Almost 50 youngsters are heading to the library this summer for something other than reading.
They’re part of Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre’s Youth Ballet Company, and they’re touring area libraries to give free performances of “Graduation Ball.”
The tour runs through Thursday, June 9, with 47 dancers between the ages of 10 and 15 making up three casts performing David Lichine’s 1940 children’s ballet choreographed to 19th century composer Johann Strauss’ music.
Some dancers, like Morgan Gallegos and Natalie Gaspard, are old pros at these performances.
Gallegos was 8 years old the first time she danced in the ballet as part of the ensemble. This summer, the 13-year-old is dancing the part of Perpetuum Mobile. During the intervening years, Gallegos danced in a summer intensive dance program with Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet, which asked her to stay for further study, but she opted to return to Baton Rouge, where she’ll spend the first part of her summer entertaining children at local libraries while educating them about ballet.
The education part will come after the performances, when young ballerinas mingle with audience members, answering questions and possibly demonstrating a few dance moves.
“I think this will be a great tour for us, and I think this is probably the best ‘Graduation Ball’ we’ve ever performed,” says Gaspard, 15, who is dancing the part of the head mistress. “I danced one of the parts of the little girls the last time we did this, but this is the first time I have a lead role. It’s so different.”
Also different for Gaspard is that she’s sharing the stage with her sister and two brothers. “It’s been fun rehearsing together,” Gaspard says. “But I’ve had the most fun playing the head-mistress. She’s so dramatic.”
The headmistress’ drama is understandable. She’s having to chaperone her junior and senior girls as they dance with the cadets from the nearby military academy. And love is in the air, not only for the youngsters but for the headmistress upon meeting the academy’s “old general.”
There’s dancing, flirting and clandestine meetings after the dance ends, all of which are broken up by the elders in this ballet choreographed by Susan Perlis and directed by Rebecca Acosta.
Acosta also heads the dance program at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, which supplied most of this year’s male dancers.
“We’ve always had a shortage of boys, but Rebecca was able to bring some of the boys from her program, and it makes a difference in the ballet,” Perlis says. “This is also the first time we’ve had male dancers on such a mature level of dancing.”
Meanwhile, all of the female dancers have been triple cast.
“We have so many girls, so we’ll have different casts going to the libraries on different days,” Acosta says. “The boys will be in all of the casts.”
The company has a portable backdrop that easily folds out in any venue, and all dancers will be performing in full costume on the 30-venue tour.
BRBT Youth Ballet Library Tour
Admission is free to all performances.
Wednesday, June 1
10 a.m. Carver Branch Library, 720 Terrace St.. Pre-register at (225) 389-7460.
1 p.m. Eden Park Branch Library, 5131 Greenwell Springs Road. Pre-register at (225) 231-3260.
3 p.m. Bluebonnet Regional Branch Library, 9200 Bluebonnet Blvd., (225) 763-2240.
Thursday, June 2
10 a.m. Delmont Gardens Branch Library, 3351 Lorraine St. Pre-register at (225) 354-7060.
1 p.m. Scotlandville Branch Library, 7373 Scenic Highway. (225) 354-7540.
3 p.m. Greenwell Springs Regional Branch Library, 11300 Greenwell Springs Road. (225) 274-4440.
Monday, June 6
10 a.m. Zachary Branch Library, 1900 Church St., Zachary. Pre-register at (225) 658-1860.
1 p.m. Baker Branch Library, 3501 Groom Road., Baker. Pre-register at (225) 778-5960.
3 p.m. Central Branch Library, 11260 Joor Road. Pre-register at (225) 262-2660.
Tuesday, June 7
10 a.m. Jones Creek Regional Branch Library, 6222 Jones Creek Road. Pre-register at (225) 756-1160.
1 p.m. Fairwood Branch Library, 12910 Old Hammond Highway. (225) 924-9385.
3 p.m. Main Library, 7711 Goodwood Blvd. (225) 231-3740.
Thursday, June 9
10 a.m. Denham Springs/Walker Branch Library, 8101 U.S. 190, Denham Springs. (225) 665-8118.
FUNDRAISER: To offset the cost of the tour, the Youth Ballet will host two fundraiser performances at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 5, at Dancer’s Workshop, 10745 Linkwood Court. Admission is $10; $5 children age 14 and younger.
For more information visit batonrougeballet.org.