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Fall Arts Classical - Ballet Spokane 

by Cara Gardner

Janet Wilder's dream has come true: The Inland Northwest finally has a professional dance company. Ballet Spokane is a small troupe of dancers with experiences ranging from work with the Serbian National Theatre Ballet, to schooling in New York City. Whatever their background, they are providing the area with yet another rich cultural art form.

"We've long been lacking a professional group in Spokane; we've tried it before, but it's always failed," says Janet Wilder, the artistic director and one of the founding members of Ballet Spokane. "We have symphonies, numerous professional music and theatrical groups and we bring great entertainment to [the area], but we've been lacking a dance company. We're trying to bring the art form back so artists who make their living this way are being supported and people have the chance to see professional-level dance and production."

Wilder says building a professional company has been hard but rewarding work. "Ballet is a beautiful art form, but an expensive one to produce. It requires people, rather than canvas."

Nevertheless, Wilder says the company's production will be top-caliber.

"We will do the classics, neoclassical ballet and we'll [serve as] an outlet for choreographers who want professional-level dancers to choreograph on. Some [productions] will be modern and lyrical. There are a lot of different things people want to see. We can be the place for that."

Ballet Spokane's next performance will be Graceful Ghost, on Saturday, Oct. 25, at the Met. Next up: a rendition of Hansel and Gretel, held on Friday, Oct. 31, at the Met as a school outreach program in conjuncture with Spokane Opera. On Dec. 13-14, Ballet Spokane will perform The Toy Shelf at the Met and on Saturday, Dec. 27, the company will help raise money for Spokane Opera at the Davenport Hotel with its performance, "Diamonds & amp; Divas." Plus, you'll likely see the talents of Ballet Spokane in Downtown Spokane at First Night Spokane on Dec. 31.

"We're starting slow," Wilder says of the company, "building over the next five years, having six to eight professional dancers and a pre-professional core. Todd Foxx is our 2003-04 guest artist."

Originally trained in New York City, Foxx has danced with professional companies the world over. He's working with Kari Jensen, the company's one resident professional dancer.

Wilder believes Ballet Spokane will be successful because of its local roots and its appreciation for what dance fans want to see.

"The people on the board, the directorial staff and the dancers live in this community. [They] love Spokane and support the arts. We're not trying to come in, make money and go. We want to see this happen for Spokane."

Publication date: 09/11/03

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