Ballet alumni lead company in uplifting production
To the rest of the clumsy masses, ballet dancers are capable of magic. With seeming effortlessness and control, they make their bodies move in impossible-looking and beautiful ways. And for many of the dancers of the Chico Community Ballet (CCB) company, escaping into the magic and beauty of Cinderella, a Magical Ballet is helpful in light of recent local events.
“The fire has impacted everybody, including the dance community,” said artistic director Deborah Jorritsma. “So they need this. The dancers need to dance, the community needs normalcy and that keeps us moving ahead to make it work.”
Even though 12 of the company members lost homes in the Camp Fire, the show at Laxson Auditorium will go on. Originally scheduled for November, dangerous air quality in the wake of the blaze pushed performances to this weekend, Friday through Sunday, Jan. 11-13.
This is CCB’s fifth interpretation of the Cinderella fairytale. This year, 37 company members, ages 7 to 30, bring the favorite to life, dancing to the dramatic score by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. It’s the familiar story of a fairy godmother who morphs pumpkins into gilded coaches, mice into horses and turns a most disdained young girl into a princess.
“We approach it with different elements, like new choreography for the stepsisters,” said Jorritsma, “so it never feels like we’re doing the same old thing.”
There’s also the sweet backstory between the production’s lead dancers/guest artists: Camryn Titus, who plays Cinderella, and Jake Bevens as Prince Charming. The two have been dancing in CCB productions together since they were 10 and 8, respectively.
At 4, Titus started dancing for then-Wall Street Dance Studio (now CCB) and danced for 16 years until she left to study abroad in southern France. After earning a doctorate in physical therapy from University of the Pacific, she resumed CCB classes and now performs with the company as a guest artist.
“It’s a blast dancing with Jake because we grew up dancing together. When we’re trying to choreograph, we move similarly. We were trained the same, so we can play with lift and turns,” she said. “It’s been two years since we danced together, yet we can walk into the studio and it just all comes together and we dance together easily.”
Bevens relocated to Los Angeles in 2010 to pursue a career in the field. He’s appeared in music videos and on television shows and now works at Disneyland, dancing in a stage show called Mickey and the Magical Map.
He first got into dance while living in in Oregon as a child. He enrolled in gymnastics at 7, and said, “I wasn’t very excited when my gymnastic coach suggested I take ballet—until I started enjoying the challenge. It’s hard. You never perfect it.
“After moving to Chico, I met Camyrn at CCB in 2000,” Bevens continued. “It was cool from the first time we had to partner. So when we get back together to dance, it’s fun.”
“Camyrn has created a whole new beautiful choreography for this piece,” Jorritsma said. “She and Jake, literally in one weekend, got their parts together. It looked like they had done this for a long time.”
“It’s a passion, part of me, and now with a job—as a physical therapist—it’s my release,” Titus said.
“The arts save us in so many ways,” Jorritsma added. “During the Depression, people would scrape up pennies to see vaudeville to escape. This Cinderella can do the same for our community.”