Nutcracker 2020 has been cancelled

Many of you probably know that we’ve been working on an adapted production of The Nutcracker that we were going to make available via livestream. Today, we made the decision to cancel that production. We know this is a disappointment, but we don’t feel it’s safe or responsible to continue rehearsals given the level of community spread of COVID in our county. Our first priority is the safety of our students and patrons. The Arts Center isn’t going anywhere, and there will be a Nutcracker next year. We need everyone to stay healthy now so they can come back for it.
With that said, we need to offer some thanks for the work that has gone into this process, even though the final production won’t happen. First of all, thank you to our Ballet Theatre Ashtabula dancers. These kids have rolled with some pretty hard punches this year, and have met a really daunting set of extra challenges with flexibility and determination. We would have liked to be able to give them their Nutcracker, but hopefully they’ll be able to have their Spring Dance Concert. They are a fantastic group of young artists, and we’re so thankful we have them.
Next, thank you to Bob Lebzelter, our volunteer videographer, who gives us his time and skills for any video we ask of him. Thanks to Bob we’ll have some fun behind-the-scenes moments from the rehearsal process to share with you all.
Thank you to Mike Brenneman and Jayson Gage, who volunteered their time and knowledge to help us with the technical side of this year’s Nutcracker.
Thank you to Lea Nesbitt of Buckeye and Dave Miller of Lakeside, who gave so much of their time and expertise helping us produce the livestream.
And finally, thank you to Clover Robinson, our director of dance, who leads the charge on Nutcracker every year. Clover wanted her students to have as much of a technical, artistic experience as was possible this year, and did a lot of soul-searching to decide what was best for these kids at every step of the process.
Hang in there, everyone. That curtain is going to go up again. Stay safe.

KeyBank virtual learning scholarships available

We are very excited about this news! Thanks to a $5000 sponsorship from KeyBank Ashtabula supporting virtual learning, we are now able to offer scholarships for our virtual classes. This includes our current virtual offerings, and those that will be coming in our fall schedule (and possibly beyond). This sponsorship allows us to help those in our community who want to take part in virtual arts learning, but have faced financial difficulty during the COVID pandemic.

Aanyone registering for virtual classes can take advantage of this scholarship program. When you visit our website to sign up for a virtual class, you’ll see two options at checkout: “Tuition Cost” and “KeyBank Sponsored Scholarship.” If you are able to support us by paying the regular tuition cost, we’re very appreciative. If the scholarship option will help your family out, just select it at checkout, and the cost of the class or workshop will be covered. That’s all there is to it — no application, no process to qualify. If you need it, use it. We’ll make this option available for virtual classes as long as there are scholarship funds remaining. You can find our virtual classes here. This list will be expanded when our fall schedule of classes is set; those classes will be posted online in early August.

Many thanks to KeyBank for this sponsorship!

A request for our supporters

We have to take a moment to make a request of our AAC supporters, whether you’re audience members, artists, students, or volunteers. With all of our programming shut down, the Arts Center is struggling financially right now.  We know this is a scary time for many people, and we absolutely understand that not all of our supporters are in a financial position to make donations. We are grateful for all the ways you show your love for the arts, and the Arts Center. If, however, you are someone who is able to donate to the Arts Center, at any level, it would be a tremendous help. You can donate online here.

Ryan Rosinski is back with more hip hop!

Ryan Rosinski is back at the Arts Center with a Hip Hop Master Class for ages 7-adult on Saturday, February 29 from 1-2 p.m. $15 per student. All experience levels welcome! Don’t worry if you’ve never danced before —newbies are welcome! This is a fun, high- energy class open to anyone who wants to get on their feet to some great music and have fun. Professional Hip Hop dancer Ryan Rosinski was a finalist on So You Think You Can Dance, and now teaches adults and children throughout Ohio. His dance instruction was recognized by Cleveland Magazine’s Best of the East awards in 2017 & 2018. He has given live performances at Playhouse Square, Goodyear Theater, and The Agora Theater, among others.

Get half-price tickets to The Nutcracker with donations for Faith Food Pantry

You can get half-price tickets to the Dec. 19th performance of The Nutcracker when you donate items for Faith Food Pantry. In addition to non-perishable food items, they have a particular need for shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, body soap, dish soap, and laundry soap, as well as any other basic personal hygiene items. Please check expiration dates on food — expired items will not be accepted. Drop off items and purchase half-price tickets at our front desk.

