A dream realized

Dayton Ballet opens its season with the return of Cinderella

By Arnecia Patterson

Photo: Dayton Ballet’s Case Bodamer, Erica Cole and Paul Gilliam perform in Cinderella, which returns to the Victoria Theatre Oct. 22-24; photo: Scott J. Kimmins

When Dayton Ballet opens its 2015-16 season with Cinderella, it will offer audiences a chance to see (once again for many) some of the most popular dance stories in the classical canon. In addition to Cinderella, it will take the Schuster stage in Romeo and Juliet at the other end of the season in April. And The Nutcracker remains a holiday destination event in December.

Like Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella is danced to a Sergei Prokofiev score and had its premiere in the 1940s (1945 to be exact). Dayton Ballet Artistic Director Karen Russo Burke choreographed her version for the company in 2013 and is reviving it relatively intact with costuming by Lowell Mathwich and sets by Ray Zupp. However, casting is always dependent on the roster of dancers available, which can change with each season.

Case Bodamer is a returning dancer who danced the role of one of Cinderella’s stepsisters in 2013. A dancer in his eighth season with the company, Bodamer is accustomed to undertaking the roles he is assigned. Dancing the role of a stepsister was no surprise despite how it would seem to a newcomer to the ballet. Historically, the roles of Cinderella’s stepsisters have been danced by men since Frederick Ashton’s version in 1948 when he played one of the sisters with the other danced by Robert Helpmann. Ashton’s version for the Sadler’s Wells Ballet is the one choreographer Burke, remembers best.

“I grew up on that version,” Burke recalls.

While the stepsisters have always been a source of comic relief, the prince is royal, courtly and has a bearing distinctly different from either stepsister role. This year, Bodamer is reprising his role as a stepsister and dancing the role of the prince as well.

“I was both surprised and excited because it is an awesome opportunity,” Bodamer says. “Both parts are so different but so important to the story. It’s fun to be able to tell two different sides.” His enthusiasm is yet another chapter in his professional development. He values and understands the differences in the roles, and his training has prepared him to undertake both.

Bodamer’s early exposure to jazz, modern and ballet dancing easily prepares him for the disparate roles he is faced with in this year’s Cinderella. He began dancing young after watching an older sibling and cousin in dance recitals. “There was always one male who was more of a teenager, and I thought ‘Oh, he’s surrounded by all these girls and everybody likes him,’” he says.

The prospect of being the well-liked, popular guy landed him in jazz dance classes in the only studio in his hometown of Blue Point, New York. After studying every dance form offered at all levels, Bodamer moved to a newer studio, where the focus was on classical training. His studiousness paid off.

In middle school, he studied at the summer intensive run by the New York City Ballet at the New York State Summer School of the Arts. In addition to staffing the four-week program, NYCB holds its Saratoga Springs season of performances.

“That was my first summer program,” Bodamer says. “They taught us during the day, and at night, we got to see their performances. I still stayed in modern, but ballet became much more of a focus. It was my dream to become a professional.”

By high school, he was taking the train into Manhattan most days of the week to study at the Ailey School, the official school of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. After each immersion, Bodamer became more committed to the possibility of a professional dance career. For him, this year’s Cinderella is a chance to put all of the early, dissimilar dance pieces together.

As comic relief in Cinderella, the men cast as stepsisters can play the roles coyly or with camp once the choreographer decides the details and how the movement will tell their stories. Bodamer has observed and collected mannerisms that help him to draw his stepsister as happy-go-lucky, not very bright and what some would refer to as ditzy. Even though those characteristics are built into the choreography, it is up to him to layer the movement with quirk and gesture that read clearly from the stage. On the other hand, the stately demeanor of the prince requires the bearing of a leading man. His choreography is big male jumps and partnering; the staples of male ballet dancing. Conversely, the stepsister is in high heels. Each character shares Bodamer yet remains independent of each other, much like the dancing needed to portray them.

Right now, rehearsals require Bodamer to shift from earnest to silly and from head bobbing to stateliness. But he is having fun. Moreover, he has empathy for women dancers and for the audience because of his unusual situation.

“I just really want the audience to enjoy the performance and the story to read well, regardless of who I’m playing or anyone else is playing that night,” he says. In the happy ending, all of the pieces of Bodamer’s preparation come together in his debut as the popular guy.

The Dayton Ballet opens its season with Cinderella Thursday, Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 25 at 3 p.m. in the Victoria Theatre, 126 N. Main St. The Thursday evening performance of Cinderella includes a Pizza Prelude from Uno’s Pizzeria to be served in the Victoria lobby beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets for Cinderella range from $14 to $72 and are available through 888.228.3630 or online at daytonperformingarts.org. Senior, teacher and student discounts available at box office. For more information please visit daytonperformingarts.org. 

Reach DCP freelance writer Arnecia Patterson at ArneciaPatterson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Arnecia Patterson has an infinite capacity to view concert dance. She found her former career as dance executive, funder, and consultant extremely satisfying—and finds writing about dance equally rewarding. Reach DCP Resident Dance Critic Arnecia Patterson at ArneciaPatterson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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