Company Holds Its First Solo Ballet

In an effort to raise funds for its fledgling company, Harvard's first student ballet group will give its premier solo performance this weekend.

The Harvard-Radcliffe Ballet Company, founded last year, will perform an original version of the second act of the "Nutcracker Suite" tonight and tomorrow at Lowell Lecture Hall.

The 20 non-professional under-graduate dancers frequently take master classes with the Boston Ballet and have guest teachers, according to group co-directors Elizabeth L. Knighton '95 and Phoebe A. Cushman '95.

But the directors said the space available to them at Harvard is inadequate.

Dancers need special "sprung floors" to avoid injury while dancing en pointe, Knighton and Cushman said.

In addition, the studios are used by outside groups who rent the space, and so the rooms are available only at limited and awkward times.

"There is virtually only one place where we can do things en pointe," said Knighton. "Harvard is not sympathetic to dancers' needs."

The group has also had difficulty getting funding, the directors said.

"On a week-to-week basis the arts are at the bottom of the [administration] totem pole, and ballet is at the bottom of the arts' totem pole," said Cushman.

By dancing a well-known piece, the company hopes to "increase awareness and appreciation of dance on campus," Cushman said.

For its performance this weekend, the company has rechoreographed all the pieces in the second act of the "Nutcracker," except the "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy."

The company has worked together to "listen to the music in a very different way," Cushman said.

With help from Taiwanese members, the "Nutcracker" will feature an authentic Chinese Ribbon. The ballet company will also perform Flamenco dancing, instead of the more stereo-typical Spanish dances featured in traditional performances.

But most of the show will be traditional, with the dancers en pointe. The company will perform with a live student orchestra.

This version will be "celebrating the way the dances actually are," Cushman said.

Instead of performing the first act, the ballet company will perform four pieces of their own. The four pieces will feature the music of classical composers such as Schumann and Chopin and from more modern movies, including "The Godfather" and "Orlando."

These pieces will feature not only ballet but modern and character dancing as well. The "Nutcracker Suite" will be performed tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m.