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Boston Ballet Turns 50

BC Alum Reflects on Experience with the Boston Ballet

For The Heights

Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 23:09

In honor of its 50th anniversary, the Boston Ballet is performing in the Boston Common this Saturday, Sept. 21. The company is putting on a free, one-night-only show, titled Night of Stars.

According to the Boston Ballet’s official website, the event’s dance performances will vary drastically in style—ranging from classical ballet to contemporary movement. The program covers several well-known performances, including George Balanchine’s Serenade and Symphony in Three Movements, Jorma Elo’s Plan to B, and more. An online advertisement for the event boasts the performances will be held on “the largest stage ever on Boston Common.”

The full ballet company will perform with the accompaniment of the Boston Ballet orchestra, whose skilled hands will produce the bone-chilling music of Tchaikovsky and other famous composers.

The stage, located at Boston Common at the corner of Beacon St. and Charles St., will come to life at 7 p.m. on Saturday evening.

E. Virginia Williams founded the Boston Ballet 50 years ago, in 1963. It holds the honor of being the first ballet company in New England. The Ballet has since undergone the leadership of several artistic directors, including Violette Verdy (1980-1984), Bruce Marks (1985-1997), and Anna-Marie Holmes (1997-2000). Currently, Director Mikko Nissinen leads the troupe in all its endeavors, and has done so since his election to the position in 2001.

Nissinen also proudly directs the largest ballet school in North America, the Boston Ballet School. Since 2009, its home base has been the Boston Opera House, which holds 2,500 people.

The company has also made strides to represent America. In 1979, the company performed the opening number for the Nervi Festival, an annual international dance event held in Italy. Only a year later, the Boston Ballet became the first American dance company to perform in the People’s Republic of China. The company has retained consistent popularity in Spain. They first toured Spain in 1991, where they gained roaring praise and were begged to return again in the summer of 2007. The crowd could not get enough, and the company returned to Spain in 2010 for a five-city tour for a third time.

While the ballet has perfected the art of classical ballet, the company is becoming increasingly known for pushing the boundaries of contemporary dance. It was the first dance company to utilize pieces of modern-day choreographers, such as Mark Morris, Susan Marshall, Ralph Lemon, Elisa Monte, and Helen Pickett.

On a more local scale, the Boston Ballet is known for its stellar performances of The Nutcracker. Voted “The Best Nutcracker Performance in the U.S.” in 2009, the Nissinen-choreographed production has been running for 42 years.

Anne Tippett, BC ’79,  first decided to become involved in ballet off the stage when she saw her first performance of The Nutcracker 38 years ago as a BC undergraduate.  
“I was hooked,” Tippett said in an interview with The Heights.

 Since then, she has attended hundreds of Boston Ballet performances, “becoming a subscriber and supporter along the way.” A season ticket holder, she also became an avid member of the Boston Ballet Volunteer Association. Through this, Tippett spent many days selling ballet merchandise before, after, and during intermission of countless shows. She also took on the responsibility of assisting in the coordination and execution of an annual lecture series held at Boston Ballet’s South End studio.

 “Volunteering was a wonderful way to get to know company members and other ballet fans in the greater Boston community who enjoyed the performances as much as I did,” Tippett said. It also provided her the opportunity for a “behind-the-scenes” glimpse of each production, as help was often needed in the costume shop.

Through its riveting performances, the Boston Ballet engages millions of people worldwide.

Not only do people enjoy viewing the masterpieces, but over 3,000 young women and men in Boston, Newton, and Marblehead partake in dance training offered by the Boston Ballet School.

Additionally, the Boston Ballet has several educational community outreach programs including Adaptive Dance, a Boston Ballet program in collaboration with the Department of Physical Therapy at the Children’s Hospital of Boston. It strives to teach and encourage dance and expressive movement to children with special needs.

Since its birth in 2002, the program has helped many special needs children cultivate a love of music and dance as tools for self-expression.

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