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Ballet planning spring gala Friday

Photo by Rob Sigler Gracie Watkins as Gretel, Tavares White as Hansel, and Yahir McFaline as the Witch

The Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet presents its annual Spring Gala performance under the direction of Monika Alch on Friday at 8 p.m. at the Amphitheater at Chautauqua Institution. Tickets are now available at tickets.chq.org or by calling the box office at 716-357-6250.

This year’s Gala opens with a ballet version of Hansel & Gretel set to the music from the opera Hansel & Gretel and features all the students of the ballet. Soloists are Gracie Watkins as Gretel, Tavares White as Hansel, and Yahir McFaline as the Witch. Other featured roles are danced by Ethan Pumford as the Sandman and Maya Swanson as the lead Angel. Choreography was created by instructors Sandra Mangusing and Samantha Barczak-Young.

The organization is excited to premiere a new work on this program which is a new twist on the famous Bach Toccata and Fugue in d-minor. The twist is that it is performed with the combined sounds of pipe organ and drum set. This premiere will be performed using live music and the fabulous organ at the Chautauqua Amphitheatre. Alch first heard this version at a memorial service for a dear friend, Flip Yates, and was immediately inspired to have a dance piece created to it. Brittany Bush, ballet alumna now Director of Ballet at the Greater Boston School of Classical Ballet, came out to create the piece for 12 dancers featuring a solo pair: Spencer Keith, a guest artist from Boston and Maya Swanson, CRYB Pre-preprofessional dancer graduating this year. The organist is Garrett Martin and the percussionist is Brent Isaacson.

Martin holds a Master of Music Degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Sacred Music and Organ Performance, a Performer’s Certificate in Organ and Accompanying from Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, as well as a Church Music and Organ Performance Degree from Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn. Since 2013, Martin has served as the Organist and Director of Music at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Buffalo. For five years, he served as the Artistic Director of the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus and since 2016, as an artist for the Rodgers Organ Company of Hillsboro, Ore., with more than 40 video recordings available online.

Isaacson is a lifelong percussionist who has played in dozens of musical productions in Chautauqua County, including at Jamestown Community College, the Lucille Ball Little Theater in Jamestown, and area high schools. Outside of music, he is in his third year as the Chief of University Police at the State University of New York at Fredonia, after having served as an FBI Special Agent for 23 years

Spencer Keith, guest artist, was born in Romania and raised in Honolulu. He received his training at the Academie de Danse Classique Princesse Grace and was awarded silver and gold medals for pas-de-deux and solo competitions. Spencer also danced with Jose’ Mateo Ballet Theatre in Boston.

Alch is dedicating this premiere performance to Flip Yates who, along with his partner Mary Anne Harp, was a great supporter of CRYB.

The evening will also include Variations from Sleeping Beauty performed by Izzy Balcom, Ryah Leeper, Annie Johnson, Madeleine Leenders, Maya Swanson, Megan Stefanik, Gracie Watkins, Arehlyn Pattison and Telly Ortiz.

Rounding out the program will be two new modern works choreographed by CRYB instructor Rudi Andalora, a solo Classical Indian dance performed by Sukanya Burman, and a contemporary pointe solo by graduating senior Maya Swanson.

CRYB is located in downtown Jamestown and offers ballet instruction for ages 3 and up. They are now registering students for summer classes at www.cryb.net Scholarships are available.

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