Ballet Quad Cities is looking for love in all the right places, bringing a new “Love Stories” to the Outing Club, 2109 Brady Street, Davenport.

The performance Friday, Feb. 10, 2023 is already sold out, but there are tickets available for Saturday, Feb. 11 — the 1 p.m. performance includes desserts available for purchase, and the Saturday evening has a Taste of Italy dinner at 6:30 p.m., with the one-hour performance to follow.

The Outing Club is at 2109 Brady St., Davenport.

The program itself promises to be a deliciously satisfying smorgasbord of styles:

  • “Special Delivery,” choreography by Emily Kate Long
  • “Napoli” (after August Bournonville), staged by Emily Kate Long
  • “Concerto for 2 Couples,” choreography by Domingo Rubio
  • “Afternoon of a Faun,” choreographed by Courtney Lyon
  • “Best of My Love,” choreographed by Caroline Cady
  • “Carmen” (inspired by the 1845 novella), choreographed by Courtney Lyon

The contemporary “Carmen” is a half-hour ballet suite, the first time Lyon (BQC’s artistic director) has choreographed the classic story based on the 1875 Bizet opera. The title role is performed by Madeline Kreszenz, 20, who’s in her first season with BQC.

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, she began her training at Columbus Dance Theatre and has danced with Joffrey Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Texas Ballet Theater, and the State Street Ballet in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Courtney Lyon is artistic director of Ballet Quad Cities.

“She is feisty, very talented,” Lyon said of Kreszenz. “It’s getting dancers who are really fresh and putting them into the roles.”

The story is really about Don Jose, danced by Christian Knopp, she said. “Carmen just happens to be the reason for his downfall.”

It’s always exciting to choreograph for new dancers, Lyon said.

An excerpt from “Carmen” at the BQC rehearsal Jan. 23, 2023.

“I love having dancers I’ve worked with over the years; they work well together,” she said. “Sometimes, they know what I’m going to say before I say it. I know what their strengths are. I enjoy finding different qualities they have.”

“For someone new to the company, people see, what does this dancer have new inside of them, so we have the opportunity to see what they’re made of,” Lyon said. “I don’t know how they’ve been typecast in the past. It’s fun for me to see what’s in there.”

A friendly family here

Kreszenz said this week that she’s having an ideal first season in the QC.

Madeline Kreszenz and Christian Knopp rehearse “Carmen” at the BQC studio in downtown Rock Island (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“I just like the whole environment; it’s like a family here,” she said. “I feel like they really take time to cultivate the dancers they bring in.”

Being a smaller ballet company gives them the chance to dance lead roles more often, she said. Kreszenz has never danced the fiery Carmen before.

An excerpt from “Carmen” at the BQC rehearsal Jan. 23, 2023.

“I definitely think it’s fun to put yourself into the character, instead of this is just a character I’m playing,” she said of being Carmen. “I think there’s something young and flirty about her. I also thinks she puts on a big act to get whatever she wants.

“I’m trying to play her with more internal struggles,” Kreszenz said. “I just want it to be authentic and natural. I don’t want to put on a show of a character that doesn’t have any part of me in it.” She tries to bring her personal sassiness to Carmen, to own it.

Building self-esteem

Having the role helps build her self-confidence at such a young age.

“If they clearly see something in me, I’m trying to help that guide me a little bit,” Kresenz said.

Knopp embraces Kreszenz during the “Carmen” ballet (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Knopp, a 26-year-old West Virginia native, is in his second season with BQC. He was trained with Cincinnati Ballet, Bossov Ballet, and West Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts, graduating in 2019 from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Knopp has danced as a soloist with Ballet Pensacola and the Charleston Ballet, the Official West Virginia State Ballet.

Dancers often study the stories and music of the pieces outside of rehearsals, Lyon said. Knopp and Krezsenz work really well together, she noted.

‘They both have a freshness and approach their movement with s great deal of energy,” Lyon said. “They have that chemistry.”

Knopp said he appreciates the tight-knit, caring nature of the company. There is no “Black Swan” drama here.

Kreszenz takes a dip in the arms of Knopp during a recent rehearsal (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Don Jose is a downcast role, who’s been burned by life and trying to get stuff together, he said. This version of the story provides more of the background, Kreszenz said.

“I personally love the work of it,” she said of ballet practice. “I love the performing and adrenaline rush, but I also find something extremely gratifying about the process, knowing you’ve created this thing and worked hard.”

