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American Youth Ballet
In Yardley Hall, Johnson County Community College
Saturday 20 December 2014, 2 pm and 7 pm
Photos were shot in two locations:
1 - American Dance Center - http://www.amdance.org/ - (studio: 25 Oct, 13, 14 Dec) and
2 - JCCC (dress/tech/performance) in Yardley Hall (stage 18, 19, 20 Dec)
Ticketing - JCCC Box Office: 913-469-4445
Tickets prices were - Adults Orch.- $23 Tier/Terr - $21 Balcony - $15. Youth 12 & Under $15
Both performances were sold out to the (almost) last seat (Yardley's capacity is 1341 seats)
== Studio Rehearsals ==
== (theater pics below) ==
A pair of "soldiers" fighting the mice cruise through the air holding rifles.
Scary mice who torment Clara
Sisters Annie Cook (2014's 2 pm Clara) and Molly Cook (2011's 2pm Clara and 2014's 7 pm Sugar Plum Fairy)
Most of the dancers play multiple roles in each production.
Nadine taking notes
In the hallway at American Dance Center, ready for the next run
Seth York and Julianna Kuhn (7pm) in the Arabian part during a studio run sunday the 14th
(compare to the on stage shot just below)
== In Theater ==
Seth York and Julianna Kuhn (7pm) in the Arabian part in costume on stage
(compare to the studio shot just above)
Kristopher Estes-Brown and Joe Flickner before the performance folding the tree
so that it can grow at the magical urging of Drosselmeyer (Curt Knupp, far right).
Naoko Kobayashi (Reina and Lisa's mum) In the green room working on costume repair
Preparing the artificial snow in the canvas trough which has holes for the snow to drop through
Swirling in a dress which flies out as she turns
The house manager tells attendees which route to take to their seats.
Users fold and insert printed sheets with orchestra credits into the programs before the 7pm show
The league of bearded JCCC stage crew members (and a moustache) pose backstage with
Kristopher Estes-Brown (also bearded, fourth from left) before the evening performance.
Dancer Dave Cross (left), playing one of the house guest parents and playing the Mouse King, pitches in to sweep snow to re-use it
Juliana Kuhn (7pm cast) and Seth York in the Arabian roles
Herding Cherubs - exit stage right
Death of the mouse king
Choreography Kristopher Estes-Brown Music composed by Pyotr llyich Tchaikovsky Set Design Jason Phillips, Paul Mesner Puppets, Ethan Steimel, Ryan Hasler, and Kristopher Estes-Brown Lighting Design Kristopher Estes-Brown Costuming Director Jennifer Tierney with Deborah Green, Stephanie Kong, Denna Flickner, Carol Brookover, and Gayla Voss
Dr, Drosselmeyer Curt Knupp Nephew Asher Wilson Columbine Doll Juliana Kuhn (2p), Cassie Wang(7p) Columbine Tutu generously underwritten by the Wilson Family and the Green Family Vivandiére Rebekah Nelson (2p), Malerie Moore (7p) Soldier Doll Seth York Grandmother Jennifer Tierney Party Guest Parents Genevieve Frank, Dena'h Gregory, Danica Williams, Joseph Flickner, Dalton Heinle, David Cross Party Guest Children Ximena Flores, Elise Johnson, Reina Kobayashi, Carter Robinson, Samantha Marx, Joshua Kovac, Nate Lozaw, Theo Muhammed, Evey Musgrave, Madeline Oliver, Katie Xue
Interior Drop generously underwritten by the Moore Family Maids Sofia Acosta, Anne-Marie Dahms, Anna Wolock Frau Stahlbaum Brooke Peck Clara Annie Cook (2p), Julia Walewicz (7p) Clara Party Scene Costume generously underwritten by the Acosta Family
Clara Nightgown costume generously underwritten by Jesse Cooper
