It’s the start of a new season for Ballet Quad Cities this weekend, which includes two new dancers and new choreographers.
The varied program “Ballet on the Lawn” is Sunday, Aug. 28 at the Outing Club, 2109 Brady St., Davenport, with three one-hour performances, at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
In their 26th season, BQC has added two new young trainees — Stephanie Eggers and Maddie Kreszenz. Fourth-year company member Claire Cordano has choreographed a piece for the first time, and Deepali Phanse (who runs an Indian dance company in the area) has created a Bollywood-style dance.
BQC artistic director Courtney Lyon hired the two dancers as trainees (as opposed to full company dancers), out of hundreds of applicants. Trainees usually are younger and have less experience, she said Thursday.
It’s gratifying to have so many returning dancers in the company of 15 professional artists, Lyon said.
“They’re really great people to work with. That obviously makes your job nice every day – when you have people who are genuine, pleasant, happy people,” she said.
A 22-year-old native of Chicago’s northwest suburbs, Eggers trained at Barrington Dance Academy from age 4 through high school. She attended summer programs with companies such as Chicago Repertory Ballet and Ballet West. Stephanie graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2022 with a BFA in Ballet Performance, BS in Biology with honors, and a minor in psychology.
She danced as a soloist in Ballet Vermont’s summer Farm to Ballet Project in 2021, and a principal in 2022.
Eggers got a double degree in school because she said: “I hate to be bored, and I didn’t decide to be a biology major until my sophomore year.”
She doesn’t plan to go to medical school, since she said she’s very squeamish.
“Ideally, after I’ve had as long a career as possible dancing, I’d like to go back to school and get my master’s in some sort of biological field,” Eggers said.
She likes to be closer to home, and it made more financial sense to be in the QC versus Chicago.
“You feel valued for your time and a part of the company,” Eggers said of being a trainee. “I feel like I’m part of the company as a whole.”
“Immediately, I felt like I was friends with everyone,” she said. “My favorite thing about working here so far is, everyone has fun with each other. You do work really hard in rehearsals, but we’re still joking around a bit. It’s still fun and laughing. Everyone hangs out with each other outside of work. It’s a small company so everyone is close with each other.”
Ballet Vermont over the past two summers, Eggers danced on grass at farms. At The Outing Club, BQC uses a flat stage on the lawn.
Overall, she said it’s hard to describe why she loves dance.
“There’s something in me that needs to be constantly moving,” Eggers said. “When I was little, I’d always be dancing around the house, and then I learned structure for that. It’s just always been a passion.”
Even with other people’s choreography, it’s very freeing, she said. “It’s freeing to explore a bigger vocabulary.”
A 19-year-old native of Columbus, Ohio, Kreszenz began her training at Columbus Dance Theatre.
She’s performed classical and contemporary ballets and attended summer programs with the Joffrey Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, and Texas Ballet Theater. After attending Kansas City Ballet’s Summer Intensive in 2019, she was asked to stay and join their year-round day school program.
Kreszenz moved from Columbus to Kansas City Ballet when she was 16, a professional training program.
“I moved in with like five girls in a house and we were all dancers, and I finished high school online,” she said, noting she also completed ballet school in Kansas City (over two years) and thought she was so mature.
She was with State Street Ballet in Santa Barbara, Calif., last season as a trainee.
“I tried the West Coast, it was not for me,” Kreszenz said, noting she missed the Midwest. “I had a really hard time telling time – every day, it was 75 and sunny.”
In Santa Barbara, there were 22 trainees (and 20 company members), and she had to pay to be there, waitressing on the side.
“This is a much better fit for me; I feel more valued, and respected for my individuality,” Krexzenz said. “They’re very welcoming. They spent time and effort picking who they hired, which is so amazing. They have a very positive group. They clearly took the time.”
The first day, she and Eggers felt very comfortable with the company.
“You get a feeling of yes or no, and this was yes, this was what I was looking for,” K. said. “I was looking for a small Midwest city, because that’s what I grew up with.”
The QC is more relaxing and comfortable than bigger cities, which she called “exhausting.”
Ballet on the Lawn is more casual and accessible for both audiences and dancers to enjoy.
“This is who we are, we’d love for you to support us,” Kreszenz said. The traditional theater ballets, with full costumes, can feel more pressured, rigid and robotic as a dancer, she said.
“Often, the smaller ones are more meaningful and you can connect more,” she said. “It just depends on what you’re doing.”
Kreszenz said her mom has been very supportive of her dance career, even though she skipped college. “She’s my biggest fan,” she said.
She loves “the adrenaline rush” of dancing, comparing it to a roller coaster. “I also am the person that gets immense satisfaction of the work ethic, in class. Especially when I was in school, I was a big fan of being in class and getting better.”