Rennick Meat Market is supporting Ballet Theatre Ashtabula dancers this season

Rennick Meat Market is helping young artists in our community this month. From November 1 through December 6, Rennick will donate 10% of their lunch sales, Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., to Ballet Theatre Ashtabula School of Dance. Based at the Ashtabula Arts Center, BTA School of Dance has been teaching young people for over fifty years, and making The Nutcracker a community tradition for thirty-eight years. BTA offers classes for recreational students, dancing for fun and fitness, as well as for pre-professional students, providing foundational ballet training to those working towards a career in dance.

Alex Asteinza, co-owner of Rennick Meat Market, has been a staunch supporter of Ballet Theatre Ashtabula, and serves on the Board of Trustees for the Ashtabula Arts Center. “Coming from New York and the arts culture there, I think it’s great to have this resource here. We had Lincoln Center right there, and then you come to Ashtabula and see these dancers working with professionally-trained teachers, in a studio with the same floor as Lincoln, putting on full productions – it’s a great asset for the community. I’m happy to be able to support what they’re doing.”

“BTA alumni have gone on to professional careers as performers, choreographers, teachers, and founders of dance companies and schools throughout the country,” notes Clover Robinson, director of BTA. “Just to name a few, we’ve had Katherine Horrigan, who is the co-founder of Company Danzante and the director of dance at Adagio Ballet School of Dance in Arlington, Virginia. We’ve had Tim Kolman, who’s currently dancing professionally with Ballet Tucson. Cara Seymour is a Juilliard grad dancing in New York City at the Metropolitan Opera. Rebekka Ryan, who just last Christmas was dancing in The Nutcracker at the Arts Center, is now at Marymount Manhattan College.” Robinson herself started dancing with BTA when she was three years old, coming up through the program and going on to obtain a BFA in Dance from Wright State University. She toured internationally with Hubbard Street 2, and was a faculty member with Lou Conte Dance Studio and Dayton Ballet School, before coming back to her hometown and the dance school she started in as a child. “This was my second home growing up. I wanted dance to continue to be a part of my life after I retired professionally, and I wanted to be closer to my family. Teaching at the Arts Center, and then becoming the artistic director after Shelagh Dubsky retired, let me do that. This dance program has continued to grow, and that’s been personally and professionally important to me. I firmly believe that dance is for everyone. It’s an outlet for self-expression, and we all need that in our lives. If you want dance to be your career, we can provide you the training to make that possible, as well as a network of alumni to connect with. This summer we had Lonnie Davis Jr in as a guest instructor and choreographer in modern and contemporary dance. Lonnie and I danced together professionally, and it was wonderful to be able to give our kids and other dancers in the area the opportunity to work with him. If you just love music and dancing, and you want to do it purely for fun, you’re welcome here, as well – you don’t have to have professional plans to dance with us. Whatever a student’s reasons for dancing with BTA, they will get high-quality classes and performance opportunities. We invest in our students’ growth. We want them to discover their own unique potential.”

Rebekka Ryan as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Ballet Theatre Ashtabula’s 2018 production of The Nutcracker

One of those performance opportunities is The Nutcracker, which BTA presents every December for three weekends.  Rennick’s Dining for Dance event will culminate on December 6, the same day this year’s production of The Nutcracker opens. “It’s wonderful to have this tradition that brings our community together every Christmas. We have multiple generations of families who come see it year it after year. It’s such a special thing to be part of. And as an educator, being able to offer students this kind of performance opportunity, whether it’s The Nutcracker or our Spring Dance Concert, is invaluable. Every dancer is learning customized choreography that is adapted to challenge their particular abilities and showcase their strengths. It’s a tremendous experience for a young performer. I’m so grateful to Rennick for helping BTA serve our students.”

Rennick Meat Market is located at 1104 Bridge Street in Ashtabula. Ballet Theatre Ashtabula’s production of The Nutcracker will run December 6-8, 13-15, and 19-22; get tickets here. BTA’s dance classes will resume in January; call (440) 964-3396 for registration information.

Rennick Meat Market supports Ballet Theatre Ashtabula with lunch sales

From November 1 through December 6, Rennick Meat Market will donate 10% of its lunch sales (Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.) to Ballet Theatre Ashtabula School of Dance!

BTA School of Dance has been teaching young people for over 50 years, and bringing our community together for the holiday tradition of The Nutcracker for 38 years. This season, you can help support the dreams, dedication, and hard work of these young dancers just by enjoying lunch at Rennick!

Rennick Meat Market is located at 1104 Bridge Street, Ashtabula.