Fritz Sam Lozaw Louisa Molly Cook Governess Maura Kate Frank Herr Stahlbaum Tony Witt Lieutenant Mice Caitlin Blackwood, Hannah Chong, Erica Domen, Rebekah Grant, Anna Hawk, Isobel Li Baby Mice Liana Mullinnix, Maria Price, Eliana Kovacova, Liliana Witt, Max Isaac Mice Kyra Highlander, Neha Panicker, Lillian Haney, Lily Berry, Nadine Peck, Leanne Jeong, Rebeca Flores Growing Tree generously underwritten by Cliff and Elaine Tatham Christmas Dolls Lexi Arp, Kalina Parvanova, Bella Blakeley, Annabella Choi, Ivy Yu Li, Julia Haney, Cindy Jiang Christmas Doll Costumes generously underwritten by James and Kerry Albertson Nutcracker Prince Joseph Flickner Bunny Annika Jones Cavalry Ashlyn Mills, Sofia Acosta Soldiers Sydney Spangler, Talia Epps, Piper Evans, Julia Harshbarger, Miriam Rogers, Asher Wilson, Theo Muhammed, Eric Wright, Jake Bartley Rat King David Cross Pirate Mouse Nate Lozaw Pirate Mouse Costume generously underwritten by The Lozaw Family Snow King Seth York Snow Queen Lisa Kobayashi(2p); Danica Williams(7p) Snowflakes Sofia Acosta, Hannah Baillie, Molly Cook, Anne-Marie Dahms, Genevieve Frank, Dena'h Gregory, Elise Johnson, Juliana Kuhn, Lisa Kobayashi(7p), Malerie Moore, Rebekah Nelson, Cassie Wang, Danica Williams(2p), Anna Wolock Snow Fall generously underwritten by The Lozaw Family, The Kobayashi Family and The Moore Family with Madi Mali Homes
Snowflake Tutus generously underwritten by the Wang Family, Toby and Barbara Cook
Angel Scene generously sponsored by Paula and Bryan Dahms Cherubs Riley Marx, Lucia Zalkin, Kelsey Tepley, Ellie Sturgeon, Penelope Peck, Jadon Brown, Sophia Hatch, Langston Valentine, Mikayla Neo, Wren Versluis Cherub costumes generously underwritten by the Witt Family Angels Hannah Baillie, Malerie Moore, Anna Wolock with Reina Kobayashi, Madeline Oliver, Julia Harshbarger, Piper Evans, Talia Epps, Genevieve Frank, Julia Walewicz(2p),Reina Kobayashi(7p) Pages Max Isaac, Noah Brown Sugar Plum Fairy Danica Williams(2p), Molly Cook(7p) Sugar Plum Fairy Tutu generously underwritten by the Mueller Family Spanish Cassie Wang(2p), Sofia Acosta(7p), Dalton Heinle with Ashlyn Mills, Miriam Rogers Spanish Corps de Ballet costume generously underwritten by the Watkins Family Chinese Hannah Baillie(7p), Elise Johnson(2p), Juliana Kuhn(2p), Malerie Moore(7p),Rebekah Nelson(2p), Annie Cook(7p), Anne Marie Dahms(7p), Anna Wolock(2p) with Isobel Li, Erica Domen, Hannah Chong, Anna Hawk, Caitlin Blackwood, Rebekah Grant Chinese Costume generously underwritten by the Acosta Family Mirliton Sofia Acosta (2p), Cassie Wang (7p) with Genevieve Frank (2p), Anna Wolock(7p), Rebekah Nelson(7p),Lisa Kobayashi(2p), Hannah Baillie (2p), Malerie Moore (2p), Danica Williams(7p), Elise Johnson(7p) Black Licorice Sheep Ximena Flores Cotton Candy Sheep Alice Lenz, Janeisha Nayak , Kristiana Moore, Lily Brewer, Linnaea Xie, Vivian Hsiao, Maddie Vielhauer, Ellie Johnson Sheep Costume generously underwritten by the 3GenWealth and The Peck Family Arabian Dena'h Gregory (2p), Juliana Kuhn (7p), Seth York Russian Jake Bartley, Molly Cook (2p) Lisa Kobayashi (7p), Reina Kobayashi, Julia Harshbarger(2p), Madeline Oliver(7p), Asher Wilson, Eric Wright Russian costume generously underwritten by the Wang Family Gingerbreads Julia Walewicz(2p), Theo Muhammed (7p), Samantha Marx, Evey Musgrave, Sydney Spangler, Talia Epps, Piper Evans, Katie Xue Gum Drops Samantha Thurston, Nora Burdoo, Tara Cook, Lily Leach, Riho Sakai, Vera Scanlan Cooks Arielle Li, Jonina OnYang, Koyuri Morita , Hank Peck, Kaitlyn Musgrave Rose Anne Marie Dahms(2p), Dena'h Gregory(7p) Flowers Sofia Acosta(2p), Hannah Baillie, Molly Cook(2p), Genevieve Frank, Anne-Marie Dahms(2p), Rebekah Nelson, Dena'h Gregory, Lisa Kobayashi, Juliana Kuhn(2p), Malerie Moore, Elise Johnson, Cassie Wang(7p), Ashlyn Mills (2p), Miriam Rogers(7p), Anna Wolock, Danica Williams(7p)
American Youth Ballet
Senior Company Sofia Acosta, Hannah Baillie, Annie Cook, Molly Cook, Anne-Marie Dahms, Genevieve Frank, Dena'h Gregory, Elise Johnson, Lisa Kobayashi, Ashlyn Mills, Malerie Moore, Rebekah Nelson, Miriam Rogers,Cassie Wang, Danica Williams, Anna Wolock Junior Company Jake Bartley, Talia Epps, Piper Evans, Julia Harshbarger, Reina Kobayashi, Madeline Oliver, Julia Walewicz, Eric Wright Apprentice Company Ximena Flores, Samantha Marx, Evey Musgrave, Sydney Spangler, Katie Xue
Overland Park Orchestra
