SMC presents A Feast for the Eyes and Ears

Inside of a small dance studio in Gym 104, Artistic Director and Choreographer Charlotte Richards prepares her 19 member dance company for the upcoming ballet show A Feast For The Eyes and Ears.

What begins as a laconic and casual scene of young dancers ambling about and doing impossible stretches in black leotards and ballet shoes, suddenly becomes ignited by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The dancers plié, poisson, écarté, pirouette, and leap through the air with intensity and beautiful poise. Their faces betray a joyous pleasure in their work, while Richards passionately directs them with the passion of a benevolent dictator.

The production of A Feast For The Eyes and Ears has been a work in progress for eight weeks. Suffering swollen ankles and toes, bloody feet, tears, and a wide range of emotions, Richards and her dancers are making history at Santa Monica College with the first completely en pointe (on ballet shoes) dance production in SMC's history. Pushing the envelope a measure further, the production also marks the first time that the Music Department and Dance Department have collaborated on a production. For the upcoming show, the SMC orchestra will be under the baton of Conductor James Martin, performing compositions by Bach, Dmitri Shostakovich, Aman Khachaturian, Igor Stravinsky, Frederic Chopin, and Leonard Bernstein.  

"Ballet is like martial arts," Richards says. "But you have to look pretty doing it."

Exemplifying the great strides the dance company has made to put the production together, Jennifer Ramos, 19, has only been en pointe for three months. Richards, explaining how Ramos originally began at the back of the company, has set the pace to where she is now at the front of the stage.

"Charlotte's a great teacher, and she's molded me in every way as a ballet dancer," Ramos says. "It's just really inspiring. It's made me grow as a dancer, and it makes me look forward to being a professional."

Marie Pellefigue, 21 and from Toulouse, France, says she started training as young as 14. Originally trained in jazz and contemporary tap dancing, Pellefigue came to SMC two years ago and started focusing on modern dance and ballet.

"We recently had our first rehearsal with the orchestra, and it was an amazing experience—it just brings it to another level!" says Pellefigue.

As the dancers move through one another with a mixture of grace and frantic motion, Richards is not shy to outwardly brag about their achievements.

"They've just risen to the occasion—and they've surpassed all my expectations," says Richards. "Over the past two months, we've had a few hiccups along the way, and a few huge egos that I've had to personally remove. We've definitely had our traumas. But we're a company, which means we're like a family. It's not about one person, it's about the group as a whole."

A Feast For The Eyes and Ears will be playing at The Broad Stage on May 7 (7:30 p.m.) and May 8 (4 p.m.). For more information, please call 310-434-3467 or 310-434-4323.