Ballet AZ Blog

Swan Lake at the Garden


Matthew Kasper and Maria Simonetti in rehearsal for Swan Lake with the students of The School of Ballet Arizona. Photo by Alberto Peñalver.

This Spring, students of The School of Ballet Arizona (SBAZ) and Phoenix Youth Symphony Orchestras (PYSO) will come together for the first time to perform Swan Lake.

Taking place May 30, 31, and June 6 at Desert Botanical Garden, this production is a collaboration that represents a longtime vision come to life.

After a serendipitous meeting between SBAZ School Director, Maria Simonetti and PYSO Artistic Director, Matthew Kasper, two years ago, at a rehearsal for Ballet Arizona’s performance of Napoli, both were saying yes to an artistic collaboration.

Swan Lake will not only be a unique opportunity for both organizations and our students, but it will play a key role in furthering their education. For a majority of the dancers and musicians, it will be their first time performing alongside another art form.

Kasper describes it as a humbling experience for a conductor and musicians. Compared to a typical symphonic performance, where the audience hears the conductor’s interpretation of the score, a ballet will force his orchestra, made up of 75 students, to be very mindful of what is happening on stage and what the dancers are able to do physically. “There is a famous story about George Schulte, a conductor with the Chicago Symphony, who conducted his first and only ballet,” says Kasper. “When it was over, Schulte came out of the pit and the production manager told him he needed to leave because the dancers were looking for him and they were going to kill him.”

At SBAZ, live piano accompaniment is a critical part of our students’ daily training. Performing with a live orchestra, however, is a different challenge. “They have to be ready for anything,” says Simonetti. “You need to be in tune with the choreography and the music. At a moment’s notice, things may change but it has to feel and look seamless for the audience.”

Most importantly, this performance is a testament to the will and ingenuity of our institutions, not to mention a welcome breath of fresh air. After a challenging and isolating year, both Maria and Matthew can feel the excitement radiating from their students as they are back rehearsing again and creating art together.

“Maria and I see this as a signal to the people of Phoenix that the arts are still here,” says Kasper. “We are strong, we are persistent, we are innovative, and we are going to find ways to make art happen. Be ready for us to come back better than ever.”

Read “Creative Support for the Arts”

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