Sponsored by the City of Overland Park - www.oporchestra.com Conductor James Funkhouser Violin I Vicki Hauser, Concertmaster, Miriam Anderson, Clara Blauwiekel, Jeremy Dick, Kara Hess, Leah Lemmermann Violin II Richelle Basgall, Principal, Monica Chen, Edwin Fukunaga, Suzie Kary, Patrick McAnany, Lisa Sweet, Jim Taylor Viola Jackie Ives, Principal, Darren Moring, Diana Yancey Cello Michael Davidson, Principal, Celia Arnold, Gail DeGeer, Becky Miller, Ed Roxas, Betsy Wright Bass Joshua Stephenson, Principal, Erin Gill, Kathleen McCullough Flute Nancy Clark, Principal, Emily Smith Piccolo Charles Jessup Oboe Roy Messick, Principal, Mike Lewis English Horn Kristin Thurlby Clarinet Steve Max, Principal, Brendon Fairleigh, Bass Clarinet, Debbie Allen Bassoon Melissa Cain, Principal, Amy Wright Horn Lynette Eaton, Principal, Jerry Old, Steve Lewis, Bruce Still Trumpet David Clark, Principal, Tim Gillispie Trombone Stephen Hennerberg, Principal, Frank Perez, Chuck Elliott Tuba Carol Lowman, Principal Timpani Mark Lowry Percussion Brian Jackson Harp Kara Land, Principal Celesta Mark Pretzel
A Few Observations
By Mike Strong
"Annie, can you take responsibility for the costumes for ...(I don't remember which costumes) and tell Miss Jennifer." I heard over my right shoulder. Kristopher Estes-Brown was addressing Annie Cook, a young dancer in the American Youth Ballet. I glanced up to my left and saw Annie put on her "business face." She asserted she would and was clearly in task mode.
Miss Jennifer is Jennifer Tierney. Kristopher and Jennifer are husband and wife and are owners of American Dance Center, a studio teaching dance, ballet in particular in Overland Park, Kansas (11800 Quivira). American Youth Ballet (AYB) is the performance company for their older young students, ages 13 through 18. Each member of AYB must audition to get into the company and there are several levels from apprentice to junior to senior company.
Annie had not been asked to carry out an errand as such but to take on a job with responsibility. That is the way Kristopher and Jennifer treat their kids in the ballet. It is how they speak to them. Not orders and demands as such, but responsibilities. And as I looked around you could see the effect of that in all the activities as they prepared for their upcoming two performances with two slightly different casts of the Nutcracker.
As a photographer and videographer this was my fifth Nutcracker with them. My first was in 2010. It is my practice to shoot as much rehearsal as I can before I get to the dress rehearsals and the performance. I long ago learned that showing up with camera, pointing it at the activity and pressing the little button does not mean you've taken a picture of the activity. First you have to be aware enough to truly see the actual activity, not merely some vague motion.
Even knowing the general activity to photograph but not the specfics of the piece or the way the individual dancers move leaves you shooting only technique which can look good to an editor but is shallow otherwise. Better to see and shoot relationships and characters as you become aware of the actor/dancers both as colleagues working together and as characters in roles with each other, but more about that later, if it seems to fit and if I remember to get back to the subject.
I remember being impressed in 2010 at the way the children were handled and how they responded. Kris and Jen are managing a multilayered operation with each production from the people to the choreography, the performance space (JCCC's Yardley Hall), the live musicians (Overland Park Orchestra), publicity, social media, props and the costumes with endless changes, repairs, modifications and new costumes.
There are basically three levels of performers, 1) adults who range from parents in service to professional dance veterans, 2) youth ballet members and 3) ADC (American Dance Center) students who will be included in small parts such a cherubs and mice, getting these children used to performance later by providing parts for them.
