Showing posts with label First State Ballet Theatre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First State Ballet Theatre. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

First State Ballet Theatre Hires Molly Rooney as New Managing Director

First State Ballet Theatre has announced that Molly Rooney will be joining the company as Managing Director, effective March 15. Prior to joining First State Ballet Theatre, Molly was an Account Manager at Dandelions Digital. Molly has served as Director for the National Ballet Competition for the past three years.

As the creator of National Ballet Competition, Molly will be bringing her unique skills in communications, digital marketing, fundraising and community relations, as well as her passion for ballet, to First State Ballet Theatre. Molly is a former professional ballet dancer and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Communications.

“I am beyond excited to join First State Ballet Theatre, a company dear to my heart, as their Manager Director. As a former dancer, I am excited to be on the administrative side and be a part of developing this wonderful organization,” says Molly. “We are super excited about bringing Molly on to the First State Ballet Theatre team. She shows a lot of enthusiasm and passion and we think she will bring great things to the organization,” says Kristina Kambalov, Executive Director.

“Molly is an exceptional person in all aspects of her life. She is very detailed and precise and can provide exactly what is needed,” added Paige Obara, Business Manager.

First State Ballet Theatre (FSBT) was founded in 1999 with the mission to present professional ballet performances throughout Delaware, offer high-quality ballet training and performing experiences to aspiring dancers, and educate the Delaware dance audience of the future. 

Founded in 1999, FSBT is Delaware's only professional ballet company and this season employs professional dancers under the artistic direction of Pasha Kambalov, a graduate of the esteemed Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. FSBT presents classical ballets and commissions contemporary works from both local and internationally-recognized choreographers. 

FSBT is based in Wilmington's Grand Opera House and attracts thousands of patrons to the City of Wilmington each season, in addition to performances statewide. The School of First State Ballet Theatre enrolls over 100 students ages 3 and up, and offers classes six days a week in its studios in the Grand Opera House and at its satellite location at the Dupont County Club. FSBT students have won awards in international ballet competitions, been accepted at some of the country's elite ballet schools, and danced professionally all over the world. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Beauty of the Season Highlighted in FSBT's Nutcracker

Photo courtesy of FSBT
By Christine Facciolo

Larger-than-life scenery, sparkling costumes, dazzling dancing and a lush score by one of music’s greatest melodists.

Ballet doesn’t get much more Christmassy than The Nutcracker and First State Ballet Theatre’s annual production continues to deliver festive magic and some striking performances.

Audiences at Saturday’s matinee were entranced by the classic story of a young girl’s Christmas Eve and her awakening to the wider world and romantic love.

Marie is the most innocent of ballet heroines, a tiny guileless protagonist around whom the magic of “The Nutcracker” unfolds.

Mary Kate Reynolds was superb as the Adult Marie, her pliant body and elegant feet a gorgeous instrument for Tchaikovsky’s sweeping score. She was never less than enchanted by the tricks and transformations that surrounded her. Her subtle changes in facial expressions and impeccable timing conveyed a sense of childlike wonder.

But The Nutcracker is a company ballet, and every member of the cast was at the top of their games. Reynolds was partnered with Jake Nowicki’s gallant Prince. John Brewer gave the character of Drosselmeyer a mix of severity and playfulness. The mechanical dolls (Angele Zielen, Rie Aoki and Leonid Goykham) delighted all. Goykham and Justin Estelle, portraying the Mouse King and the Nutcracker respectively, were impressive with their amazing jumping abilities and thrilling sword fight.

The audience was then magically transported to the Land of the Sweets. John Brewer and Aubrey Clemens made a fiery, flashy twosome in the Spanish. Richy Romero and Molly Rooney were convincing in the Chinese. Lauren Frere’s natural flexibility was put to dazzling use in the partnering of Lauren Anthony, Jessica Eizember, Kenzie Lemoine and Jamie Meyer in the Arabian. Andrew Matte and Ethan Hunter Raysor thrilled the audience in the Russian.

The Waltz of the Flowers is a perennial high point in The Nutcracker and Rie Aoki was a lyrical and finely detailed Flower Princess. The party cast members in the opening act managed to captivate with colorful expressions and animated scenarios. Jacqueline Taylor made for a wonderfully composed Young Marie while Kathy Lin as Fritz enjoyed making as much mischief as possible.

