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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
Make reservations now for this special event: sample wines from Markko Vineyard, The Lakehouse Inn, Hundley Cellars, and Laurello Vineyards before seeing the 7:30 p.m. performance of Fly On, Ballet Theatre Ashtabula’s 2019 spring dance concert. Tickets are $35 and include 8 2-oz. samples as well as your seat at the concert. Appetizers and desserts will be served, and bottles will be available for purchase. The wine tasting begins at 6 p.m. in the Arts Center gallery. Call (440) 964-3396 to make your reservations — space at this event is limited.
The annual spring dance concert by Ballet Theatre Ashtabula is a celebration of movement and creativity, featuring choreography styles ranging from classical ballet to contemporary dance to musical theater. This is the show that demonstrates everything dance can be, in all its varied, innovative, and beautiful forms. Fly On will feature music by Chromatics, Coldplay, Shostakovich, Lauv, Philip Glass & Blondie, and more.
Get half-price tickets to the performance of The Nutcracker on Thursday, December 13 when you donate items to Faith Food Pantry. Drop off items and purchase tickets at our front desk. Please check expiration dates; expired items will not be accepted.
Get your tickets now for the Arts Center’s sweetest event of the year! The Sugar Plum Luncheon will be Saturday, December 8 — doors open at noon. Step inside the Land of Sweets for a holiday feast dressed in sparkling pink! Our elegant luncheon will feature live holiday music and a menu of chicken salad on croissant, snowflake finger sandwiches, toasty tomato soup, rich mac & cheese, salad, and assorted beverages, followed by a dazzling dessert table with enough scrumptious sweets to feed an army of toy soldiers. Kids can learn about the story of The Nutcracker and get a dance lesson from the Sugar Plum Fairy herself! Afterwards, the winter fun moves into the theater for the 2 p.m. performance of The Nutcracker, presented by Ballet Theatre Ashtabula. Tickets include both the luncheon and your seat at the ballet. Call early for reservations — this event sells out quickly! Adult $35, Senior/Student/Military $33, Child 2-12 $28. Tickets are non-refundable. Call (440) 964-3396 to make reservations.
By Paris Wolfe, Contributing Writer
When Robin Vogel was two or three years old, her mom enrolled her in a class at the Ashtabula Arts Center. She continued taking classes every summer through her late teen years. Not only did she enjoy the experience, she came away with more confidence and a tiara collection.
“I could write a novel about the benefits of taking art and theater classes,” she says. “To keep it brief I learned self-discipline and commitment. I learned to be creative and think outside the sphere.”
Rather than narrow these experiences to one favorite, she says, “I don’t believe in favorites. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences that are all so different, I couldn’t begin to compare them. My highlights reel includes working on The Nutcracker, creating props for plays, running tech, and helping with Kid’s Day Out.”
Robin encourages others to enroll in the fine arts classes for entertainment and skill developmentand to become part of a caring community where lifelong friends are easily made.
“We are so fortunate to have this resource in our community. In all the places I’ve been or lived I have never encountered another facility with dance, theater, music and visual arts under one roof, let alone one that consistently holds classes and puts on productions of such high quality,” she says. “Through the Arts Center I’ve taken class with individuals who have gone on to become professional dancers and been part of theater productions with cast members who are now acting on Broadway. Outside of select schools in New York and California, where does onefind those opportunities?!”
As for the tiara collection? Robin has participated in The Nutcracker Party Scene for years. She says, “It seems that every year I find at least one new tiara to freshen up my costume.”
Robin’s experience performing in The Nutcracker is one that will be open to the entire community this year, as Ballet Theatre Ashtabula is offering a Nutcracker Production Experiencethis fall, in which participants will be cast in various roles in the Party Scene, Battle Scene, and more. Anyone interested should call the Arts Center at (440) 964-3396 to register.
Robin lives in Ashtabula and is Council Coordinator for the Ashtabula County Family and Children First Council.