A mixture of ages, experience and performance and production roles is represented in this "family" portrait of one of the family groups in the Act-I party scene. That is David Cross in top hat, newly graduated from UMKC dance program who also played the Mouse King is headed to Dallas at the end of December to work with a modern dance company. Senior company member Danica Williams in the Green hat. In red coat behind at right is Tony Witt (playing head of the house) whose Amore Dance Studio is around the corner from ADC and whose daughter Liliana Witt is a student at ADC and this year was one of the baby mice. Tony and Jessica Witt were among the earliest Zumba teachers in the area, teaching many others in turn starting performance as swingsters and Latin dancers. Tony is talking with Jennifer Tierney. In front left are AYB members.
I remarked to Jennifer that ADC reminded me in many ways of a one room school house with the older children taking responsibility for the younger ones so that a family-like community of support developed across the learning levels. My own grandmother taught in one for years in the early 1900s and my father and uncle walked a couple miles each day in the 1930's and 1940's to a one-room school from their farm home near Stanton, Nebraska (north east Nebraska).
As a child I remember visiting the farm many times and going past that school on the way into Stanton to visit a cousin's grocery store. As a young student in Columbus, Nebraska my school had more rooms but the walking (or biking) distance each day was about the same (which took me fully across town). With all of today's door-to-door SUV commutes and rigid age/grade separations I think we've lost something of community. I like to think that the adults, older kids and younger kids in these productions, all working together, is a restorative for that loss.
Nate Lozaw (as Pirate Mouse, center) and adult dancer David Cross (as Rat King, right) practice sword moves on the side for a studio run sunday
The adult dancers bring many seasons of both professional and college dancing providing work-along examples of both work habits and technique to copy for the younger dancers. At the same time they are alert to make sure they set that good example. The youth of the company learn from the adult dancers next to them and from each other as they trade information about having played such and such part previously. As they do so the 13 to 18 year olds in the company take responsibility for helping the little ones in their roles and help the smallest children get on and off stage.
AYB company dancers along with Jennifer Tierney (center) work with the smallest dancers dressed as cherubs. They have various responsibilities including making sure the little ones are ready in time and get to and from the stage locations.
Spending time in rehearsals also shows the older company members being given the responsibility to help with the arrangements. It is common to watch them take on the role of repetiteur at times, reconstructing the ballet based on their previous experience in prior years. You could mistake some of the arm movements for a set of engineers or surveyors on the site of a big construction project as they move and space dancers on stage.
Danica Williams aligns dancers on stage working with Cassie Wang (standing, on stage to the right) to get the entire formation placed on stage from the audience perspective. Senior company dancer who are veterans of the production take on the responsibility of helping arrange the details and reconstruction for the nest year.
I've said this to people before, for years, actually, that there is a difference between dancers as students elsewhere. Especially in the last 3-4 years both my partner, Nicole English, and I have noticed that our students at UMKC have been losing the ability to focus, to concentrate on tasks which they used to handle very well. Except for our students who are dancers, and a few others who have to do a lot of concentration to perform with accomplishment.
Recently there have been a number of news articles about learning and concentration. It isn't really news among various teachers we talk to. The timing corresponds with the major invasion of smart phones and their distractions. We can tell the other (non-dancer) students are getting to the material but they seem to be skipping and skimming it instead of learning the material - which is the same material previous such students understood easily.
Our dance students are usually so busy in performances and rehearsals as well as intense training that when they get to our non-dance courses, they have little time to spare and they really dig in. It is their dance training, which requires intense mental concentration skills, which gives them the ability to zero in on these other subjects and to excel at them even in limited time frames. We noticed this in previous years but it has only become very obvious recently.
Lisa Kobayshi (2pm Snow Queen) and Seth York
Jennifer Tierney as Grandma during the party scene
Getting into position, ready to start the show with the prologue in Drosselmeyer's shop
Danica Williams as Sugar Plum Fairy (2pm)
Snowflakes: Dena'h Gregory (front), , Juliane Kuhn, Danica Williams
Molly Cook as Sugar Plum Fairy (7 pm)
Waltz of the Flowers
Orchestra Conductor James Funkhouser
On stage and in the pit
Dena'h Gregory (2pm cast) and Seth York in the Arabian roles - Joe Flickner as the Nutcracker Prince behind
Seth York and Juliana Kuhn (7pm) crossover in Arabian roles
House party: Vivandiére doll (Rebekah Nelson (2 pm) and Soldier doll (Seth York)
History note and quote from Wikipedia:
"Vivandière or Cantinière is a French name for women attached to military regiments as sutlers or canteen keepers"
For pictures and a fascinating short history go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivandiere
Hannah Baillie as an angel in the Angel Scene at the start of Act II
Curt Knupp as Drosselmeyer
Spanish: Sofia Acosta (7pm) and Dalton Heinle
Sheep, a new addition to the cast of characters in 2014: The Black Licorice Sheep is Ximena Flores and the
Cotton Candy sheep are: Alice Lenz, Janeisha Nayak, Kristiana Moore, Lily Brewer, Linnaea Xie, Vivian Hsiao, Maddie Vielhauer and Ellie Johnson
Getting ready for rehearsal
Frau Stahlbaum (Brooke Peck ) and Clara (Annie Cook - 2pm)
Frau Stahlbaum (Brooke Peck ) and Clara (Julia Walewicz 7 pm)
Backstage: Danica Williams as a party guest parent, Juliana Kuhn (as 2p Columbine doll), Elise Johnson (as one of the party guest children)
Talking shop about the Columbine doll's moves with Juliana Kuhn (in costume as 2 pm Columbine doll)
The Columbine is always a conversation object: Cassie Wang as the 7pm Columbine doll.