“For me, the routine and the regimen is what I really loved,” Kreszenz said. Ballet also lifts her spirits.
“I have this to come to every day and this is my routine,” she said. “I’m the baby of the group, at 19 years old. They’ve all been so supportive to me. This is your first like real contract. They’ve been nurturing to me.”
Spreading ballet wings
Cordano is starting her fourth BQC season, choreographing for the first time. “She’s a very savvy performer, and she has a choreography background in terms of education,” Lyon said. “She’s really happy in this company, so it felt like this would be a good dancer to give the opportunity.”
A native of Connecticut, Cordano started dancing at The Ridgefield School of Dance and went on to graduate summa cum laude from the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY-Purchase College in New York with a BFA in Dance Performance, concentration in ballet.
In college, she studied choreography all four years, and created a piece her senior year.
Last year, she planned to choreograph for something for BQC. The new 3 ½-minute piece is based on women in the 1950s, starring Mahalia Zellmer (in a period outfit from Trash Can Annie’s in Davenport).
“Matrimony or Machinery” is inspired by young women in the ‘50s who abandoned marriage for the motorcycle, forging their own way in a male dominated field and overthrowing the traditional roles set upon themselves.
Cordano’s confident, rhythmic dance is a tale of independence, fierce determination, and female empowerment. The music by Goran Bregovic is from his 2002 album “Tales and Songs from Weddings and Funerals,” and this piece is called “Maki Maki.” The dance itself doesn’t involve a bike. Or a leather jacket.
“It’s very cool,” Cordano said. “It’s definitely contemporary ballet. It’s grounded movement in conjunction with fluid and more feminine movement.”
It’s mostly solo, with the guy (Nick Bartolotti) more a prop to be discarded, she said. (WATCH it in the rehearsal video above.)
“With choreography, you get to see everything that was in your head, right in front of you and you get to watch it,” Cordano said.
Cordano has loved her time with BQC so much.
“Especially now, adding this new element of choreographing here,” she said. “I really love that they grow this company from the inside.”
Lyon is a great mentor – letting Cordano explore her own ideas and to offer support, she said.
She doesn’t have a goal of moving to New York City.
“Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve loved the company, the Quad Cities themselves,” Cordano said. “I feel like we have a great little family here. There is so much performing that we get to do here.”
She also loves dancing outside at The Outing Club, where she gets to see people up close.
“To see their expressions, that feeds us,” Cordano said. “Last year, there were little kids dancing off to the side, which was so cute. So like, to be dancing and see the youngsters dancing right in front of your face, it’s so powerful. It’s great, the closeness of that, and being outdoors, too.”
They do three one-hour shows in the same day, and each one usually gets better, she said. “You’re running on adrenaline, it’s great.”
Varied program includes Indian dance
Sunday’s outdoor program (patrons should bring a lawn chair) includes:
- “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” (by John Adams), choreography by Emily Kate Long
- Pas de Trois from “Swan Lake” (by Peter Tchaikovsky), original choreography by Marius Petipa, restaged by Emily Kate Long
- “Infinity” (Fantasy and Fugue for String Quartet by Gideon Klein), choreography by Emily Kate Long
- “Kaddish” (Sonata for Solo Violin by Sandor Kuti), choreography by Courtney Lyon
- “Garba” (“Jhume Re Gori” by Gangubai Kathiawadi), choreography by Deepali Phanse
- “Le Boeuf sur le Toit” (by Darius Milhaud), choreography by Courtney Lyon
Deepali Phanse is the artistic director and founder of D4Dance Academy in the Quad Cities.
Originally from India, she earned her MBA from Iowa State University. She is passionate about dance and specializes in Indian dance styles and has appeared as one of the finalists on “Dance India Dance – Mom edition,” which is a popular dancing competition/reality show in India.
Over the years, Phanse has trained many talented young children in Indian and Western fusion dance styles. She is active in the local community, raising funds for charities through dance events, as well as actively promoting Indian culture and dance styles. Shei has worked with BQC students over the summer.
Phanse is an avid world traveler and has been to 28 countries. Deepali makes her home in Bettendorf, with her husband, Akhilesh Bhagwat, and their two children, son Armaan and daughter Annika.
Sunday’s BQC piece is a folk dance from Gujrat State of India. The folk dance is called “Garba,” which honors, worships and celebrates the feminine form of divinity. The word “garba” comes from the sanskrit word garbha, meaning “womb.:” Traditionally, the dance is performed by women in a circle around a lay lantern with a light inside.
This particular performance is a more modern form of garba on a song “Jhume Re Gori” from a Bollywood movie. The dancers will also be using sticks as props to bring more variations and energy in the performance.
For tickets ($15-$25) and more information, visit the BQC website.