Ballet Theatre Ashtabula’s production of The Nutcracker will run December 6-8, 13-15, & 19-22, Friday & Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday & Sunday at 2 p.m.

Film by Bob Lebzelter chronicling Ballet Theatre Ashtabula at Harbor film festival

The Ashtabula Harbor’s heritage outdoor film series ends Friday, August 23, with a 50-minute documentary by retired journalist (and Ashtabula Arts Center volunteer videographer) Bob Lebzelter on the grueling work it takes to put on a dance program at the Ashtabula Arts Center. “Fly On” chronicles the hours of work dancers and instructors put into the effort. While Ballet Theatre Ashtabula is known for its holiday “Nutcracker” offering, the Spring Dance Recital also requires dancers to spend hours and hours in practice and learning and creating choreography.

The film will be shown in the green space immediately west of Bridge Street Art Works, 1009 Bridge St.  Should it rain, the film will be shown the following week.

Lebzelter spent a month shooting video, chronicling the dancers as they evolved. “We take you to the practice rooms as students try different moves, make mistakes and try again,” Lebzelter said. “Then we quickly whisk you to the Arts Center stage. You will experience the dancing as I shoot right from the stage, from the audience’s perspective, from behind the stage and even above on the catwalk. I remember looking in back of me to see how much room I had so I wouldn’t fall off the stage while recording,” he said.

Students simultaneously worked on classic ballet and contemporary dance. The film interviews several of the participants about why they dance and what life lessons they get.

“Physically, dancing is incredibly difficult,” said dancer Jayson Gage. “Your body is doing things it doesn’t naturally do, like turning out and lifting your leg above a certain point, jumping as high as you can.”

The film looks back at the program as Director of Dance and instructor Clover Robinson goes over a photo of the troupe in the 90s and discusses the many people who ended up with careers in dance in far-flung areas of the world. It also looks to the future with young dancers, some not even in school yet.

“I think you will come away with an admiration for what these kids have accomplished and respect for their work ethic,” Lebzelter said.

Previous films in the harbor series have looked at Hulett unloaders, the Finnish contribution to the Harbor and the county’s agricultural heritage, as seen through 100 barn quilts. The films are free and appropriate for all ages. People should bring lawn chairs.

Dancer/Choreographer Lonnie E. Daivs Jr offering master class at AAC in August

Professional dancer and choreographer Lonnie E. Davis Jr. ( will be teaching a master class in Modern Contemporary Dance at the Ashtabula Arts Center on Monday, August 5 from 1-2:30 p.m. This class will incorporate elements of both modern and contemporary dance, offering students an opportunity to learn exciting new movement phrases, and to build upon their existing technique, becoming more versatile dancers. The class is open to dance students of all experience levels, ages 9 through adult, and the cost is $25 per person. Call (440) 964-3396 to register.

Professional dancer Lonnie Davis Jr. is currently on faculty at the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education, Dancers Studio Backstage (Atlanta Dance Theatre), and Cobb County Center for Excellence in Performing Arts. He has performed and trained with Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Gus Giordano Dance Chicago, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance.

Open spots at Dining for the Arts events this summer, fall, & winter

All Dining for the Arts events with spaces still open are listed here. To make reservations, call (440) 964-3396 or stop in at our front desk. PLEASE NOTE: some of these events have only a handful of openings left, so we recommend that you you make reservations early. Addresses for private residence event locations are not posted here, but will be provided to you at the time you make reservations; all events are located in Ashtabula County.

Night at the Gallery: a Masquerade – October 19 at Framed on Main, 4533 Main Ave, Ashtabula, 6:30 p.m.

Hosted by Anthony & Mariella Platano, Jane Haines & Chris DiGiacomo, Abram & Sarah Noufer
$75 per person
Hear live music by Lyn Rocco, learn to do the Waltz or the Charleston with Brenda Angle, and take part in a silent auction and Best Dressed costume contest. Come have fun and support a great cause!
Small Bites highlighting Local Chefs
Beer, Wine, Signature Drink

A December to Remember Holiday Party – December 7, 6 p.m.
Hosted by Ashok & Nafisa Kondru
$150 per person
Hold back the cold at a festive evening including live entertainment, a top shelf open bar, mingle dinner buffet, and valet parking.
Welcome Drink
A Variety of Hors d’oeuvres
Baked Potato Bar & Salad
Prime Rib (Carving Station)
Chicken Piccata
Grilled Halibut
Roasted Vegetables
Rice & Bread
A Selection of Desserts