Never the same old song and dance

Sierra Nevada Ballet celebrates 10 years of kicking up its heels at Artown

Sierra Nevada Ballet’s “Dancing by the River” takes place Thursday, July 29 at 8 p.m. in Wingfield Park. For more information, visit

Wingfield Park

300 W. First St.
Reno, NV 89501

In this economic climate, it’s impressive that any arts organization in the Reno area can survive. That’s why the fact that Sierra Nevada Ballet is celebrating its 10th year of performing as part of the Artown series Dancing in the Park is especially exciting.

Not that the company hasn’t been struggling with the declining revenues that the economy has wrought. As artistic director Rosine Bena explains, in order to retain professional dancers in the company, she has had to let them dance in other professional companies. One of the results has been a pared-down season, but the company tries to tour around Northern Nevada and Tahoe. If funding allows, they’d like to add a tour of rural Nevada soon. Plus, the trainee apprentice program has grown from its initial five apprentices 10 years ago to an impressive 17.

“I’m so proud of our young people—the dancers we’re producing—which is why we started this company in the first place,” says Bena. “And we’ve managed to do this despite the economy. Several of our apprentices have gone on to dance with other companies, and about three of them are going to be performing in this Artown show.”

That’s in addition to the outstanding professionals SNB is known for around the region. “Dancing By the River,” the Dancing in the Park show, will showcase the talents of Ananda Bena-Weber, daughter of Rosine Bena and world-renowned tap dancer Sam Weber; as well as Larissa Cassera; international dancers and former Joffrey students Ramona Cachinero and Rachel Spiedel-Little; Ballet San Jose’s Seth Parker; and Laura Lunde, Court Larson and Alexander Biber.

Add to that jazz singer Cami Thompson and her trio of musicians, Peter Supersano, Joe McKenna and Steve Self. Thompson, who has also served as SNB’s musical director for the Artown show and the company’s annual Sand Harbor performance, will sing jazz accompaniment to favorite Broadway revue pieces. She’ll perform a duet with a special guest, Scottish tenor Steven Hallan, who is also slated to sing “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera.

While the program’s exact contents at the time of this writing are still somewhat up in the air, Bena expects them to include ballet pieces from Swan Lake, Raymonda, Paquita and Don Quixote, as well as pieces from such Broadway musicals as Sweet Charity, Hello, Dolly! and A Chorus Line.

“I don’t often see dance companies incorporate jazz artists doing Broadway music, so it’s a really interesting juxtaposition of American musical art forms,” says Thompson.

Indeed, “Dancing By the River” strives to offer something for everyone. “We’ll have everything from classical ballet through contemporary dance, tap and jazz,” says Bena. “We usually try to appeal to a varied audience, and it’s worked. We usually attract a large crowd, and a lot of people have come to know us through Artown.”

While Bena and Thompson both are looking forward to celebrating SNB’s 10th year at Artown, they are both adamant about how critical year-round support is going to be.

“I’ve learned a lot from my association with Sierra Nevada Ballet, and how incredibly reliant art companies are upon the sponsorship and support of patrons and corporations to fund art,” says Thompson. “By supporting the arts, you’re ensuring another generation of performers can do this and guaranteeing the longevity of the community’s wellness. There’s no greater calling.”