WALLA WALLA — This summer, a group of local ballet dancers will make their biggest leap yet — across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Performing Company, composed of students of Idalee Hutson-Fish at The Dance Center, will be traveling to Barcelona, Spain, for The Dance Grand Prix in June. The Grand Prix is an international dance competition with upwards of 1,200 participants. This will be the third time a group of Hutson-Fish’s dancers has gone to the event.
“We go about every three years,” Hutson-Fish said of the Grand Prix. Eleven students went in 2008 and 10 students participated in 2011. Ten students are working toward the trip this year. The youngest will be 10 and the oldest 22. Most are proficient level 5 ballet students, along with several in level 4 who were invited to participate.
“They have to be accomplished enough on a technical level to dance adequately with ballet 5 students,” she said.
The group will leave June 10 and return June 24. After five days of rehearsing, performing and competing in Barcelona, the company will tour Italy — believed to be where ballet originated, and perform in music and dance festivals in Florence and Rome.
Performing in Europe is a great opportunity for the dancers, and will be a highlight in their lives, Hutson-Fish said. But the experience shouldn’t be about the competition, she said.
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“Personally, I don’t believe it’s a competitive art form,” she said.
Instead, her focus is the beauty and power of the experience of dancing.
One of the dances the group will perform in Europe is called “Southern Comfort.”
“It’s about girls from the South. It’s very American,” she said.
Another will be focused around the theme of being possessed by dance.
Hutson-Fish designed the tour and partnered with a travel agency specializing in student tours to make sure they had everything they needed for the venture.
Snip Snip Give
Local stylists will do haircuts, styling and makeup to benefit The Performing Company.
› March 22, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
› Gesa Power House Theatre, 111 N. Sixth Ave.
› $15 suggested donation per service
› Info: 529-5525
Tutus and Tapas
Dance classes for young dancers, cookie decorating class, entertainment, fashion show, tutu auction, wine and appetizers.
› March 22, 6-8:30 p.m.
› Gesa Power House Theatre
› Tickets: $25, available at Earthlight Books, 321 E. Main St.
The dancers are holding events to raise funds for their trip, including Tutus and Tapas, March 22 at the Gesa Power House Theatre. They are also accepting donations online here.
Instructor Hutson-Fish identified her spiritual and life path very early.
“I knew I’d be a teacher, and once I started ballet, I knew I’d teach ballet,” she said.
For youth, growing up often involves insecurities. As a young person Hutson-Fish didn’t feel pretty, but that notion melted away when she danced. Dance was the way she could feel free and graceful. She wants her students to experience those same things.
“I want to help children feel good about themselves, feel beautiful,” she said. “Through the joy and beauty of ballet the body and soul connect.”
Hutson-Fish loves seeing that confidence in her students. It’s the reason she teaches ballet.
“Lord knows it’s not for the money,” she said. “I want to see that look of accomplishment. That’s my reward. They felt beautiful and loved and safe.”
Originally from Mountain Home, Idaho, Hutson-Fish came to the area because of dance.
“Charles Bennett was my mentor,” she said. Bennett was the director of the First Chamber Dance Company, based in Seattle from 1974-1979.
In 1976 she danced in “Trails West,” the first outdoor summer musical at the Fort Walla Walla Amphitheatre. It was valuable training for the intensity of a career in dance.
“It was six nights a week,” she said.
In 1979 she began teaching ballet at Whitman College, retiring in 2012. She opened The Dance Center in 1986. The studio currently has about 85-90 students. It holds two major recital performances per year, and conducts the Summer Dance Lab, with intensive sessions for dancers from all over the Northwest.
“They take four classes a day,” she said. “They work their little butts off.”
The intense training culminates in the Walla Walla Dance Festival, held in July.
Most of the Center’s dancers are female, but men also enjoy dancing.
“We have a fantastic men’s program,” she said. She gives credit to Charles Potts, the Center’s landlord, for his support of the men’s dance program.
Several qualities can be advantageous for dancers, Hutson-Fish said.
“They have to have been blessed with a body for it, with long legs, arms and a smaller head. And naturally, they have to be musical and have a passion for it. With that passion comes the dedication.”
Dedication is necessary because ballet is demanding.
“If you want to be a professional dancer you give your life to it,” she said. “It will be your life.”
And when a performance really comes together, “perfect technique, perfect soul, it is the greatest high on this earth, unlike anything else,” she said.
Karlene Ponti is the U-B specialty publications writer. She can be reached at 509-526-8324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.