Ballet in the Park

For 25 years audiences have come to Ashland's Lithia Park on cool summer evenings to watch live ballet performances from the Ballet Rogue dance company. This year, performances will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Sundays, July 19 and 26, and Aug. 2 and 9, at the Butler Band Shell in the park.

Master classes will be held from 12:30 to 2 p.m. and the Little Ballerina classes will run from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on the Sundays when there is an evening performance.

This summer's pieces include a ballet divertissement from the classic Petipa era, "Don Quixote's Dream of Dulcinea." The dance is a dramatic work choreographed by Eric Hyrst in 1983 for the Britt Gardens. "The Dance of the Seven Veils," with music by Straus, and a contemporary work by Diane Gaumond Hyrst based on the ballet "Axis" will round out this season's offerings.

Several guest companies will join Ballet Rogue and present their own work. On July 19, Edwina Castle, former Ballet in the Park dancer, will present "Dances from Swan Lake" with her Gallery Ballet ballerinas. On July 26, Valerie Ball will bring Traduza, a Brazilian-American contemporary dance company with a rich and original repertoire. On Aug. 2, former State Ballet dancer Robert Guitron will bring his innovative contemporary Polaris Dance Theater Company. And closing the season on Aug. 9, Kim Watson will bring Kinetic Images for a fourth visit to the series. This modern dance group celebrates human experience and the power of nature to inspire art.

Each week, directors Castle, Ball, Guitron and Watson will offer master classes in their respective fields of expertise. The classes will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Medford Dance Center, 201 W. Sixth St., Medford. The cost is $20 per class, or $65 for four.

Ballet in the Park's "Little Ballerina Class" for 5 to 10 year olds will be held from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on the Butler Band Shell.

New this year will be an Ice Cream Social from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, at Pioneer Hall, 73 Winburn Way, Ashland. Tickets are $12 and will be available at Small Change in Ashland, Dance & Beyond in Medford and at the door.

Ballet Rogue's Artistic Director Gaumond Hyrst has announced that this season of Ballet in the Park will be her last. "Two benchmarks in the same year — 25 years of Ballet in the Park and 30 years of Ballet Rogue — called for some reflections," Gaumond Hyrst said in a press release. "I believe that my decision to step down will give Ballet Rogue members and myself opportunity for growth."

Gaumond Hyrst danced in Ballet in the Park from 1985 until 1997. She became the artistic director in 1996, after the sudden death of her husband, Eric Hyrst. It was Eric Hyrst who originally founded the State Ballet of Oregon, now known as Ballet Rogue. Ballet in the Park was Diane Gaumond Hyrst's brainchild. In her 14 years as director of Ballet in the Park, Gaumond Hyrst choreographed 21 original ballets and restaged 12 classics and 17 of Eric Hyrst's original works.

She said she plans to stay on as artistic director through June of 2010 and to produce one more "Nutcracker." Gaumond Hyrst added that she will continue to be involved with Ballet Rogue to assure the continued survival of the school, the company and its main productions. She hopes to explore new venues as well, she said.

Call 773-5118 for more information.

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