In July 2021, Christina Castro-Tauser was contemplating the very uncertain possibility of going back on stage for an in-person winter performance. Named executive director of International Ballet Exchange in July 2020, she had steered the organization’s programs of ballet courses for the public schools, performances, and opportunities for youth artists during more than a year of virtual service. She knew that whatever show she planned had to have built-in flexibility.
“I needed to be able to scale down in case we had to do a virtual performance,” she said. “I also wanted to give our youth artists, many of whom had danced for years in the youth cast of the Donetsk Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker when it toured the region, an opportunity to re-engage with their art.”
Castro-Tauser, whose background in classical ballet includes training with Laura Alonso at Centro Danza in Cuba, brings to her role with the Germantown-based IBE extensive experience with classical and contemporary choreography (she was recently awarded one of the three inaugural Art is Essential grants from Knight Foundation and the City). “The Donetsk would not be touring, and this was not the moment to create our own Nutcracker, especially when there are already wonderful local productions.”
She also wanted to stay away from an explicitly holiday theme for both practical reasons (“in case the show had to be postponed”) and artistic ones.
The solution, she realized, was to create an entirely new ballet using the rich resources of IBE and its sister studio, Wissahickon Dance Academy: more than 25 diverse youth ages 6 to 18, and young local professionals, all eager to get back to performing. And in keeping with the “international” connection that has been part of IBE since its founding, she invited local professionals who perform traditional dance from other cultures to be part of the production, among them Modero (Indonesian dance), Kate O’Brien (Irish step), and Ashley Rivera (salsa).
The result is “A Winter’s Dream,” which will premiere at Teatro Esperanza in two shows on December 11. A recording of the show will also be available for school audiences.
“Set in the present, the ballet opens with a party, but from there we take the audience to an enchanted winter forest and around the world to the glowing Northern Lights,” Castro-Tauser explained.
“It’s a ballet that can be scaled back for a variety of venues and audiences, but it can also scale up and grow with time.”
Castro-Tauser credits IBE’s participation in the Kimmel Center’s Arts Launch in September as giving her confidence that audiences were as eager for dance as dancers were to perform. “There was such excitement on stage and in the audience to be present with dance,” she said. “We are delighted to be showing the ballet at Teatro Esperanza and introducing our audiences to this beautiful new theater.”
The students and professionals alike have been excited about seeing the choreographic process firsthand and having roles created for them.
“In creating A Winter’s Dream, I wanted to make a ballet that would both enchant audiences and exemplify the founding vision of IBE. And so, while A Winter’s Dream is a brand new ballet, its core elements—making international connections, blending professionals and students on stage, featuring diverse casts, and using story to engage people in the art of ballet—have been the hallmarks of IBE since its beginnings,” Castro-Tauser explained.
International Ballet Exchange invites audiences of all ages to the world premiere of A Winter’s Dream at Teatro Esperanza (4261 N. 5th Street, Philadelphia 19140), on Saturday, December 11. Two shows only: 1pm and 7pm. All tickets $25. Free parking. Masks required; proof of vaccination required for those 12 and up. Limited seating; please purchase early: https://ibexchange.ticketleap.com/a-winters-dream/