Earlier this month, Richmond’s Stavna Ballet brought top-quality ballet at an affordable price to Dogtown Dance Theatre.
Stavna Ballet hosted the second production of their performance season, Director’s Choice, on April 12 and 13 at Dogtown Dance Theatre, and it was a treat to see. Stavna Ballet is a nonprofit dance company founded in Richmond that aspires to give local artists an outlet for artistic expression by giving dancers a chance to perform, and bringing top-quality ballet to the Richmond area.
Shannon McConville, founder of Stavna, translates the word “Stavna” to loosely mean “simply” or “simply beautiful” ballet. The juxtaposition between the words “simply” and “beautiful” was thought-provoking, yet easily explainable after watching the opening night of Director’s Choice.
During the first of two acts, Stavna began with extended excerpts of a production still in-works: Sleeping Beauty. Each of the company’s five members all played a different role in the plot of the beloved classic. This act contained three pieces, totaling twenty or so minutes, and it was full of brightly colored classic tutus on the Dogtown stage — a stage which does not usually find itself hosting ballet.
The typical Dogtown audience was in attendance, and many found themselves stunned at this high-art performance brought down to a reasonable price. It’s great to see a ballet company besides the Richmond Ballet drawing an audience in Richmond.
The second act featured contemporary works of ballet, and it was in this act that I found love. Simply, the ballerinas of Stavna showed the dance community that breathtaking choreography can happen, and indeed is happening locally, on a grassroots level. Homegrown and passionate, I saw unheralded emotion as the dancers performed full company pieces, duets, or solos.
Notable performances came from guest choreographer and dancer Vanessa Owen, on her solo “A Misunderstanding.” Owen, a world-renowned dancer currently based in Old Fort, NC, also co-choreographed the group finale piece, “To Know You,” with her partner Gavin Stewart. Another impressive and passionate performance came from the duet “Proclivitas,” performed by Madison Case and Eric Robinson.
My favorite work of the night, however, was a solo performance entitled “Douleur.” The soloist, Rachel Seeholzer, captivated the feeling that founder McConville spoke on: simply beautiful. The raw emotion seen from her performance was the highlight of my night. Her costume was simple, yet her movements spoke louder decibels than the theatre speakers. An image, one of Seeholzer staring into the side stage as bright lights bathed her and on her tip-toes, is still as clear to me as the hands in front of my face. I saw confidence and self-awareness. Simply beautiful ballet.
Top photo by Bella Ella Photography