the pros of how far they’ve come in their careers,” says Jennifer.
It is fitting that the first appearance of HBT is so ambitious. Hinsdale Dance Academy opened on October 22, 2012 and already has 80 dancers from 65 families bringing their passion for dance to the downtown Hinsdale studio. “It’s a testament to Jennifer, the people she brings in to teach master class and pas de deux, and to the girls themselves, who are very supportive of each other,” says Executive Director Julie Pierce, giving some insight into the inspiring initial success of both the school and the company.
Glimpsing Jennifer in rehearsal with three student soloists and Isaac Sharratt of the Milwaukee Ballet, the respect for each other and the commitment to performing at a high level is evident. As the snow falls outside on a cold, late winter night, the dancers peel off their warm-ups and work, learning the intricate choreography. Giselle is known to be a very challenging classical work, but that doesn’t deter these talented young women who are delighted to be learning the lifts and other partnering techniques. Jennifer smiles as one of the girls masters a turn and another holds a beautiful arabesque while being lightly supported by Isaac.
“For me, having the opportunity to direct my friends and guide young dancers on their own path to performing is a dream come true. I feel that it’s exactly what I was always meant to do,” says Jennifer.
The Hinsdale Ballet Theatre will present Giselle, on Saturday, April 6 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, April 7 at 2 p.m. at the Hinsdale Central High School Auditorium. Tickets are available at hbtgiselle.brownpapertickets.com or at the Hinsdale Dance Academy studio, 414 E. Chestnut Street in Hinsdale. For more information, call 630-484-3241, or visit hinsdaledanceacademy.com.