The dancer also get to closely collaborate with the choreographers to create the precise moves they execute, Kreszenz said. “I don’t have to do something that’s not going to look good or complement me.”

Other “Love” pieces

The artistic director also has not choreographed the famous Debussy piece before. “It’s so beautiful,” she said. It features a more experienced couple – Madeleine Rhode and Nick Bartolotti – who also work really well together.

Guest choreographer Domingo Rubio’s piece for two couples is set to J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor set on four dancers.

Knopp. left, with Sierra DeYoung, Jillian Van Cura and Nicholas Bartolotti in the “Concerto for 2 Couples” (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Emily Kate Long choreographed “Napoli” (based on the original ballet also known as “The Fisherman and His Bride”), created in 1842 for Denmark‘s Royal Ballet by Danish choreographer and ballet master August Bournonville.

Splitting up the “Napoli” and “Best of My Love” pieces into two groups makes sense to give more dancers more opportunities to shine, Lyon said.

Rubio (a frequent BQC guest, including as Drosselmeyer in this season’s “Nutcracker”) often choreographs for “Love Stories.”

The four dancers in Domingo Rubio’s piece, set to a J.S. Bach concerto (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“We had him do this quartet and it’s really gorgeous,” Lyon said. “He has such a wealth of knowledge, so if he’s here, he’s able to share with the dancers all the resources he’s received over the years from his coaches.”

Knopp (who is in this one with Nicholas Bartolotti, Jillian Van Cura and Sierra DeYoung) said it is “very intimate and romantic.”

An excerpt from “Concerto for 2 Couples” at BQC rehearsal Jan. 23, 2023.

“You become very close with your partner in the process,” he said. The two violins reflect the two couples in the dance.

“The moments we are together are very intentional, the parts of the music that we want to emphasize,” DeYoung said.

“The two couples are doing similar stuff, but not always in union,” Bartolotti said. Van Cura said it’s always fun to work with Rubio.

Nick Bartolotti dances with Sierra DeYoung (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“He’s always full of life and very passionate about what goes on in the studio,” she said. “He definitely emphasizes your strengths as a dancer.”

“Getting to do more soft roles, I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to do that,” Van Cura said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do, so this is very exciting to explore that side of our artistry in this piece.”

“There are things that are different between the couples to do things that are going to shows us in the best light,” DeYoung said. “We do a lot more of the character roles, Jill and I.”

“This is more a piece that’s not story-driven,” Bartolotti said.

Interacting with audiences

Doing “Love Stories” at the Outing Club is great, because it’s more intimate and dancers can interact more with audiences compared to a traditional theater, Van Cura said.

“Some of the pieces are very fun and upbeat and kooky,” she said. “To see their reactions to things like that is even more energizing. It definitely gives us a chance to connect more.”

DeYoung really enjoys the variety of the program.

An excerpt of Ballet Quad Cities’ “Best of My Love,” choreographed by Caroline Cady.

“You get to explore so many more different facets of your artistry,” she said. “That is very fun.”

The infectious, exuberant “Best of My Love” was a big 1977 hit from The Emotions (written by two members of Earth, Wind & Fire), danced by two sets of five female dancers.

BQC has incorporated more non-classical pieces, especially in the Halloween-themed program, blending a lot of variety.

“It’s fun, to lighten things up and not always be serious,” Lyon said. “Best of My Love” was choreographed by Caroline Cady, a Rock Island native who has danced with BQC. She now attends Loyola University in Chicago.

Van Cura said “Best of My Love” also is tons of fun, and makes sense to have two casts.

“Best of My Love” features dancers (L-R) Claire Cordano, Ruby Anderson, Kira Roberts, Mahalia Zellmer and Isabelle Millet (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“Having a smaller space, it gives us more room to spread out,” she said, giving more dancers the chance to take part as well. “It spreads the opportunity,” Van Cura said.

Compared to classical ballet, doing this pop hit isn’t easier, but just different, she noted. “It’s always hard no matter what you’re doing. Cardio-wise, it’s an incredible workout. It’s definitely challenging.”

“I would say the energy of it, it’s very bouncy and has looseness,” DeYoung said.

At the Outing Club, there will be a cash bar (no cards accepted). Tickets per couple are $50 for the 1 p.m. Feb. 11 show, and $120 (including dinner) for the 6:30 p.m. event (meal first with performance to follow), available HERE.

To see a slideshow of BQC photos click below.