Bangor Ballet’s Gershwin program not ‘strictly classical’

Posted April 29, 2010, at 5:11 p.m.

There’s something irresistible about the music of George Gershwin. It’s bright, cheeky and profoundly American, which is why it’s so terribly fun to listen to — and to dance to. For dancers with the Bangor Ballet, it’s all they’ve been practicing for the past few months. The Ballet will perform a program featuring dances based on “An American in Paris” and “Porgy and Bess” at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 2, at the Grand in Ellsworth.

“Our dancers are really inspired by the music,” said Jane Bragg, director of the company and of the Thomas School of Dance. “It’s always a treat for them to dance outside of the strictly classical realm. I think this will attract a different audience, too, who wouldn’t otherwise come to our performances.”

Sunday’s performance will feature a number of longtime Thomas School of Dance students and Bangor Ballet performers, including August Eaton, 15, of Hermon and Tommy McCarthy, also 15, of Bangor. Eaton and McCarthy have performed together since they were in elementary school, and are among the strongest young male dancers in eastern Maine.

“It’s been so fun to watch these kids grow over the years,” said Bragg. “I remember when they were such little boys, and now their technique has just grown leaps and bounds. It’s incredible.”

Eaton and McCarthy study Irish step dance and tap dance in addition to ballet. For the most part, though, for the past few years they’ve studied ballet under the tutelage of Ivy Forrest, the former Joffrey Ballet dancer who has taught classes with Thomas and now is artistic director of the Bangor Ballet.

“We are so fortunate to have Ivy here,” said Bragg. “She does extremely high-quality training and she’s really inspiring to the kids.”

Eaton and McCarthy both will attend the Joffrey School this summer in New York, and Eaton will attend the School of American Ballet on a partial scholarship. Other Bangor Ballet dancers have received awards and accolades from national dance troupes; Erin Norris, 14, of Glenburn will attend the summer program “Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Others have been accepted into programs at the American Academy of Ballet and at Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Massachusetts.

Sunday’s performance caps another year of training and creative expression for Bangor Ballet dancers. In addition to the May 2, show, students from the Thomas School of Dance will perform their spring recital 7 p.m. Saturday, May 15, and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 16, at Peakes Auditorium at Bangor High School. For more information, visit www.thomasschoolofdance.com.

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