Ballet News

Archive of: 2009

Chiropractor Sets it Straight for Ballet Idaho Dancers

There are ballet dancers and there are doctors, but there are very few doctors who have danced with the New York City Ballet. Afshin Mofid is one of them. Mofid, the only chiropractor in the Northwest with a professional dance background, runs Mofid Clinic of Chiropractic of Boise, the official chiropractic clinic of Ballet Idaho. Dr. Mofid also teaches the company dancers from time to time. Drawing from his chiropractic training and storied ballet career, Dr. Mofid developed a wellness and injury prevention program for Ballet Idaho that’s based on the clinical knowledge of a doctor and a dancers’ understanding of the specific strains ballet puts on the body. “The dancers have never been to a doctor who could teach a ballet class,” Dr. Mofid says. “I can look at them as a dancer, but at the same time, I’m looking at the quality of their movement, imbalances and muscle proportions as a doctor.” Born in Iran to a family of artists, poets and writers, Dr. Mofid started his ballet training at the age of 9. His star rose quickly; by 16, he had moved to New York City to finish high school and practice in open ballet classes. A year later, he was dancing with the New York City Ballet’s School of American Ballet founded by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein. Dr. Mofid was soon chosen personally by Balanchine to join the company, where he was part of the last generation of dancers to work with the legendary ballet pioneer and Jerome Robbins. From 1980 to 1986, Dr. Mofid danced leads in several productions, including La Valse, Nutcracker and Afternoon of a Faun, earning extensive critical acclaim from The New York Times and others. Newsweek magazine once declared him one of the “upcoming stars” of ballet. After retiring from ballet, Dr. Mofid lived briefly on a dude ranch in Montana, taught ballet at the University of Idaho, explored the outdoors in Sun Valley, worked as a waiter in Los Angeles, taught ballet at UC Irvine and enrolled in college. This twisting and turning path ultimately led to chiropractic, which was a natural transition from ballet for Dr. Mofid. For professionals and amateurs alike, dancing takes a rigorous toll on the body, and recurring knee and back pain had led to interruptions in Dr. Mofid’s rehearsal and performance schedule. It wasn’t until he visited a chiropractor that he found relief. Chiropractic is a health care discipline that emphasizes the inherent recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between body structure (primarily the spine) and function (the nervous system). The malfunction of the nervous system can lead to serious health issues, and chiropractic techniques concentrate on this area of the body to preserve and restore overall health. The wellness program Dr. Mofid developed for Ballet Idaho uses a specific set of exercises designed to identify weaknesses in the dancers’ structure, align their bodies, optimize muscle reaction and identify technical flaws that could lead to injures. Dr. Mofid met individually with each dancer to assess their technique, body proportions and strength, and then developed the program based on the data he collected and his dual understanding of the body as a dancer and chiropractor. “The dancers know that I know exactly what they’re going through, what they’re talking about,” Dr. Mofid says. “That’s a huge plus with any patient.” The exercises are task-specific in nature, as dancers’ bodies are not designed for endurance training such as long-distance running. “Dancers are like boxers — it’s more of a sprint than a marathon,” Dr. Mofid says. “They don’t have to sustain the movements. If we can make sure their bodies are aligned and functioning ideally, they can perform to the best of their abilities. Even if they’re not in pain, a misalignment of the spine can cause a delay in muscle reaction and affect their performance.” Dr. Mofid’s program has paid huge dividends for Ballet Idaho, insuring career longevity for the dancers and saving the company money. For his own practice, working with the dancers has helped refine Dr. Mofid’s skills and allowed him to better care for his patients. “The most obvious result is, if someone is starting to get injured, we get to it immediately,” he says. “These dancers, a lot of them are just starting their careers. If we can prevent these injuries, it will help them enjoy a long and healthy career.” Mofid Clinic of Chiropractic is located at 880 N. Curtis Road in Boise, across from Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. For more information, call 208.323.1810 or email mofidclinic@yahoo.com.

