Jennifer Henderson talks to dancers in a recent "Alice in Wonderland" rehearsal.

City Center Ballet is Not a Ballet School

Submitted 9 months ago
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What does a ballet dancer do, in and around Lebanon, New Hampshire, in order to pursue ballet professionally? That was Linda Copp’s conundrum in 1999. Her school, the Lebanon Ballet School, had been providing ballet lessons for over ten years. She wanted to provide her group of core dancers, those middle and high school students who danced for hours each day, a way to elevate their abilities and dance in professional productions. She wanted to bring in guest dancers from around the country.

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City Center Ballet became the answer, founded in 1999 by Linda and Ruth Meyer. The non-profit ballet company produces two top-rate performances per year, hosts master classes, and provides educational opportunities for a group of devoted dancers from around the Upper Valley. Dancers live throughout the region and usually begin studying ballet at age 5 or 6. City Center offers dancers a way to dance in a semi-professional company and perform for audiences while working with professional dancers. 

Dancers rehearsing for their upcoming production of "Alice."

Dancers in the company are devoted to their craft, practicing up to 6 days a week for hours each day. The practice room and lounge below it become a second home for the dancers, especially during rehearsals for their May and December productions. The fridge in the break room is stocked with snacks. Bags, coats, and outside shoes litter the floor. Dancers are scattered around the studio upstairs, practicing, working on placement, or waiting for their turn to rehearse for the company's upcoming May production, "Alice in Wonderland." 

Jennifer Henderson, City Center’s choreographer for the last ten seasons, explains City Center's mission, “Linda wants to offer young dancers, whether or not they’re aspiring to be professional dancers, a real professional experience.” The company achieves this by inviting guest artists from around the country in to hold lead roles in the annual “Clara’s Dream” and their Spring production which is “Alice in Wonderland” this year. 

And a professional experience it is. The costumes for “Alice” look like artwork.Elizabeth Lurie, from Plainfield, is the costumer for the company, creating breathtaking pieces for each production. Dancers work long hours with Jennifer, Linda, and Susan Lamontagne, whose 20-year professional performing career included Broadway and national and international musical theater tours. Guest artists elevate the company to semi-professional status and give young dancers a vision of what they could do as professional ballerinas. “No matter what they eventually decide to do, there’s always some element of dance in their lives,” says Jennifer. 

A set of teacups which are to be auctioned off at City Center's fundraising event on May 4th 

The hard work and dedication will be on display next month at Lebanon Opera House, where the company will offer four showings of "Alice," on May 4th, 5th, and 6th. Ticket prices start at $9. 


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