The dancers are back! Toting bags of leotards and toe shoes, young pre-professional ballet dancers arrived again last week at Burklyn Ballet Theatre located on the campus of Johnson State College. Students from around the country, and a few from Europe, dance here for hours every day in classes and rehearsals. Every Saturday, these promising student dancers perform — not in casual school recitals — but in fully produced performances with professional costuming, lighting, and sets. This Saturday, June 29, Burklyn Ballet Theatre presents the first of its six summer performances. Each Saturday features a different production; all are at 8 p.m. at Dibden Center for the Performing Arts in Johnson. An additional performance, at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 28, is “Cinderella & the Flower Fairies,” a ballet especially appealing to children; it is a preview of the company’s production in August’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. “It’s not all toe shoes, tutus, and tiaras,” said Joanne Whitehill, Burklyn Ballet Theatre Artistic Director, about the productions. Burklyn’s Saturday performances always feature classical ballet; they also include other dance genres – modern, jazz, even some in the style of “So You Think You Can Dance.” “We want to share what we do with the community,” said Whitehill. “Dancers here are passionate about what they do, they are dedicated and want people to enjoy what they are watching. We want to share our love of dance with the audience, and hope that they get that feeling of how wonderful it is to do this.” Burklyn Ballet Theatre has made its home at Johnson State College since 1986, but its beginnings stretch back a decade earlier to the Burklyn Mansion in East Burke. The company was founded by Angela Whitehill, who trained in Canada and London and who danced with Ballet Paris and Emile Littler and Jack Hylton Productions in Great Britain. Whitehill’s career as a dancer, teacher, artistic director, writer, costume designer has earned her awards including Vermont Woman of Achievement. “I came to Burklyn as a student in 1988,” said Joanne Whitehill. “I fell in love with the program and fell in love with Angela Whitehill’s son. It was really life changing.” Since 2003, Joanne and James Whitehill have been Burklyn Ballet’s artistic and producing directors. To select students, Burklyn conducts auditions — this year in 32 U.S. cities. Altogether, about 200 students are in the summer program, usually 60-70 each week. Most of the students are in their teens. “Most of the students here want to become professional dancers; they all want to dance at that level. They all have the attitude and the drive that it takes to become a professional,” said Whitehill. As an independent dance program, Burklyn networks with many professional dance groups. “We don’t have a professional company attached to our program, but we have alumni in professional companies all over the country and they call us looking for dancers,” said Whitehill. Burklyn’s faculty includes dancers with American Ballet Theater, Boston Ballet, Royal Ballet and others. Their qualifications could take them to any summer programs, but they come here because they like the program and because it’s beautiful, explained Whitehill. The ballet world can be fiercely competitive. At Burklyn, students find a supportive and empowering approach along with their rigorous training. “We’re a family and a team, we support each other through the highs and lows,” said Whitehill. Almost every year since 1994, Burklyn has sent a group of students to Scotland to perform in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. At auditions, students have the option of trying out for the Edinburgh program. Those selected train for that production along with their full schedule of Johnson classes and performances. In four weeks, the Scotland ballet is choreographed, costumes and sets are built, and the ballet rehearsed. In August, the group flies to Scotland and performs every day for two weeks. “It is a children’s ballet and we love to have kids come. In Scotland, the kids dress up in costumes. If kids here want to dress up we love that,” said Whitehill. “Afterward, the dancers stay on stage and meet and talk with the kids.” Burklyn Ballet Theatre Burklyn Ballet Theatre presents pre-professional dancers in public programs at 8 p.m. each June 29-Aug. 3 at Johnson State College’s Dibden Center for the Performing Arts in Johnson. For tickets or information, call 877-287-5596, or go online to www.burklynballet.com.

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