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Longmont youth dancers are en pointe in Roosevelt Park

Centennial State Ballet is bringing their senior celebration back to first position

The Centennial State Ballet, or CSB, will celebrate its first in-person performance, the Garden Party, for the ballet company since December 2019’s Nutcracker. Executive Artistic Director Kristin Kingsley marked 594 days between the 2019 Nutcracker and the upcoming Garden Party without a live performance.

“In March 2020, we did what everyone else did and shut down,” said Laura Malpass, community coordinator for CSB. “This year’s Garden Party is our triumphant return to the stage.”

The pandemic hit just as CSB was preparing their annual gala performance, forcing the organization to shift onto a virtual space. In lieu of larger group performances on stage, students were instead filmed in solos and duets.

“When we had to shift to our digital season during 2020-21, the kids all stepped up. They had the rug pulled out from under them but every single one of them got back up again and said ‘This is what we want to do.’ They are strong, collaborative, creative beings and I’m so proud of our organization,” Kingsley said. “Because of the dancers, because of the volunteers and the board, everyone stepped up so we could continue to give performance opportunities and a safe space to remind everyone why they dance.”

In its tenth year, the ballet company is certainly ready to take the stage again. The August 8 performance will bring in dancers across all age ranges, from kindergarten through the senior class of 2021. A few CSB alumni will return to the stage as well.

Three of the 2022 class of seniors at CSB have been with the company since it started ten years ago. Hannah Nielsen had surgery on her ankle just prior to what would have been Nutcracker season for the company, which made her miss performances even more. 

“It really is a good feeling knowing I can be a part of it again this year, recovered from my surgery and getting back in the groove,” Nielsen said.

“We’ve all grown up together, so it’s kind of surreal to think that we’re seniors now. But to be able to perform in front of an audience again is such an amazing thing to me, it makes me so happy to make them happy,” said Deborah Hegg, class of 2022. “It’s a huge part of my life and having that missing for an entire year left me without motivation for a lot of things.”

“Even if it’s not totally back to normal, it’s exciting that we can still express ourselves, be together and perform live again,” said Abby Spiegel, class of 2022.

Claire Terhaar, a CSB alum from the class of 2020, has been studying dance at University of Colorado Boulder this past year. Terhaar said the experience of studying dance in virtual classes was difficult.

“Covid hit right at the end of my senior year and I felt like I was at the top of my game practicing for our gala, then everything changed in 24 hours. It was really devastating for me,” Terhaar said. “The Garden Party is my first live performance since the pandemic, and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever perform live again. The opportunity here to be in a room and still dance in my home company is such a gift.”

Marlena Nava-Chorn, also starting dance studies at University of Colorado Boulder, is a recent CSB alum from the class of 2021. Though Naba-Chorn had only been away for a few months, she was still excited to take the stage with her dance family.

“It’s so nice to see all these people I love and beautiful to watch my friends grow as dancers at CSB. It’s really beautiful to be dancing with them again,” Nava-Chorn said.

Local musician Ryan Spinharney will join the dancers, accompanying them with original songs during the performance.

“We have an amazing folk singer-songwriter in Ryan. Knowing that he’s local and we’re the local youth ballet, that collaboration is part of our vision,” Kingsley said. “He’ll be on stage playing his guitar and singing. I think it’s so important for our students to feel what live music feels like, especially after we had to pivot to digital performance.”

The Centennial State Ballet Garden Party will take place on August 8 at 1 p.m. under the pavilion in Roosevelt Park. The afternoon performance will be in-person and live-streamed for those that don’t feel safe viewing in a crowd. 

Tickets for the CSB Garden Party are still available for both the in-person and live-streamed performance on August 8. Seating is not provided for the Roosevelt Park performance, but tickets have options for either picnic-style seating or for guests to bring their own chairs.