Bus call for the tour to Billings

Bus call for the tour to Billings, Montana, was for 6:30 a. m. for a 7 a. m. departure. I unlocked the Annex building as the trickle of cold, sleepy dancers began. Someone decided to start a pot of coffee for the road. The dancers huddled in the office reminded me of hovering over a campfire for warmth. Michael experimented in ways to provide hot turkey and stuffing during the bus ride. James came on the bus with his camping backpack and survival gear. It was only a five day roundtrip, and with the supplies and experience gathered on the bus, I felt confident we were prepared to survive not only the weekend, but even an accident stranding us in the mountains along the way. Some dancers slept on the bus; others read or played cards. Preparation for a tour usually entails packing and sleep. Rest and nutrition are important for dancers, and more so when traveling. The conversations and laughter echoing around the bus were just one demonstration of the camaraderie felt among the dancers. In many ways, we are a family. The scenery en route to Billings was incredible. I’m a southern girl, raised in the bayou, so snowy, forested mountains are still awe inspiring for me. I think the winter wonderland scenery helped keep everyone in the holiday spirit, even without our families. Dancers become accustomed to traveling, whether touring with a company or searching for a job, and on this trip, the serene beauty of nature helped keep our spirits balanced. The hotel graciously had a late Thanksgiving meal ready for us Thursday evening after we arrived. The plates were loaded with food, which is always a happy sight to hungry, travel weary dancers. We all grew up with different family traditions and expectations for the feast, and sharing this meal together brought a sharing of stories about home for the holidays. The stuffing and pie weren’t bad either! Our first interaction with the young dancers in Billings was a walk through rehearsal at the local YWCA, where some of the young dancers take classes. The dance students were well rehearsed, but some seemed a little timid around the professionals. Friday evening was a technical and dress rehearsal with the orchestra. For most of the company, the Alberta Bair Theater was a new venue. A large stress of tour lies primarily in the unknown of a different theater and orchestra. In this instance, however, the Morrison and Special Events Center stages are still relatively new to most of the company. I haven’t really had a ‘home’ theater in years, though some are more familiar that others. There was an added stress in this tour in that our technical and dress rehearsals in Billings were our first for this year’s production. When the snow fell on stage during the snow scene, it was our first experience dancing in the flurries, or blizzard depending on where we were on the stage. I ended the scene under one of the larger ‘snow falls’ and am still finding flakes in my dance bag. It is a pleasure and a treat to share our company and our dancing with others. I enjoy the excitement of touring, occasionally, but also appreciate that Ballet Idaho is a resident company to Boise, and not always on the move. I am now accustomed to living away from my parents and brothers, but not to leaving my husband behind. The entire Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain region is new to me, and I hope to see more, just not away from my new home in Boise for too long. I wanted to thank our Board of Directors for helping to provide Thanksgiving dinner, and of course to the Billings Symphony Orchestra and Chorale for inviting Ballet Idaho. I must also thank Betty Loos and Jana Stockton from the School of Classical Ballet in Billings for rehearsing and providing such wonderful children for our production of The Nutcracker. Ballet gives us an opportunity to share our gifts and our souls with otherwise complete strangers in the audience, and sometimes on stage. One of the joys of The Nutcracker is that after a performance, no matter where, our fellow dancers and stage hands are no longer strangers. -Sarah Ellis, Ballet Idaho Company Dancer

The Nutracker children shine!

What an amazing Nutcracker year this has been! Alex Ossadnik and I started on September 12 in Las Vegas, teaching the children's parts to an entirely new group of kids. The Nevada Ballet Theatre will dance our production right after we finish in Boise. Then we went on to Billings, Montana, where we taught a completely different group of kids their parts in Nutcracker. They will be dancing with our company over the Thanksgiving weekend in Billings. Finally, we taught our own kids here in the Treasure Valley their Nutcracker parts. It was a huge difference from last year, when the production was brand new. Lots of our children were returning to Nutcracker, some even in their old parts. But it's nice to see kids dance a mouse one year, then a party child the next, then perhaps the Garland Dance. Watching their progress as they grow into ever-more difficult parts is one of the greatest rewards a teacher can have --- and our students from Ballet Idaho Academy are shining this year! One of the most gratifying things is to see Brenna Houk and Cristina Zimmerman, who will both be dancing Clara this year. They are wonderful students, serious, concentrated, passionate about their work and committed to improvement on every level. They have grown in our school over the years and, hopefully, will continue their remarkable stories. Sebastian Houk, Brenna's brother, is making his debut this year as Fritz. He is a terrific kid, a joy for the teachers and an inspiration to any young man who might think about dancing. Sebastian brings every ounce of his talent, work-ethic and good attitude to his studies. Nutcracker has always been, and should always be, about the children. We are proud of all the hard-working and dedicated student dancers who join us each year in making this Holiday event so memorable. Learning and performing a part in the Nutcracker, like studying dancing at Ballet Idaho Academy, provides a foundation for skills needed in life --- cooperation, dedication, hard work, meeting challenges and gaining confidence. I'd like to thank all the parents who have shown such positive goals for their children and with whom we will share the joy and pride of our upcoming performances of Nutcracker. [flickr-gallery mode="photoset" photoset="72157622796526929"]

