In front of a full house of Western students, faculty and Gunnison community members, eight dancers from the Colorado Ballet showed off their best pliés and grand jetés across the Taylor Auditorium stage.
The Ballet was on campus on Wednesday, Nov. 6 to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of Western’s Honors Program.
In a spirit indicative of the Gunnison Valley, the group worked with the Gunnison Watershed School District to bring over 1,000 students from first through 12th grade to Western’s campus to experience the show. The Honors Program also collaborated with Western’s Art, Music, Education and Communication Arts, Language and Literature (CALL) departments to offset costs and ensure the event was free to the public.
Audience members were treated to excerpts from “La Sylphide,” “Don Quixote,” “Peter Pan” and “The Nutcracker.” They had the chance to engage in question-and-answer sessions throughout the performance with the dancers on stage. Topics ranged from the rapid deterioration of pointe shoes to the importance of storytelling through a person’s physical presence.
Honors Program Director Kelsey Bennett, Ph.D., led the charge to bring the group to Western. She noted that this was likely the first time the Ballet had been to Gunnison—and that was a big reason why she wanted to extend the cultural experience to younger students in the valley.
“It is a rare experience that offered students the opportunity to watch a performance delivered by a professional dance company, [one] that supports students’ intellectual maturity and personal growth,” Bennett said.
That sentiment is a hallmark of Western’s Honors Program which encourages its members to take ownership of their education in the pursuit of an enriched undergraduate liberal arts experience. Students enrolled in the program have access to a slew of different experiences to enhance their time on campus, including Honors-specific scholarships and Honors advising.
The afternoon ended with the Ballet’s members inviting up those in the crowd to learn some basic dance moves. The delighted squeals of the youngest in attendance as they jumped and shimmied in the bright lights of the stage were indicative of the overall spirit of the day. It was one of celebration, for the Honors Program and community as a whole.