For 45 years, Maryland Youth Ballet (MYB) has been preparing young dancers for a career in the arts as well as providing classes to dancers of all ages whether they are planning to dance professionally or not.
“At this point, we have like 500 adults taking classes as well as 900 children,” said Olivier Munoz who was appointed artistic director of MYB after founding artistic director, Michelle Lees, retired.
Like ballet schools in general, Maryland Youth Ballet presents dance programs to not only give opportunities for students to perform for the public but for the public to experience ballet.
Coming up next for the Silver Spring-based school is the annual Spring Concert, which always consists of a children’s piece, a classical piece and a new piece. This year, they are performing “Rumpelstiltskin” to the music of Leo Delibes, Jules Massenet and Adolphe Adam, “Don Quixote,” with music by Ludwig Minkus and “Summer,” set to the “Summer” section from Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” The latter premiered in 2002 with The Fresno Ballet and won first prize in a choreography festival a year later.
Deidre Byrne and Kristin Brown-Maki are choreographing the classic fairy tale of the elf who helps a miller’s daughter turn straw into gold – for a price.
MYB did the piece at Wolf Trap last summer, “and it was very successful,” said Byrne, who studied with the school for many years before beginning to teach there. “We go through fairy tales, and consider whether there’s a role for every dancer. There are 29 in ‘Rumpelstiltskin.’ We also sit to discuss choices with the costume mistress.”
“We also read as many versions of the fairy tale and write out all the scenes – and find music that fits,” said Brown-Maki.
In this case, because the school has at present many more girls than boys, Byrne and Brown-Maki decided to cast a girl – Natalie Yuth – as Rumpelstiltskin. But the 14-year-old petite dancer also plays Kitri, a village girl who gets married to Basilio, as well as Cupid, in “Don Quixote.”
Fourteen-year-old Ellie Sanders, the miller’s daughter, is also a Dryad, a tree spirit in the Minkus work.
Munoz is presenting MYB’s pre-professional dancers in excerpts from “Don Quixote,” which he calls a “most joyful and festive romantic comedy.” It was choreography by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky. Christopher Doyle choreographed “Summer.”
One of Munoz’s goals as newly appointed artistic director is to build up the men’s program, which is something similar to what he did at the Orlando Ballet School during his 14-year stint. But it’s not just about numbers, he said. It’s about building a “team” of young males who work together and experience “healthy competition” before they move on to “partner the ladies.”
Munoz began his studies at the National Conservatory of Dance in Lyon, France and taught many classes at MYB before the opportunity came up for him to head the school. However, despite his six years of experience at the school, he’s presenting his first Spring Concert as a “novice” to MYB.
“I want to help the school grow,” he said of his mission. “We already have a terrific faculty, who are very passionate, and we’re all very open and talk and share a lot. MYB has a great reputation but I want to put it on the map of dance.”
The ballet world, he added, “grows so fast. We don’t want to miss the train.”
Munoz would like to introduce an all-day program for students who are home schooled –so they can “move faster and grow stronger to reach their goals.”
The Spring Concert runs May 11-12 at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center, Montgomery College, 51 Mannakee Street, Rockville. www.marylandyouthballet.org.