Returning to the Barre

I began dancing when I was three. I have vague memories of sitting in the backseat of the car captivated by my pink fairy like ensemble and dreaming of twirling and prancing around the studio. As time wore on I began to become disillusioned and found it hard to motivate myself. New passions pulled me in different directions and by the time I graduated High School I had stopped training. After a hiatus I realized that stifling my urges to dance could not be healthy. I began taking adult classes a few times a week and I soon recognized the longing that only more dance could satiate. I think it was the moment I landed a decent double pirouette. The focus, that feeling of every muscle engaging, the moment of freedom as you whip around before you manage to land as gracefully as possible, hopefully feet daintily, but firmly placed on the ground. I had become mesmerized by the intensity, beauty, creativity and power of ballet. Returning to dance has allowed me to recapture that sense of child like wonder and delight. Every class brings new challenges, realizations, defeats, triumphs, and places to be sore. Even on the days when I get discouraged, I am not on my leg, or just can’t seem to get things right I leave class with a smile. The cliché is true; those who try never regret. In these efforts are the true beauty of dance and the vitality of life. By: Hannah Dunlop

Halloween Costume Party Thank You!

A HUGE thank you goes to the numerous volunteers, staff, donors and participants of the first-annual Halloween Costume Party held Saturday, October 24th at the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy. A dedicated team of volunteers spent many days collecting and assembling decorations, carving pumpkins and preparing treats to make the Ballet Idaho offices SPOOKY and FUN! Ballet villains walked amongst the crowd and the participants paraded in costumes for prizes during the costume parade. A special thank you goes out to the Parent Guild, Michelle Meyers, Patricia Dunlop, Julie Houk, Caren DeAngelis, Maria Zarco, Theresa Rodie, Monica Fabbi, Tom Tompkins, Erik Meyers & Dennis Dunlop for helping organize this event. CONGRATULATIONS to our winners in best costume, scariest costume and the most original costume! Finally, THANK YOU to the 2009 Halloween Costume Party sponsors Michelle & Erik Meyers! [flickr-gallery mode="photoset" photoset="72157622796974348"]

Who Says Brothers & Sisters Can't Get Along?

Ballet Idaho Academy Students and Performers in The Nutcracker Ballet Idaho: Who are you and how old are you? Brenna: My name is Brenna Houk and I am 11 ½. Sebastian: My name is Sebastian Houk and I am 10. Ballet Idaho: Tell me something interesting about you: Brenna: I was the only 5th grade girl from my school to make it to the 2009 Boise Elementary City Track Meet, spring 2009 – where I ran the 800 meter race; I also play the flute; love food (especially ice cream and sushi); love doing art; and am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Sebastian: At age 7, Sebastian summited Idaho’s highest mountain, Borah Peak (12,662 ft.) with his Dad; he is learning to play the trumpet; he runs and cycles; loves ice cream and pizza; and is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Ballet Idaho: When did you start dancing? Brenna: I started dance classes at age 3 at Methods of Movement in Mountain Home, ID. Sebastian: This is Sebastian's third year of ballet training. He started at BI in the fall of 2007. Brenna invited Sebastian to her class during "Bring a Friend Week." Ballet Idaho: Have you ever performed in the Nutcracker before? Where? Brenna: I performed previously in Ballet Idaho's The Nutcracker. Sebastian: I performed in The Nutcracker last year with BI (The NEW Nutcracker). Ballet Idaho: Tell us about your experience at the Audition Brenna: The audition was easy. It was a lot like last year, so I knew what to expect. Sebastian: Auditions were great. They were easy and very different from last year. Ballet Idaho: How are rehearsals going? Brenna: Some kids are getting the choreography really well. Rehearsals are going well. Since I'm Clara, it puts some pressure on me since that is one of the main roles and everyone expects you to pick it up. Overall, it is going well in both Clara and Bakers. Sebastian: Some kids are getting the choreography really well. Ballet Idaho: How do you feel about being real-life brother and sister and on stage brother & sister?Brenna: Well, it's cool, because he gets in trouble more in The Nutcracker, and we don't have to pretend we are related. Also, I don't know any other siblings that are real life brother and sister who are pretending to be brother and sister in the Nutcracker, and we both do ballet in the same ballet class. Sebastian: I think it’s really awesome that we are brother and sister in real life and in The Nutcracker. [flickr-gallery mode="photoset" photoset="72157622673019781"]

Nutcracker Tickets On Sale Monday!

