WALLA WALLA - After several decades teaching dance in Walla Walla, instructor Ida Hutson-Fish is creating a ballet company.
Hutson-Fish, who directs The Dance Center, will hold auditions for the Performing Company today. She hopes the company will provide an outlet for her more advanced students.
"They're hungry to go to the next level and they're really excited about it," she said.
Dancer Natalie Hargreaves, who is in Hutson-Fish's Ballet 5 class, said she's looking forward to auditioning because it will give her the opportunity to perform more.
"We all enjoy performing and getting our class out there, showing how much we love ballet," she said.
Performing Company auditions kick off an intensive week at the Dance Center. Hutson-Fish has arranged for two visiting Italian dance instructors, Carlo Scardovi and Catia Brandoli, to teach master classes for her advanced ballet students.
Hutson-Fish hopes these special classes will inspire her students, especially those joining the company.
In addition to the additional performances, the company's mixed-gender structure will allow for more varied choreography.
"Partnering work is so great with ballet," said Hutson-Fish. "If you just have girls, your storylines, the things you can choreograph are so limited."
To help with partner work, Hutson-Fish will direct the company with the help of Raffaele Exiana. Exiana has taught ballet classes for men at the Dance Center, and has also worked with Hutson-Fish to co-teach pas de deux, where dancers learn partnered ballet.
Exiana, who began his dance career in Italy before coming to the U.S. to pursue an architecture degree, said he hopes to get more boys and men involved in ballet.
"It's always been easier for boys to be introduced to the dance process because they need less technique than the girls," he said.
While men may be able to perform with less technical training, Exiana said most men never consider dance as a possible activity.
Hutson-Fish added that today, most children don't grow up seeing ballet and other forms of classical dance. She hopes the company will help expose children to dance.
"Very few students will go on to be professional dancers. I'm creating the next audience for ballet," she said.
Hutson-Fish hopes to start the company with about eight dancers and a few apprentices. Dancers will train with the company three days a week. In addition to their existing classes, this means many dancers will have rehearsals and class six days a week.
Exiana said this level of training helps make sure dancers take their work seriously.
"It becomes their daily routine. It's a job," he said.
Currently, Hutson-Fish is planning a number of performances for the new company. These include "Peter and the Wolf" with the Walla Walla Symphony in November, as well as a tour in Italy next summer.
Dancers will be paid a small amount for their participation in the company, an arrangement that Hutson-Fish plans to support via ticket sales to performances.
Ultimately, she hopes the company will have a lasting effect on her studio.
"The younger students look up so much to the older students. It's going to inspire growth," she said.