Glendale Newspress Feb ’05

Appeared in
Glendale News-Press and Foothill Leader
February 19-21, 2005

A Chance to Dance
By Karen Apostolina,
Photo by Dan Watson

Erin Holt, the director of California DanceArts, breaks into a huge grin. “Who wants to go to Austria?” she shouts. Sixteen young dancers raise their hands. They are auditioning for the Salzburg International Ballet Academy’s summer workshop. This is a rare opportunity because the academy’s director, Peter Breuer, intends to choose dancers from this summer intensive for his new touring company, the Salzburg Ballet. Holt has been authorized to represent the Salzburg Ballet through her close association with Yehuda Maor, the ballet’s assistant director. Maor developed the Maor Placement Technique, a method to develop strength and flexibility, used widely in Europe. Holt studied the method and now teaches the technique in La Canada Flintridge. So far, hers is the only school in California authorized to hold auditions for the academy. The next one is March 5. “A lot of hopeful dancers audition for various different summer workshops hoping it will help them get into companies,” Holt said. “But in Salzburg, they are openly saying, ‘Yes; we are going to be looking at people for our company.'”
“I’m looking for not just talent,” Holt said, “but a certain maturity — dancers who want to hone their skills and are serious about having a future.”
Alysa White, 14, from Glendale is a contender. She’s been with the California Contemporary Youth Ballet, Holt’s junior company, for two years, most recently performing Gerda in “The Snow Queen.” Alysa said she would definitely go to Salzburg if chosen. “I’m not too nervous because I’m used to dancing at this school, but I’m very excited,” she said. Those chosen will study in Austria for one month, beginning July 11, and will have the opportunity to work with Breuer, who has been with the London Festival Ballet and American Ballet Theatre in New York. The workshop will culminate with a performance and each participant will be judged. Throughout this process, Breuer will troll for new talent. But, not everyone wants a job. Jamie Waldemar, a 15-year-old who goes to Crescenta Valley High School, loves to dance because it’s fun. She said she wouldn’t stay in Europe if offered a contract.
“I want to go just for the experience and the chance to work with such great teachers and choreographers,” she said.
Dancers must pay a $20 fee to audition plus the cost of the summer workshop if chosen. Holt said the money covers classes and pays for the guest artists who will be attending. As Holt paces the room, assessing the student’s skill, she explains that Breuer’s choreography is edgy.
“It’s very clean and everything has to land on a beat. Boom!” Holt said, clapping her hands. “It’s to your advantage if you’ve had jazz training because there is a little ‘pop’ to the choreography.” She switches the music from classical to funky. This tests the dancers to move outside the boundaries of classical ballet.
“Think of the choreography as kind of moody,” Holt said. Then she smiles and adds, “If you throw in some double pirouettes, that would make it a lot more exciting!”