Tickets go on sale Monday, November 2nd for Ballet Idaho’s holiday classic, The Nutcracker. Ballet Idaho continues the classic holiday tradition and is pleased to present The Nutcracker this December. With extraordinary choreography, beautiful sets and costumes, this will celebrate the season in dazzling fashion — a joyful and elegant Holiday Party, a Christmas Garland Dance, a whimsical mechanical mouse and a magical growing Christmas tree along with a large and enthusiastic cast of young dancers and singers from throughout the Treasure Valley. Tchaikovsky’s classic score will be performed live by the Boise Philharmonic. Join us to celebrate Ballet Idaho's holiday family favorite on December 11, 12, and 13 at the Morrison Center. The Nutcracker children’s casts have been announced and young dancers from all over the Treasure Valley are preparing and rehearsing for Ballet Idaho’s classic holiday tradition. This year cast features a real-life brother and sister duo that will perform the roles of brother and sister, Fritz and Clara, in the production. Additionally, the young ladies dancing Clara in both casts, are perhaps the youngest dancers to be cast in that role in a professional company. Single tickets start at just $20 and range to $50 and are available through any Select-A-Seat outlet, by calling 426-1110 or visiting www.idahotickets.com. For more information, call the Ballet Idaho office, 343-0556.

Our First Program and Onward

Our first program is finished, and it was a lot of fun. A big thank you to everyone who attended. Pieces like Swan Lake, Idaho and Yes, Virginia don’t work if we can’t interact with the audience. For the opening night of Yes, Virginia I was nervous that I was going to step out on the stage, do something silly, and the audience wasn’t going to respond. That was not the case, and for the whole weekend I had a blast joking with everyone seated in the auditorium and being inspired by the jovial energy at the theater. Our first program was a great example of why I love being a performer. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to entertain and bring joy to others. Now we dancers are on a short break before we head full force into The Nutcracker. As much as I love dancing, this down time allows me to expand my creativity in other directions. I use some time to make graphic designs often creating ads and mailers for political campaigns. I also like to spend time on some of my favorite hobbies like painting miniature figures or hiking in this beautiful Idaho landscape. However, a dancer is never far from the studio, and you’ll usually find me downtown putting on my dance shoes at least once a day. As we move into the holiday season the company will start rehearsing for The Nutcracker. We are very excited to not only be performing at the Morrison Center this December, but also to be going on The New Ballet Idaho’s first tour when we will be presenting The Nutcracker in Billings over Thanksgiving weekend. I can’t wait to share some of the magic and joy of the holidays with our community very soon. Michael Dennis Dunsmore Dancer with Ballet Idaho Joined the Company in 2008

The Reality of Professionalism

As children’s rehearsals for The Nutcracker progress, I would like to address the reality of working with a professional company, a reality that includes especially our younger cast members: There is no such thing as “meanness” and “embarrassment”. Once rehearsal starts there is only the work to be done as efficiently as possible. When there are multiple casts, at first it is possible that only one cast will be used to set the choreography, once the choreography is being rehearsed, all others will be brought up to speed. The priority is to set the production as fast as possible, in order to have sufficient time to make every single child on stage look like a million dollars. There is absolutely no reason to “feel bad” about not having danced in rehearsal at this point. This might well be the first “real life” experience and as parents you can help your child understand that once cast in a show, even if things change there is nothing wrong with them or with Ballet Idaho. It is a simple matter of process, which is the same all over the world. This is THE Nutcracker production in the state of Idaho. It is a privilege to be a cast member no matter how small the part. 10,000 people are expected to attend this year, this is a big deal and therefore also an obligation to deal with the reality of professionalism.

What a great turnout for “Dress Rehearsal!”

Ballet Idaho’s inaugural “Dress Rehearsal” Fashion Show Fundraiser was a smashing SOLD-OUT success, held last Friday, October 9th at the Linen Building. Company dancers and professional models strutted down the runway in fashions from several downtown Boise and Eagle boutiques. The evening was all about the answer the age-old question: Whatever shall I wear to the ballet? It was presented in four tiers: the matinee, the date night, the gala and the runway finale featuring beautiful vintage gowns donated by ballet patrons that were then placed for silent auction. A huge thank you to Clothesline Cleaners, who hand-restored and cleaned all of the garments for this segment. Many generous merchants donated items for the silent auction including area professional arts organizations, R Grey Jewelers, Jos A. Bank Clothiers, Hotel 43, Michael Todd, Monkey Doos, Chandlers Steakhouse, Bogus Basin, Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro, to mention only a few. KTVB’s News Channel 7 reporter, Alyson Outen, emceed this fabulous event and the evening was completed with a short performance of Footage on the runway by Ballet Idaho company dancers Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti and Ryan Nye. Special thanks to our Co-Chairs, Angie Berman and Lana Hollingshead, “Dress Rehearsal” sponsor Ethan Allen and the many vendors, boutiques and patrons who generously donated items to make this first-time event a success! With Friday night’s outstanding feedback, this is sure to be an annual event for Ballet Idaho! Looking forward to next year!
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