Blog: Brandywine's Ballet Bag!

  • See The Beauty!

    This month’s blog is all about capturing the truly spectacular beauty of our upcoming production of Beauty & The Beast. Susan Royce, a member of our BBC family, has captured some amazing footage of what is to come from the spectacular performance this weekend.

    “But she was really far prettier and cleverer than they were. Indeed, she was so lovely she was always called Beauty.”

    “The howling of the wolves kept him awake, and when at last day broke, the falling snow had covered up every path, and he did not know which way to turn.”


    "Turning round, he saw a frightful Beast, which seemed to be very angry and said in a terrible voice: ‘Who told you you might gather my roses?’”

    Will the Beauty learn to love the Beast? Find out this weekend at Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall with Brandywine Ballet!

    Beauty & The Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

    Photographs by Susan Royce. 

    Tickets available here. 

  • Behind the Curtain

    There are a lot of moving parts when producing a new full-length ballet. Choreography, music, and the dancers play the largest role in piecing together the story. But elements such as sets and costuming take nearly as long to formulate. The new production of Beauty & The Beast coming this May has seen a total transformation of all of these components. Our seamstresses, set designers, and other helpers have been hard at work to make sure all of the pieces come together before May 19th.

    Beauty & The Beast has at least four major scenes. All of these scenes have elements that must be built, rented, purchased, or compiled. Our set designer and builder Kent Vendrick has been hard at work designing different pieces including a bookshelf, fountain, window, wall, rose garland, and more. Below is a to-scale representation of our stage’s floor and wing space at the Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, showcasing what the Beast’s Castle may look like during the ballet.

    From there, the heavy lifting begins. It takes countless hours to build such magnificent items, and to later transport to and install them at the theater during tech week. As we are approximately 5 weeks away from show week, we are right in the midst of the building process. Not only are there large-scale physical pieces to build, but there is painting, sewing, and more. Take a look below at some of the finer details you will see in our sets.

    Costumes are another element that takes many months to piece together. After the selection, order, and delivery process, fittings and alterations may take weeks to complete. Each costume also requires accessories like headpieces, shoes and tights, and any additional pieces that may suit the character. Some of the costumes for this ballet are being completely handmade in a custom format for our dancers, while other costumes are being re-worked to fit the ballet. Multiply this process by the approximate 100 dancers that are in Beauty & The Beast, and its no wonder it takes a village!


    All of this work must be completed by tech rehearsal week, approximately 4-7 days before the first performance. Dancers then spend several days rehearsing and running through the show in full costume amongst the completed sets. The final result is a beautiful production of a full-length storybook ballet. See this magical world, with all of its fantastic elements, come together May 19-21 at the Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall in West Chester. Beauty & The Beast is sure to excite and entice your entire family as you enter a fairytale land of wonder.

  • Getting Performance Ready - What's in Your Brain's Ballet Bag?

    A dancer’s ballet bag includes more than just the physical items they bring to their day-to-day classes and rehearsals. Their bag also include the lessons they’ve learned, personal exercises or relaxation techniques, and the tips and tricks they share with the next generation of dancers. Getting ready for a performance can be an especially stressful time. Between costumes and makeup, stretching and warm-ups, and reviewing choreography, each dancer has their own routine that helps them settle into their role on stage. We asked one of our professional dancers what she keeps in her internal, mental ballet bag and how she uses that to get performance ready!


    Amanda Hill attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia as a ballet major on presidential scholarship and graduated with honors. She has performed with the Pennsylvania Ballet in their productions of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker and joined the company on their tour to the National Arts Center in Ottawa, Canada. After graduating college, Amanda joined BalletFleming in Philadelphia, where she danced for three seasons. She danced principal roles in many of their productions including the title role in Snow White. Amanda joined Brandywine Ballet in 2016 and has since been featured in our productions of Colour Brillanté and in The Nutcracker as the Snow Queen and Dew Drop Fairy.

    Amanda tells us -

    “I have dreamt of being a ballet dancer for as long as I can remember, and I am so lucky that I was able to make ballet into my career. I absolutely love being on stage, but it can be nerve wracking. Most professional dancers I know have specific rituals they like to follow when they are performing, myself included. The more obvious rituals include warming up, getting costumes ready, putting on makeup, etc. But we all have our own strange quirks as well - for me that starts with usually being one of the first people to arrive at the theatre. Nothing makes me more nervous than running late or rushing. I like to have plenty of time to slowly go through my routine. I also have a special warm-up sweater that I always have with me in the theatre, which is probably one of my more specific quirks.

