The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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April 13, 2014

Mankato Ballet's 'White Nights' includes pieces from famous 'white ballets'

Mankato Ballet's 'White Nights' includes pieces from famous 'white ballets'

In Europe in the 1800s, a form of ballet became incredibly popular with audiences.

It was the Romantic Era, so the ballets focused on similar kinds of love stories with similar plots, such as the famous recurring star-crossed-lover theme.

What drew these ballets together were the “white scenes.” Called “white ballets,” they became popular because of their second acts which featured numerous dancers on stage at the same time dressed all in white. With larger companies, 38 to 50 dancers would be on stage dancing together.

“They were really popular at the time,” said Eryn Michlitsch, artistic director of Mankato Ballet Company.

The choreography was simple, but emphasized cohesion. Every dancer had to have the same leg heights and movements. They had to be completely in sync, made especially difficult by their tight white costuming that showed every movement of the body.

“It's simple but symmetrical, with everyone moving at the same time,” Michlitsch said. “That was part of what made the ballet so special.”

Visually, the scenes were breathtaking, and Michlitsch thought it would be great for both Mankato Ballet dancers and Mankato audiences to experience them.

Mankato Ballet will be performing scenes from three famous “white ballets” in a concert called “White Nights” on April 27. Excerpts will be performed from “Swan Lake,” Gayane” and “Gisele.”

About 20 dancers ranging in age from 12 to 18 will be on stage together for the pieces.

“That's still a pretty large number and definitely carries the look of the ballet and gives the audience a good feel for what it's like,” she said.

The white scenes in the ballets are usually 30 minutes long, so Michlitsch broke out shorter pieces from each.

After the white scenes, tap pieces will be performed. Guest choreographer Ken Kaiser of Washington Contemporary Ballet in Washington state is flying in to set choreography on dancers just four days before the show. Michlitsch said Kaiser has a beautiful, old-school, Fred Astaire-style that will be a fun addition to the program.

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