“Performing arts is important in teaching children how to express their feelings in a safe place.”
Dr. Margaret Kenrick
As the last of the autumn leaves drop from the trees and the holidays approach, professional ballet companies and schools alike are putting the final touches on their productions of the family-friendly holiday classic, The Nutcracker. If you are looking for a quality production that is close to home, look no further than Benicia Ballet Theatre’s rendition of The Nutcracker, whose opening night is November 30th at Solano Community College Theater.
Benicia Ballet Theatre has been a thriving dance school and part of the fabric of Benicia for nearly thirty years. Founded by Jeanie Pors, the school was purchased by current Artistic Director, Dr. Margaret Kenrick, in 2007. Building upon the foundation laid by Jeanie – a community of teachers with a dedication to the pedagogy of classic Cecchetti and RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) techniques, and a unique home in the stunning Benicia Arsenal – Dr. Kenrick has since molded the school to her own vision.
Teaching for the future
Recognizing ballet as a rigorous artform that challenges the body, Dr. Kenrick has made it her mission to be a responsible steward of those who wish to learn it. Together, she and Ms. Pors have developed a cross-training program for their students, involving Pilates and other specific exercises, as well as nutrition education to help support the dancers and mitigate injury during their training.
BBT and Susie Harper School of Dance merged in 2015, forming a secondary tract in the school: Benicia Academy of Performing Arts. As a former professional ballet dancer, Dr. Kenrick said this merger helped her to “understand the importance of recreational dance.” Students of all ages can now find various classes offered at BBT/BAPA including jazz, tap, acro, modern, and even traditional cultural dance classes like Folkloríco and Hawaiian. “I wanted to make sure BBT was inclusive. My own daughter found that modern dance was a better way for her to express herself [than ballet]. And that made me want to be sure everyone could find an accessible way of moving and expressing themselves at the school.”
This expansion into other dance forms has not dulled the caliber of ballet training students receive at BBT. In recent years, some of BBT’s students have been selected to attend prestigious secondary and pre-professional training programs including Bolshoi, Joffrey, and ABT (American Ballet Theater). The school now also tries to employ teachers with various technical backgrounds, from Vagonava to Balanchine, to best prepare their students for a versatile dancer’s life beyond BBT.
An exercise in collaboration
Dr. Kenrick’s philosophy as Artistic Director of BBT/BAPA is rooted in her love of arts and health education. “Performing arts is important in teaching children how to express their feelings in a safe place. I see young children come in who are shy and don’t know how to be heard, and to give them an opportunity to share their talent and be seen and heard is so important and rewarding.” This dedication to artistic pedagogy can be seen even in the collaboration the school has built with the Solano Community College Music Department, a mentorship program between music students, professional musicians and volunteers who come together to provide live accompaniment for BBT’s production of The Nutcracker.
In addition to the treat of live accompaniment, BBT’s rendition of The Nutcracker boasts fresh choreography each year, beautiful hand-made costumes (often crafted by parents of students), and a production that “focuses on the dancers rather than on flashy sets and props.” Performances run November 30th – December 1st and December 7th-8th. Tickets available at beniciaballettheatre.org.