The Nutcracker has always been an uneven work. The first act is all story, while the second act is all dancing. Marie is still pretty much relegated to the sidelines with little to do but look entranced and occasionally join in the dancing. It’s a difficult role to animate but Reynolds does her best, giving us every imaginable shade of awe and delight.

This production coupled with Tchaikovsky’s evocative score capably delivered the age-old magic that is The Nutcracker.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

First State Ballet Brings Delaware A "Beauty" of a Performance

By Christine Facciolo

First State Ballet Theatre, under the artistic direction of Pasha Kambalov, held the audience spellbound as it opened its 2015-16 season — its 16th as a professional company — with a gorgeous production of The Sleeping Beauty on Saturday, October 17 at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington.

With music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa, this beloved ballet has captivated audiences for more than a century. Generations have thrilled to its royal celebrations, magnificent castle scenes, magic spells, the battle of good and evil and the triumphant victory of everlasting love.

No ballet tests a company’s technical mettle more than The Sleeping Beauty, and this performance featured three hours of dazzling choreography, intricate pointe work and soaring jumps.

The story gets off to a wonderful start as a sorority of fairy godmothers arrives at Baby Princess Aurora’s christening, bestowing on her all the gifts she will need in life. These masterful ballerinas glided across the stage with such grace and ease that it looked effortless.

The plot gets rolling after the passage of 16 years when the court celebrates the now marriageable Aurora’s birthday. The lovely and lissome Mary Kate Reynolds reprises her role as the condemned princess, displaying all the sprightliness and joy one would expect of a teenage character in the bloom of life. She seemed to hover in the air, skimming the stage with a light pas de chat. The role calls for a master turner and Reynolds executed every pirouette with grace and precision.

The handsome Justin Estelle danced the role of Prince Desire who kisses and awakens Aurora from a 100-year sleep, imposed by the slighted evil fairy Carabosse (danced by a deliciously diabolical Aubrey Clemens). From the moment he appeared in the hunting scene, Estelle commanded the stage with a proper air of aristocracy and exciting yet tasteful and elegant dancing. His gravity-defying feats were among the most impressive highlights of the ballet. There was no shortage of chemistry between him and Reynolds.

And there was much more to appreciate, whether it is in the wisdom and dreaminess of Lauren Frere’s Lilac Fairy, the lightness of Rie Aoki and Leonid Goykhman’s “Bluebird pas de deux,” the playfulness of The White Cat (Angela Zielen) and Puss-in-Boots (John Brewer) or the engaging Master of Ceremonies (Jake Nowicki). Jake Allison and Anna Carapellotti offered a proud and dignified King Florestan XIV and Queen, respectively.

Aside from the breathtaking dancing, the costumes were true stand-outs in this production, perfectly complementing the performers, from the Lilac Fairy’s sparkling purple tutu to the dark robes of the evil Carabosse and her minions.

This “Sleeping Beauty” was a magnificent piece of art, from slumber to awakening.

Monday, February 24, 2014

First State Ballet Theatre Unveils a Killer Production in Irene

The World Premiere of Irene, written and composed by Shaun Dougherty and choreographed by Alex Buckner, lived up to expectations (I can honestly say it exceeded mine, and I'm pretty picky when it comes to the vampire genre in general). It's too bad that the production was a one-night-only event. It's the kind of production that needs word-of-mouth and general buzz to draw people who might not ordinarily spend an evening at the ballet, but who would undoubtedly love this show. 

Vampires and ballet go together uncannily well -- there's something about the grace, the fluid movements, and charisma ballet can offer that makes it work really, really well. And with its impeccable choreography, the most violent moments of Irene capture the horror, without even a drop of blood.

The atmospheric, dark score blends classical and contemporary music; the 9-piece orchestra, led by Conductor Clint Williams, is dominated by strings, with Dougherty on electric guitar. This is not what I would call a rock 'n roll ballet any more than it's a traditional one -- but the modern, electric bass and guitar elements give it an edge that fits the gothic style of the story.

