FARGO — After a forced yearlong hiatus from in-person performances (thanks, COVID), FM Ballet is ready to lift the curtain on a fresh season of dance theater, bringing with it some classics and some contemporary.
From the holiday tradition of “The Classic Nutcracker” to the witty “Coppelia” and a new youth-intensive summer 2022 program titled “Carnival of the Animals,” planning, rehearsals and auditions have been underway behind the scenes for several months now.
“We are so excited to get back onstage and perform in front of people again,” says Lacey Gasper, marketing manager and wife of FM Ballet Director Matt Gasper. “There’s just nothing like a live performance.”
Hats off to that.
The nonprofit professional dance company, now in its 17th season, brings performative theater to the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo area that’s typically only found in larger communities.
“Matt works really hard to bring quality storytelling to everything we do at FM Ballet,” Lacey Gasper says.
A former professional ballet, Broadway and commercial dancer, as well as the son of Gasper School of Dance founders Kathy and Eddie Gasper, Matt Gasper (who’s also a master instructor and owner of Gasper’s School of Dance) hopes this season, like others, will bring quality dance programming and learning opportunities to all ages.
“As a dancer myself and someone who grew up literally in a dance studio, I knew from a very young age just how much story there is to be told in dance. With FM Ballet, my goal as director is to bring captivating storytelling to every performance, and I think that’s what keeps people coming back. The story. The art.”
But a lot happens well before the stage lights up with dancers and the orchestra warms up the strings. The Gaspers focus heavily on mentoring dancers and building the company “to inspire younger generations” to get involved in dance and performance, Matt Gasper says.
“We love to see that magic in their eyes, and it’s our featured dancers that carry the show,” he says. “What audiences don’t see is the preparation and planning that happens well before we open a show.”
The company embraces dancers of all ages and experience levels, too.
“With ‘The Nutcracker,’ we actually open auditions to people ages 6 to adult, because we need so many characters for the party scene and so many mice,” Lacey Gasper says. “It’s fun to have adults join and then they can say they’ve been in a major ballet.”
Auditions for “The Nutcracker” ended in September, but the company will begin auditions for its May performance of “Coppelia” beginning in January.
'The Classic Nutcracker'
When: Dec. 17-19, 2021
Where: North Dakota State University Festival Concert Hall
FM Ballet’s holiday tradition of “The Classic Nutcracker” returns to the NDSU Festival Concert Hall stage.
Though "The Nutcracker" brings joy to people of all ages, Lacey Gasper says she particularly likes children’s reactions to the characters.
“I see the young dancers of the young children that will come to our shows and how excited they get,” she says. “We usually put characters out in our lobby, and the joy on most children's faces to see that, whether it's snow or whether it's the mouse king in the lobby, it just brings something so special to them that they can carry with them for a lifetime.”
“Just kind of let go of your everyday stresses to see something that feels like magic,” Lacey Gasper says.
When: May 2022
Where: Fargo Theatre
Info: Auditions in January 2022
“Coppelia” is a family-friendly production about a toy maker and his lifelike doll. “The doll is so real that the villagers and Swanhilda's fiance, Franz, mistake the doll for Swanhilda,” according to the FM Ballet.
“Coppelia is one of the first performances FM Ballet did in 2012,” Matt Gasper says, largely encompassing everything he looks for in a quality production. “It’s charming, funny, witty and totally magical.”
'Carnival of the Animals'
When: June 2022
Where: Location TBD
Info: Auditions in March 2022
Gasper introduces a new children’s ballet intensive and production in June 2022 with its rendition of “Carnival of the Animals,” where ballet students will have a direct hand in mentoring younger dancers.
The three-week intensive will include dancers aged 6 to 16 who will perform dressed as various animals in front of a live audience.
“This teaching performance is something new for us at FM Ballet, and adding the children’s ballet will really give our more experienced dancers a chance to teach and mentor younger, less-experienced performers,” Gasper says. “Dancers will be in charge of everything from choreography to costume design.”
More FM Ballet performances
Alongside three major productions set for 2021-22, FM Ballet has plans to bring performances to various venues across the metro area, as well as rural communities across North Dakota.
“We love bringing little mini ‘Nutcracker’ performances to smaller schools,” Lacey Gasper says. “It’s a really fun way to show kids the ballet who maybe don’t have access to dance in their towns.”
On the lineup in the Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo region:
- Storytime at Fargo Public Library, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 26
- “Sargasso Sea” at Red River Market, 10 a.m. Oct. 30
- “Spooky Performance” (family-friendly) at Red River Market, 12:30 p.m. Oct. 30
More events and information are available at www.fmballet.org.
This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.