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Ballet Florida's Coming of Age
West Palm Beach's Resident Dance Company Turns 21

Palm Beach County has no shortage of first-class cultural institutions, but Ballet Florida has helped change the face of the county seat ? literally! With a dramatic two-story, 120 x 30-ft. mural that covers the entire east facade of its Fern Street studio in Downtown West Palm Beach, Ballet Florida makes a powerful statement as a cultural cornerstone of Palm Beach County's landscape. The mural, which was unveiled last spring, is an exquisite photographic representation of the dance company's unique artistry, energy and quality.

Ranked among the top 20 dance companies in the country, Ballet Florida was founded by Marie Hale, now its artistic director, and consistently earns international and national recognition for its outstanding achievements in classical and contemporary dance. It is considered to be one of the few dance companies in the country to perform such richly diverse repertories, which include works from the world's leading contemporary and classical choreographers. It is also home to one of Florida's most highly acclaimed dance schools, the Academy of Ballet Florida.

On the brink of its 21st season, Ballet Florida's artistry continues to grow. The new season will feature some of the most daring and artistically significant performances of any season in the company's history including two full-length ballets and two exciting world premiers - one by renowned choreographer Trey McIntyre, and one by Ballet Florida's home-grown choreographic talent, Jerry Opdenaker. The season's diverse repertoire will also feature a company premiere by legendary choreographer, Lar Lubovitch.

An anonymous philanthropist recently provided Ballet Florida with a major gift of $400,000 to help fund and enhance the dance company's 2006 - 2007 season performances. The generous donor expressed hope that the gift will serve as a source of encouragement and motivation for others in this community to support one of the most talented dance companies in the nation.

This season, Ballet Florida will also add four talented new professional dancers to the company, Alfredo Lescaille a native of West Palm Beach, Fla. previously with Orlando Ballet Theatre; Shannon Smith of Hollywood, Fla. previously with Cincinnati Ballet; Douglas Gawriljuk of Brazil, previously with Maximum Dance Company; and Marife Gimenez of Venezuela, previously with Maximum Dance Company.

Ballet Florida may be known for its gifted professional dancers, world-renowned choreographers and spectacular performances, but it is also home to a nationally acclaimed dance academy. For 33 years, the Academy of Ballet Florida has prepared aspiring young dancers with the technical and artistic training they need to pursue careers as professionals. It serves more than 500 students annually, and at least 100 academy students have continued on to dance with professional companies such as the American Ballet Theater, the Houston Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the Paul Taylor Company and, of course, Ballet Florida.

The academy also offers classes to the public, as there are many people who wish to study this magical art form for personal enjoyment. There is a full curriculum of classes for students to choose from including ballet, jazz, modern, tap and fitness classes. Creative dance and pre-ballet are also offered for tots under the age of five, along with several classes for adults and an intensive summer dance workshop for intermediate to advanced students.

The summer dance workshop is for male and female dance students ages 9 to 19, and includes instruction in ballet technique, pointe, jazz, tap, modern, flamenco, pas de deux and more. Experienced dance instructors at the Academy of Ballet Florida and Ballet Florida's professional dancers conduct the workshop, which culminates with a student performance held at the Rinker Playhouse in the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. Students of the academy are also accepted into highly regarded summer workshops all across the country, including programs at the San Francisco Ballet School, the Houston Ballet Academy, the Alvin Ailey Dance Center, the Ballet Austin School and the Boston Ballet School.

Ballet Florida is dedicated to providing cultural enrichment to the surrounding communities. Through the academy, underprivileged and minority children from neighboring inner-city schools are able to benefit from various education outreach programs. The Master Class Series, Academy Dance Outreach and the Performance Series are a few of the educational programs offered by the academy. They are designed to provide children with new opportunities, personal support and the resources needed to study dance.

Over the years, Marie Hale's vision has been focused on maintaining the highest possible level of artistic integrity while entertaining and educating audiences at the same time. She has challenged and encouraged dancers, fulfilled the visions of choreographers, and provided audiences with experiences of delight, compassion, joy and laughter. As a result, Ballet Florida and its highly acclaimed Academy have become a cultural treasure for the Palm Beaches and South Florida.



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