Clara (Julia Walewicz 7 pm) and the Nutcracker Prince (Joseph Flickner)
Company Class: Lisa Kobayashi (front)
Company Class: Dena'h Gregory (front)
Dena'h Gregory (as 7 pm Rose) and flowers in the Waltz of the Flowers
A short essay on a typical shooting condition Frame 44 un-corrected - - Frame 46 - - corrected Work lights on jpg file - Seth works on tour en'lair during tech. In tech lights are being adjusted and change. (frame 44) Frame 45 was one of Kris next to him and was lit just like this one. The lights go off as I press the button to shoot (frame 46). The JPG file created in the camera is almost totally dark. Normally I would delete this but I thought it might be interesting. So, remembering to look for this frame I find it and adjust the levels in Adobe Lightroom from the raw file (Nikon's NEF). It is not like frame 44 but is interesting on its own.
EXAMPLE: Using the camera's raw file to rescue an impossible exposure
The two frames above (44 and 46) with the adjusted version of frame 46 (far right) were taken within a couple of seconds of each other during tech for Thursday night's dress. As is usual during tech the lights are being worked on by the lighting designers and as such are constantly changing. Not that performance has constant lighting. That too changes and sometimes in non-obvious ways such as when the light gradually increases or decreases, making it hard to notice and adjust for.
For years I shot purely JPG files and adjusted them in Photoshop, a program I've used since 1992. The last few years I've become almost dependent on raw files, which need to be adjusted and exported (rendered) as JPGs (or TIFs).
Usually I save two files with each shot. One file is the JPG generated by the camera and the other, larger, file is "raw" camera data which needs to be processed (usually to a JPG) before you can really view it. Normally under most person's shooting conditions the JPG from the camera is excellent. Even better the camera JPG is available immediately.
But it you shoot under the type of conditions I have where I have little to no (usually NO) control over lighting and where the light varies from very bright to very dark and changes colors it is a big help to save the raw image files. In my Nikon they are NEF files - the file extension is "NEF" Using raw data gives me a wider set of tonal values to work with. A tonal scale is the number of steps from pure black to pure white. The more steps the finer the details and the more gradual the gradient from black through white.
When a camera generates a JPG it has a set of specifications to take its internal 14-bit raw data (4096 steps) down to an 8-bit tonal scale (256 steps). A lot of detail information is lost because every 16 tonal steps (in a 14-bit file) are squashed together to make each single step in an 8-bit file. Also, because the camera has a preset schema for distributing the steps of the tonal scale the camera JPG is limited in how it works. The camera has no way of knowing what data needs to be shown. So, if the light isn't right for the way the camera reduces the image into 8-bits it can wind up like the middle photo above.
Working in a photo editor which processes raw data allows you to manually determine which parts of those 4096 steps will be distributed into the 8-bit's 256 tonal steps. That is what we did to produce the seeming rescue on the right. In this case we expanded mostly the darkest tonal steps in the image to bring out what detail was there from the start. There is no miracle as such. Most of the image detail is in deep shadow. The picture on the right expands the deep-shadow tonal levels.
It doesn't have the color of frame 44 but then the light is very different. It differs in other ways as well such as the amount of the digital version of "grain." Dipping into the shadows with a raw editor won't give you the same result as you would get with better light but it may be interesting on its own.
None of the above tells you anything about time in rehearsals to know what to look for, such as the tour en'lairs above and none of this is about when and how to shoot or where to shoot from or lens selections ISO (light sensitivity) settings for low light, contrast, and tripods or fully hand held or shutter speeds or color balance or finding the characters, dance technique and position and on and on. But that is several chapters worth.
Cherubs eye the musicians
Anne Marie Dahms as Rose (2 pm) in the Waltz of the Flowers
Anne Marie Dahms as maid in Act-I party scene, backstage before performance
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