Local Students Enjoy 'The Impressionists'

by Jennifer K. Rumple - Alameda Journal
April 10, 2009

Several cancan girls flip up their petticoats and kick their black, stocking-clad legs high into the air amid the hi-jinks of their fellow dancers. Nearly 13-hundred elementary school students bounce off their seats roaring with laughter and clapping in time during the performance reminiscent of ballrooms in 1830s Paris. It's as if the performers stepped right out of a Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) 'Moulin Rouge' illustration. That is exactly what the Alameda Civic Ballet's The Impressionists showcase hoped to accomplish

I liked the third performance the best, with the cancan dancers. It was entertaining, exclaimed Peyton Elementary School fourth-grader Brendan Miller, 10. It was a very nice performance. And I liked how we got to learn about the art too.

Though Toulouse-Lautrec's late 19th-century work is technically classified as post-impressionism, it was one of four dances highlighting the masters of the French Impressionists movement. The hour-long performance included 'Vive la Dance,' 'Monet's Garden' and 'Degas' Dancers' inspired by the creations of Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Oscar-Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Edgar Degas (1834-1917) respectively with introductions to their life and works in-between sets.

Look, then look again. Then, look from a different perspective. Allow yourself to explore, to meander, to change your mind, to be carried away, to be inspired, to feel passionately, said ACB Founder and President Abra Rudisill about her inspiration for creating and choreographing the performance. The discipline, dedication, integrity and most of all passion I have learned from (ballet) is a priceless gift I hope to be able to pass onto others as it was passed onto me.

The way it was passed onto me was through art, so it's the only way I know how to do it. Words never quite seem (to be) enough. Art has made my life beautiful because it provokes and inspires and dance is my medium, Rudisill added. I feel it is important to bring the children to the theater and have the total experience. They need to feel what it is like to sit in a theater. The energy and excitement created by the anticipation of what is about to be brought forth onstage and all the things that had to be coordinated to make it happen.

ACB coordinated with art docents from each elementary school to provide lessons focusing on the Impressionists' artwork before the performance in hopes the students would better connect the two. The dream-like music coupled with detailed costumes tailored to mimic the paintings brought each piece to life. This concept was not lost on Paden Elementary School fourth grader David Bahrami. Each dancer wore different kinds of suits and clothes and it looked like it was the exact same thing as the picture, explained Bahrami, 10. The '(Monet's) Garden' dance looked like the painting, the girls dressed like trees and there were others that looked like purple flowers. It was good. It was just good.

Edison Elementary School kindergarten teacher Jo Corpuz said ACB's performance really highlighted their previous lessons on Impressionism. It was lovely, inspiring and very educational. We're actually having a royal ball in a couple weeks. It's our European celebration with princes and princesses doing ballet pieces and even an Irish jig, added Corpuz. So, we're going to incorporate some of the things we learned here.

Rudisill said ACB believes it is crucially important to expose children to the performing arts on stage and in a theater in order to educate the 'whole child' as well as to inspire a future generation of performing artists and arts supporters.

Statewide school budgets and overall arts budgets have been drastically cut, she added. Therefore, we would like to contribute to our community by offering quality, professional ballet performances to Alameda's students.