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Ballet returns to Lithia Park

It’s summer in the Rogue Valley and that means Ballet Rogue will present Ballet in the Park in Ashland’s Lithia Park.

Several classic ballet dances will present a sweeping overview of ballet style and history.

The dancers also will perform dances beyond the scope of classic ballet. They will dance an abstract classical ballet, “Ballet Blue,” an abstract lyrical ballet, “Ballet Blanc,” and ballet jazz, “Ballet Rouge.” All of these dances were choreographed by Ballet Rogue’s artistic director, Diane Gaumond Hyrst.

Ballet Rogue will present the world premier of “Wo Man,” “Overload” and “Virus,” pieces of a larger works titled “Works in Progress” choreographed to music by the band Tool by guest artist Jeni Strasser from Portland. Strasser also will be performing in the piece “Virus” along with 10 dancers from Ballet Rogue. Through dance these pieces explore the evolution of the species as well as the parallels of the human experience to that of technology.

As part of the program, Vanessa Nowitsky will perform “The Creek” and “Rosary,” solo pieces composed, sung, danced and choreographed by Nowitsky.

On the final night, July 31, Lake Oswego-based Kinetic Images Dance Company will perform a modern dance piece, “What Lies Within,” an interpretation of a selection of Mozart piano sonatas and symphonies. The second piece, “Fragile,” explores ritual and religion.

Ballet Rogue will offer Little Ballerina classes in the mornings before performances. Very young dancers can come to the band shell at 9:30 a.m. on Mondays July 10-31 and participate in a free lesson from Strasser. Children should be dressed in loose clothing or dance clothes.

The dancers in Ballet in the Park comprise a wide range of skills and talents. A number of them are members of the Ballet Rogue’s Junior and Senior Dance Company. Also performing in Ballet in the Park will be several dancers from the local and regional ballet, salsa, and modern dance scene.

Strasser, one of the principal dancers in Ballet in the Park, started her dance career with the late Eric Hyrst at the age of 12, with Ballet Rogue. She has continued to explore her love to dance through ballet and modern dance.

Diane Gaumond Hyrst became the artistic director for Ballet Rogue in 1996. She was born in Montreal, Canada, and received her early dance training from Milenka Nerdierlova. She continued her studies with Eric Hyrst as well as Popovitch and Karamensky, members of the Bolshoi Ballet who were teaching in Montreal at the time.

During her 26 years in the Rogue Valley, Hyrst co-founded the former State Ballet of Oregon, instituted and continues as artistic director of Ashland’s Ballet in the Park series, and has choreographed and directed Ballet Rogue’s productions of “The Nutcracker” for the last 10 years. The company has been producing “The Nutcracker” for 20 years. Hyrst has also trained numerous dancers at the Plaza Ballet Studio in Ashland, the Professional Ballet Center in Phoenix, and currently at the Medford Dance Center, home of Ballet Rogue.

The dancers in Ballet in the Park comprise a wide range of skills and talents. A number of them are members of the Ballet Rogue’s Junior and Senior Dance Company and have danced in “The Nutcracker” and in the company’s recent production of “The Dream.” Also performing in Ballet in the Park will be several dancers from the local and regional ballet, salsa, and modern dance scene.