This Saturday and Sunday, ballet aficionados should pile into the auditorium at the International School of Beijing (ISB) for an eye-catching display of both on pointe and demi-pointe performances put on by students of On Pointe Dance Studio.
The 213 students in Alice in Wonderland vary in age from 4 to 18 years old, and represent schools all over the city. Dancers faced many challenges in preparing for this show, such as expected, balancing the time needed for rehearsals and academics.
“I have learned that to put on a show of this quality; a lot of hard work, endless hours of practice and dedication is required,” said Calista Shepheard (13, Canada) who plays the lead, Alice, and is a student at Harrow Beijing.
Along with sheer amount of time needed, technique was an incredibly important factor for several students.
“The challenges I faced in preparation for the show was probably trying to perfect my technique while having to simultaneously pick up choreography on the spot. Despite the fact that my technique still needs work, the whole process of learning choreography involves being able to add on more to the sequence and to be able to alter it whenever the teacher wants to make changes,” said Ashley Cheung, (17, Hong Kong/Malaysia), who attends Dulwich College Bejiing (DCB).
Cheung will be playing the White Rabbit.
She added, “A big challenge is having to be in control of what you’ve been sent home with to learn. In the end, it’s your responsibility to pick up and remember the choreography. It’ll be evident [if a dancer hasn’t]and there will be consequences if this responsibility is not taken care of.”
Cheung stressed that being part of a show of this caliber motivated her to work hard, since how she prepared her technique in class directly affected her performance. She prepares by dancing in class as though she is always on stage.
“It’s definitely been a challenge figuring out the balance between being the character and maintaining my technique,” agreed German Elisabeth Hensler (17), also a DCB student, who will be playing the Mad Hatter.
“Many dancers face the challenge of completing schoolwork while still dancing for two hours every night, but over the past two years my biggest challenge has been recovering from injuries. This summer I received knee surgery, have been rehabilitating through ballet,” said Darby Frederiksen (16, US), who will perform as the Duchess this year. Frederiksen is homeschooled and has been with On Pointe for four years. She moved to Beijing with her family in October 2013.
“Being a part of this team does take dedication and strength, not just physically, but mentally as well. But I think it is definitely rewarding, because not only do we grow in character, but we improve our skills in dance, movement, and music as well. I personally appreciate the intense resolve needed in ballet and jazz dance, and enjoy building perseverance through dance,” Frederiksen (Duchess) explained.
Shepheard (Alice), who started pointe only two years ago, agrees, “Pointe work is incredibly hard and requires a lot of practice. Dancers are serious athletes!”
Hensler (Mad Hatter) started ballet when she was four and has been with On Pointe since its founding five years ago. Through the studio and this performance, her social circle has grown.
“I’ve been in China for quite a while, so I’ve gotten to know many people, but most of my friends were from my school. I would have never met some of my friends if it weren’t for On Pointe. We really work like a huge team, and everyone relies on everyone, so you just end up being close with some of your classmates.”
The production not only reflects the students, but the teachers as well, as Cheung (White Rabbit) said, “[The teachers] care about their students and train them through discipline because they know the potential of their students.” She described them as committed and passionate, pushing students to their maximum ability. She added, “When students reflect on their progress, it is evident that the teachers take a big part in their self development.”
With that in mind, be sure to congratulate the dancers and teachers for their hard work this Saturday and Sunday in what appears to be a stunning combination of dance, music, choreography, and visual effects.
The performances should be great for introducing ballet to children, or for an inexpensive date night supporting the arts.
Alice in Wonderland, December 10 and 11
All ages. RMB 75. Saturday show at 5pm. Sunday shows at 1.30pm and 5pm. International School of Beijing 10 An Hua Street, Shunyi District 顺义区安华街10号, 邮编 Buy tickets on Yoopay.