Rehearsal is over. The performance is only a week away, and it is a special performance.
Usually, Maryland Youth Ballet (MYB) performs indoors, at Montgomery College campuses, the Silver Spring Black Box Theatre or a local school. But now, MYB is gearing up for a special performance: its annual, two-day-only production at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.
Typically, a week before a performance, there are still a few things to tweak. But Kristin Brown-Maki and Deidre Byrne, senior faculty members at the downtown Silver Spring dance school, know from experience that students always come through by the time they are on stage, facing an audience.
It is a special stage: Wolf Trap provides a marley floor over its regular one to accommodate the dancers.
This is the 25th consecutive year that Maryland Youth Ballet is performing at Wolf Trap, and this is the third summer the two faculty members have been co-choreographing it.
The fare this summer is “Cinderella,” one of the most popular fairy tales ever. Sergei Prokofiev composed the probably most famous balletic version, but Brown-Maki and Byrne – who select music for MYB’s performances, or sometimes “steal,” they said – instead chose the score from “Raymonda” by composer Alexander Glazunov.
“(Raymonda’s) music is less dark than Prokofiev’s and seems to fit,” said Byrne.
Another consideration is that the dancers need to be able to hear clearly, especially because some of them are occupying major roles for the first time and that is less likely with Prokofiev, said Brown-Maki.
When it comes to the choreography, the two women divvy up the scenes.
“I’m good at the ball scenes, with a lot of people in them, whereas Kristin likes the smaller scenes with more acting,” Byrne said.
“Even the best of dancers may need to work on their acting,” said Brown-Maki, “because they need to react and communicate.” This skill is especially critical in a storybook ballet.
Jocelyn Gross stars are the title character and is wearing a before-the-ball dress designed by costume mistress Judy Hansen. Julie Zalalutdinov is the Stepmother; Aaliyahmarie Key, the Fairy Godmother; and Estaban Villafuerte, the Prince.
“I was so excited to be chosen for the role of Cinderella and so honored,” said Gross. “She was my favorite princess when I was a little girl, and I feel like I’m the real me on stage.”
Brown-Maki and Byrne also expressed joy at watching the young dancers step up to the challenges.
Maryland Youth Ballet, a 50-year-old training institution, prepares young dancers for a professional career in dance as well as offers classes to dancers of all ages and levels in the metropolitan region.
These include special programs for underserved young children in the community who may be financially disadvantaged or physically disabled.
During the summer, MYB continues to hold classes, workshops and camps for beginner, intermediate and advanced dancers.
The Wolf Trap appearance marks the culminating performance by the advanced students in the Senior Festival summer program, who are aged 10-16, said Amy Neal, development and marketing manager.
Ahead of Wolf Trap, the Senior Festival dancers present performances at their home base for the local community.
“That way they can build up their characters and get energy from the audience,” said Brown-Maki.
During the year, Maryland Youth Ballet presents several professional-quality ballet productions, reaching more than 15,000 audience members annually. These include annual productions of “The Nutcracker” and the “Mini-Nut,” an abbreviated version of Tchaikovsky’s holiday ballet.
Wolf Trap presents more than 100 performances across all genres every summer. MYB’s performances of “Cinderella” take place Friday and Saturday, July 26 and 27, at 10:30 a.m., at Wolf Trap Children’s-Theatre-in-the-Woods, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna, Va. Order tickets at: https://www.wolftrap.org.