Julie and Daniel Blake have been pulling double duty in recent weeks.
By day, the Blakes have been working on completing their new 5,000-square foot Ballet Blake teaching studio on U.S. Highway 52 Northwest. In late afternoon and evenings, the Blakes dash across town to train 65 dancers for a performance this weekend.
“We’re back and forth between both places,” Julie said.
The Blakes, and the dancers, have been doing this since March, when rehearsals for Saturday’s performance began.
“The kids have been working their tails off,” said Julie.
The performances are Saturday at Charles Hill Theatre at Rochester Community & Technical College, and will include selections from “Sleeping Beauty,” “Le Corsaire” and original pieces choreographed by Daniel.
For one of the pieces, the “Holberg Suite,” for instance, Daniel said, “I wanted to take these dancers someplace you haven’t seen 11-year-olds go.”
The dancers in the performance range from ages 5 to 18. “We’ve been training these dancers for four years now,” Julie said.
The Blakes moved to Rochester five years ago to teach ballet. They have danced professionally with the Kansas City Ballet, the Minnesota Ballet, the Nevada Ballet Theatre and the Houston Ballet.
Yet they chose to teach in Rochester, Daniel said, because of the city’s cultural bent and relatively high levels of education. “We anticipated having discerning audiences here,” he said.
“The purpose of our school is to teach young dancers to push themselves beyond their personal limits, both technically and artistically,” he said. “It has been our experience as both dancers and teachers that the skills learned as a highly trained ballet dancer translate into adult life and better prepare you for the challenges that come with it.”
Those skills include the ability to dance two performances in one day, as the Blakes’ students will do Saturday.
“That’s actually pretty typical” in the dance world, Julie said, and gives the young dancers a sense of what it’s like to be a professional dancer.
Featured soloists for Saturday’s performances are Renee Finck, Leah Folpe, Modesta Headlee, Amelia Hicken, Schuyler Kechely, Kristen Lee, Sarah Lipstone, Maia Soltis, Olivia Stellmaker and Siri St. Louis.
After this performance, and once their new studio is completed in June, the Blakes have some big plans in mind, including a “Nutcracker” production in December.
“Julie and I will be combining our experience from over 1,000 career performances of ‘The Nutcracker’ into an original but tradition-based production,” Daniel said.
“We’re super excited,” Julie added. “For the last four years, we haven’t done a ‘Nutcracker.’ A lot of kids and parents have missed not doing a ‘Nutcracker.’ It’s a right of passage for dancers.”