Thought it has twists, the story is straightforward enough to follow easily, even for those not accustomed to watching stories told in dance (the beautiful costumes by Joanne Epstein, Traci Eizember and Paige Obara also help keep the characters straight). Emily Shenaut plays Irene, a young ballerina who finds that the prestigious ballet company she's been accepted into is, in fact, a company of vampires, led by Malekeh (Mary Kate Reynolds) and Liam (Leonid Goykhman), with a pair of vampire henchmen lovers, Lily and James (Aubrey Clemens and Jake Nowicki), stalking her throughout as she tries to escape the nightmare Though there is a goth-romantic feel to the story, the vampires are clearly monsters, despite their graceful beauty, and the vampire killings, of which there are several, are so horrific that Irene attempts suicide after witnessing them. Seemingly less monstrous is Maeve (Rie Aoki), Makela's apprentice, who portrays an more innocent and kind spirit -- but are her intentions really to help Irene?

Through all of this is a love story between Irene and her boyfriend Ethan (Justin Estelle), who spends most of the story trying to protect or save Irene from the vampires. The audience knows a little more about Ethan than Irene does (I almost wished we didn't), and their arc carries through from beginning to end.

Here's hoping that Irene comes back in future seasons.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Looking for Something Different This Weekend? How About a Vampire Ballet?

"When was the last time you saw a professionally performed classical and contemporary ballet with live musicians about vampires?" asks Shaun Dougherty, creator and composer of Irene, First State Ballet Theatre's unique new production, premiering for one show only this Friday, February 21, at The Grand Opera House.

It's really a rhetorical question. While Wilmington has seen some dark ballet, thanks to Fringe Wilmington, a vampire ballet is something new, made only more enticing by the fact that this is a FSBT original. The story centers around Irene, a beautiful young dancer who joins the most prestigious ballet company in the world and finds herself struggling with mysterious odd rehearsal schedules and constant late-night parties.

Dougherty, a musician who is primarily a jazz and rock guitarist, got hooked on ballet thanks the location of his teaching studio -- inside The Grand, where FSBT is also located.

"I met (FSBT director) Pasha casually, and just started going to all their performances," says Dougherty. "They're a very professional and talented school. Once the ballet idea popped into my head, I literally just walked into their office one day and pitched my idea. After several more chats, we all agreed this is something we can and should do, and here we are!"

Irene aims to bring the beauty of the ballet to a new audience, while appealing to established ballet fans, with a mix of classical and contemporary music and its seductive horror theme.

"There is a lot of talent here in little Delaware," says Dougherty, "and this is what I do -- I write original music and put together shows. This is my love, this is my passion and I want people to enrich their lives with  the beauty of ballet. I'm just along for the ride."

Purchase tickets at

Monday, March 29, 2010

From Russia to Delaware, with Love

People in Wilmington are always talking about the city’s small-town feel. Take that small community, and divide it many times over, and you have the dimensions of a very dense, interconnected Arts community thriving in Delaware and Greater Philadelphia.

Fellow blogger Margaret Darby and I were recently at the Exchange on Market after our performance at the Wilmington Library. We struck up a conversation with two dashingly handsome and personable waiters, Jake Allison and Nukri Mamistvalov, who turned out to be dancers from First State Ballet Theatre. They encouraged us to attend their upcoming performance of Swan Lake.

Graciously, the company’s artistic director, Pasha Kambalov invited me to attend a dress rehearsal of the famous ballet, choreographed to Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky’s glorious music. This vibrant young company has its roots in the Donetsk Ballet. Originally the Russian Ballet of Delaware, the company celebrates its tenth anniversary this season. Pasha Kambalov and his wife Kristina, ballet school director, are co-founders of the growing company, which is based at the Grand Opera House.

Swan Lake is the epitome of true classic ballet: graceful lines and delicate beauty based on a tragic fairy tale. Angela Zintchenko was lovely as the ill-fated Odette-Odile, paired with Justin Estelle, a convincing Prince Siegfried. Outstanding was Mamistvalov as the villain Von Rothbart as he cut an evil swath through the stage with his mysterious black-feathered costume. During a dress rehearsal, one often gets to see a director’s vision in its final stages of realization. Because it was the company’s first rehearsal for the production on the main stage, Pasha Kambalov was tweaking the spacing and overall look of the production. His gentle, yet firm direction to the dancers resulted in refined and beautifully spaced tableaus.

Next year, the company’s production of The Nutcracker will include a live performance by The Delaware Symphony Orchestra, since last year’s collaboration on the selections from the work was so successful.