After calling the Arsenal home for 34 years, Benicia Ballet has officially moved.
Facing the imminent loss of half of their studio space, they opted to find a new home at 390 Military East, where Stage One Dance Center used to be. They’ve also undergone a recent leadership change; Teresa Taylor, who has worked with Benicia Ballet for a number of years has taken up the helm of Artistic Director and now presides over the school.
In a recent interview with Taylor, she expressed regret at having to leave their studio in the Arsenal, but also gratitude for the new space.
“It’s great; the building is already set up for use as a dance studio and we have greater visibility now, being right out there on Military East.”
Of course, they haven’t been able to use the interior of the building for much other than broadcasting virtual classes, so far. But they have been able to partner with their neighbors at Benicia Jazzercise to create an outdoor studio in Jazzercise’s fenced-in back parking lot. The outdoor studio features a canopy for shade and lights for the evening classes. The dancers thoroughly enjoy being able to come together and dance in the outdoors, according to Taylor. They practice socially distancing, wear masks, and are COVID screened at each class. However, on smoky days with poor air quality, Taylor closes the outdoor studio and reverts to virtual classes for the safety of her students and faculty.
With all this change and the strain of COVID, Benicia Ballet is currently offering about 30% of their normal class-load, but has retained roughly 50% of their students and is now seeing growth in new registration. Taylor commends the students for their dedication to their craft through these hard times. She describes a moment in the outdoor studio when a student was auditioning with a particularly challenging variation. “Even when she got winded (we’re all a little out of shape these days), she dug deeper. In that moment, we saw her become a dancer.”
Of course, Benicia Ballet Theatre’s annual live Nutcracker performance is cancelled.
Instead, in a collaboration with BBT faculty, as well as local videographer with 7DC Studios and BBT dad, Louis Dela Cruz, Taylor is crafting “Nutcracker ReImagined,” an artfully edited video version of the production. Rehearsals and filming will be done in small pods to limit exposure risk. As Taylor describes it, the final product will likely be streamed online for a fee and, depending on health guidelines at the time, might be shown publicly as well. Taylor started out dancing with the State Ballet of Oregon and has taught at Boston Ballet and Berkeley Ballet Theater. Hailing from southern Oregon, Taylor hopes to one day work with the City of Benicia to produce something like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but in the genre of ballet, with “Ballet in the Park.” For now, however, she is just appreciative of the support she has received from the City and County so far.
If you would like to help support Benicia Ballet Theatre, a 501(c)(3), there are a number of ways you can do so. You can contact Benicia Ballet Theatre about their current fundraiser (at the time of this writing, it is a popcorn sale), you can buy BBT attire, and you can shop on Amazon.com/smile (be sure to select Benicia Ballet Theatre Inc. as your charity of choice).
Edit: “Nutcracker ReImagined” will be available for screening on December 26th.