On a Tuesday morning at ten o’clock, right before holiday vacation, the students of Howard Elementary in east Oakland streamed into the school’s multipurpose room for an assembly. They were excited because it was almost the holiday break. They were excited because it was almost Christmas. They were excited because they were out of class. On this morning in particular they were about to see a performance by four dancers of the Oakland Ballet Company – part of our Discover Dance educational program.
The costumed dancers started by giving a short history of ballet and telling the students about a day in the life of a working artist. Then, by turns, they told the story of that most famous of ballets – The Nutcracker. As one dancer spoke the others performed short segments of the ballet. The kids were squirmy and a little chatty at first because, well, they’re kids. As the dancers progressed through the story and came to a pas de deux between Marie and the Nutcracker – performed by two of OBC’s principal dancers Ramona Kelly and Seyong Kim – the students began to gasp in awe in a way that made that clichéd reaction not a cliché. Ramona and Seyong transformed the small scuffed multipurpose room stage into a scene of magic with simply their sheer physical artistry.
The spell didn’t stop with the kids. As a retired middle school teacher, I’ve sat through more assemblies than I care to count and as a ballet fan I’ve watched this sequence dozens of times, and yet I found myself on the verge of tears witnessing these students enthusiastically cheer each lift and turn. They didn’t notice the storage containers stacked to the side of the stage or that the trim was loose on Ramona’s costume or that Seyong was wearing black track pants instead of tights. They probably could not have put into words just how or why this dance was so special – they just knew that it was. They knew that on a cold Tuesday morning the Oakland Ballet brought magic to the multipurpose room.
By Carolyn Rinetti
Vice President, Oakland Ballet Company Board of Directors
About Discover Dance
Each season, OBC offers its Discover Dance educational program for East Bay schools spanning from Richmond to Livermore. Discover Dance provides much needed access to the art of dance as well as educational arts programming for schools and serves more than 15,000 students each year through a mix of in school and in theater programs! To learn more about the Discover Dance program, host OBC at your school, find out about upcoming student matinees, or become a sponsor of this program, visit www.oaklandballet.org.