Our #50History continues…
Following its solidification as a formal nonprofit in 1969, the early “Berkshire Civic Ballet” -increasingly known more commonly just as “Berkshire Ballet” – rapidly garnered an enthusiastic popular and critical response…
From its very first review in the local newspaper, the Berkshire Eagle, columnist and reviewer Richard Happel spoke glowingly of the dancers and choreography, concluding “we would claim wholeheartedly that Berkshire Civic Ballet is a credit to its founders.”
In a subsequent review in 1973, Happel opined “Each season, the Berkshire Civic Ballet seems to gain in stature and professional aplomb… just how much hard labor and struggle are required to keep this up can be appreciated only by those who know how much plain weariness conspire to dull the sharp edge of a dance company. Certainly this local undertaking deserves all the support Berkshire County can muster.”
It would seem that Berkshire County agreed, as the company’s board and supporters continued to grow in earnest, foreshadowing even larger productions and community presence over the next years.
“The high point of the performance for me was ‘Fragments,’ writes reviewer Sally Begley of a performance in September 1974, “a starkly abstract work with a strident electronic accompaniment, choreographed and costumed by Mary-Margaret Giannone. Miss Giannone (Now ABB Associate Artistic Director Mary Giannone Talmi) made effective use of the oversized stage and the eager adaptability of this company. It is a credit to them that, although their basic training is in classical ballet, they looked well working in bold, asymmetrical movements.”
“Fragments,” Begley notes, had been recently selected by the Northeast Regional Ballet Association to be performed at a special gala held the month before, “which is quite an honor for this young company.”
“Performances were of uniformly high quality and often at a professional dance level,” said Happel the following year, of the company’s very first Nutcracker production, “Especially effective was the costuming and performance in the “Valse des Fleurs” and in “Dew Drop,” which Michelle Duffin presented with dash and crisp detail.
As Happel noted, this production set new records for the company in the number of consecutive performances and attendees, as more than 2,000 patrons attended four performances that weekend at the (recently demolished) former Taconic High School in Pittsfield, which had just opened the same year the ballet company emerged as a nonprofit (1969).
That same Nutcracker production which impressed and set new attendance records in 1975, now prepares to enter its 45th season in 2019 as we celebrate our 50th Anniversary of the company. And the words of that venerable longtime newspaperman remain as true today as then, a tale of hard labor and struggle, made possible only by pure love and the embracing support of the communities we serve.