The Curtain Falls
Beyond Ballroom Dance Company Performs Its Final Season
By Cathy Dessert
Sitting in the audience of the Beyond Ballroom Dance Company show on the afternoon of Sunday, February 15th, I thought about the past years and felt simultaneous melancholy and excitement. I was excited to see what they would bring to their final show but sad to lose this unique company of dancers who have brought ballroom dancing from the competition floor to the theater. “Stretching the limits of ballroom dancing” is certainly what they have done.
For this year’s performance, the dance company opened with the song “Mad World,” capturing my melancholy exactly—the stage was tinged with blue as the dancers mixed elements of waltz and Argentine tango together. The next two BBDC numbers were throwbacks to old-time favorites. The Red Riding Hood Suite was performed exquisitely by Julie Jacobson, Jay Larson, and Deanne Michael, bringing much laughter to the theater as the grandma and Little Red fought off the wolf.
The Nightingale followed, with Gary Dahl playing the emperor, April Dahl the nightingale, Caitlin Massart the mechanical bird, and Shane Haggerty as the servant. I absolutely loved the costuming done by Marsha Weist-Hines. April and Caitlin’s dresses had wonderful wings that were able to detach from the arms; it was such a great touch to add, especially during Gary and April’s sad and beautiful duo.
The last dance performed by BBDC was a new one this year, “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights.” This was such a fun way to end the show and the final season, with the entire company participating in a giant swing party.
Of course, I would be remiss to leave out this year’s guest artists, Gene and Elena Bersten. Gene and Elena contributed absolutely top-notch pieces to the show this year. Their first performance was a Viennese waltz to a rendition of “Smooth Criminal,” with elements of paso doble mixed in. Gene and Elena later opened up the show after intermission with an absolutely stunning samba. This was so much fun to see, and they had the entire crowd laughing and cheering throughout their performance. Their last piece was a beautiful Latin rumba before, they too, joined the rest of the BBDC company for the final piece.
The most striking feature of the company, to me, has been their ability to tell a story through dance movement without speaking a word. This seemed the kernel of the discussion held after the performance, and the value of storytelling through movement was succinctly summarized by veterans and newer members of the company alike. (There have been forty-nine performers in BBDC’s twelve-year history, and three of the original founders—Julie Jacobson, Jay Larson, and Deanne Michael—have graced the stage every show.)
When Gary Dahl’s mother asked the group about their plans for the future, the performers affirmed that they will all continue teaching, coaching, and judging, and will step back to take stock of the direction their paths might take. Knowing they will continue in the ballroom community is what fuels my excitement. Waiting for the next chapter and who writes it fills me with anticipation.
While I can’t wait to see what the future brings, I’m drawn to reminisce a bit about the past by sharing just a few of the memories I have of the company’s history.
Shows in the early years were performed at the Southern Theater, a repurposed old movie theater that maintained many charming characteristics of the past. It allowed the dancers several stage entrances that made the performances more dimensional than a traditional stage would allow.
I remember fondly that the fundraisers were always a blast, each one providing a teaser for the season to come. My husband, Bill, and I purchased some very fun dinners!
The most striking moments from past shows include: the bus number, the twirling ballroom number, Jay and Julie’s husband-and-wife portrayal in “Dinner for Seven,” the use of humor in each show, the wolf from “Red Riding Hood,” the color yellow from the color season, and the artistry of each of the company’s members. I remember each show with a smile.
Witnessing what talented and creative dancers have envisioned for ballroom dancing beyond the competition floor has been a pleasure. Thank you all for the memories, and I eagerly await what comes next.