Northwest Florida Ballet Continues to Shine
By Jordan Staggs
The Northwest Florida Ballet, founded in Fort Walton Beach in 1969, is known as one of the oldest and most prestigious fine arts institutions in the region. It boasts a full curriculum for students in grades three through eight at its Académie—for free. Those who audition and demonstrate the potential to excel in dance may attend the Académie, whose integrated fine arts and academic programs cover all core classes in addition to dance. Students wishing to pursue a professional ballet career may then move on to the school’s preprofessional high school program. The Northwest Florida Ballet also offers a full range of nighttime classes and workshops for anyone interested in pursuing ballet, jazz, hip-hop, or other genres of dance and musical theatre.
“We have been training dancers and performing for forty-six years, we employ professional dancers and international guest artists, and we have one of the nation’s best outreach programs in the NFB Académie,” says Northwest Florida Ballet’s artistic director, Todd Eric Allen. “Students audition to get into the school. They study art, music, and French and have ballet class every day. There are also eight academic teachers who ensure a rigorous academic study. The Académie has been an A-plus school since its inception.”
Kelly Day, the Académie’s academic director, says the school’s great success in education is thanks to the collaboration and dedication of Allen’s team of instructors and the Okaloosa County School District teachers who work alongside them. “It allows for a harmonious balance of education and the arts,” Day says. “We work together as a team, with each of us fully supporting the others’ areas of expertise.”
Fine and performing arts require discipline and commitment, and the struggle to succeed translates to a commitment to education as a whole.
All that hard work and training culminates in a season’s worth of incredible ballet performances that the whole community gets to enjoy. The Northwest Florida Ballet’s seasonal performances are open for the public to purchase tickets and attend, usually at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center in Niceville, Florida. This past season featured a record three productions, including the dramatic and dark Dracula in October 2015, the annual Christmastime favorite The Nutcracker, and the whimsical fairy tale classic Cinderella in March 2016.
In a joint effort to bring more live music back to the ballet, The Nutcracker and Cinderella were performed in conjunction with the Sinfonia Gulf Coast orchestra. “Cinderella was the first classical ballet that I choreographed for the company in 1996, and we usually restage it every five years,” Allen says. “I also wanted to do it for the first time with live music. It was a big undertaking for both NFB and the musicians of Sinfonia Gulf Coast, and I’m happy to say that all did a wonderful job. We strive to use live music whenever possible, as it is really the way the art form should be viewed. Of course, it isn’t cheap to use live music, so we have had to work very hard to raise the necessary funds to make it happen.” VIE is proud to be a presenting sponsor for Northwest Florida Ballet and Sinfonia events each season.
This summer, the Northwest Florida Ballet will also host its Summer Ballet Intensive Program from June 6 until July 1, with guest teachers from major ballet companies training students in ballet, pointe, modern dance, jazz, repertoire, Pilates, and yoga. There will also be programs available for beginners and intermediate/advanced dancers. On June 25, the Summer Intensive students and their teachers will perform with Northwest Florida Ballet dancers at Grand Boulevard Town Center in Miramar Beach, Florida.
“It is such a pleasure to contribute to the culture of our amazing community, both through the training and education of our students and through our outreach efforts and performances,” says Allen. “We are making final adjustments to our 2016–2017 season and can’t wait to share it with everyone!”
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To learn more about Northwest Florida Ballet’s educational opportunities and performances, or to make a donation, visit www.NFBallet.org.