    Besides that, I use theatre week to establish a routine specific to the show and the parts I am dancing. I always like to make sure I can find a little quiet space before I perform to meditate on what I am about to do. I find that taking that time to calm my brain and surround myself in positive energy really makes a difference in how I feel when I’m dancing. So, if you see me standing in a quiet hallway by myself with my eyes closed, you’ll know what I’m doing! After I take that time, I’ll head upstairs to the wings to briefly go over my choreography and re-warm up. Right before I go onstage, I always “shake it out”. Basically, I stand in the wings and shake my whole body. It looks a little crazy but it really helps to get those last minute nerves out. Once I get onstage I try my best to not think! If I get too much in my own head I always mess up. Thinking is for rehearsals, in a performance you have to be completely in the moment, in your character, and in the music!”

    Amanda is excited to be a part of Nancy Page’s new adaptation of Beauty & The Beast, coming this May 19-21 to West Chester. You don’t want to miss her dancing in a featured role as a part of Brandywine Ballet. Tickets are on sale now! 

  • Welcome to Brandywine's Ballet Bag - Highlighting Brandywine Contemporary!

    Welcome to BBC’s new blog, Brandywine’s Ballet Bag! Check back about once a month for new postings on everything dance and ballet – from tips and tricks, behind the scenes sneak peaks, interviews, and company exclusives!

    For our first post, we want to highlight one of our premier groups, Brandywine Contemporary. Many of our audience members come each year to see The Nutcracker, and may miss this specular group of dancers. Established in 2013 by Tim Early, Resident Choreographer, and Donna Muzio, Artistic Director and Founder, this extraordinary group performs several times a year. Most recently they performed at our Fall Series in October of 2016, as well as WCU Dance Presents: Dance-Versity in January of 2017. These dancers showcase a unique set of talents and are trained in modern and contemporary dance with a diverse repertoire of choreography. In an exclusive interview, Co-Founder and Resident Chorographer Tim Early tells us a little bit more about the company –

    -What was your mission and purpose for establishing Brandywine Contemporary?

    It was Donna Muzio, Founder and Artistic Director, who approached me with the idea after seeing a group of dancers that had a consistent interest in contemporary dance. After several years of teaching modern at The Dance Center we thought it would be an additional outlet for the dancers and give them exposure to other dance styles.   

    -What are the dancers learning that is different than the Ballet Company?

    Speaking from experience, I feel there are more similarities than differences and they compliment each other. Having the solid technical foundation from the ballet company, it allows me to challenge them in ways that use their technique but also gives them the freedom to explore alternative ways of moving. Using the familiar to create the unfamiliar is what brings energy to the choreographic process. Versatility is the key for any choreographer as far as I'm concerned, so having this experience makes them more valuable to anyone they work with. 

    -What do you hope the dancers learn from being a part of this company?

    Being part of something they are proud of would be first and foremost. Being proud of their accomplishments, the work and what they contribute to the final product. Staying curious in dance and try different things. Explore and create!

    -Where do you draw inspiration for your choreography?

    Dancers. Music. Being in the studio with energetic talented dancers forces my creativity. I don't usually prepare and that's where the surprises come from. Seeing them explore and navigate their way through learning choreography is most rewarding. I don't want them to move like me, I want them to move from themselves. Their bodies are the tools they work with but their personalities are what they perform with. The music is what inspires me to challenge my way of moving. I can't say the dancers are always drawn in by my musical choices but once they connect with the movement inside the music hopefully they can begin to see my vision on how I see them.  

    -How often do you perform professionally?

    I perform as much as I can and I still love doing it. Most of the year is spent with Brandywine Ballet. I'm co-director of a small contemporary dance group called Opus 1 and several times a year I do smaller performances and festivals. The company performs several times a year, both at BBC performances and local festivals or shows. 

    Graduating senior and Contemporary dancer, Kathryn Berman, tells us a little bit about her experience with the company –

    Being a member of Brandywine Contemporary has been a wonderful experience for me as a growing dancer, and has given me the opportunity to explore different types of dance. While we never venture too far from a modern or jazzy style at Brandywine Contemporary, it takes me out of the more classical sphere that I pursue as a member of Brandywine Ballet Company. With the help of Tim Early, our choreographer, Brandywine Contemporary has shaped my dance by giving me a sense of the feeling of dancing with the full range and freedom of movement that contemporary dance encompasses. I have been able to apply this feeling to all of my dancing and I believe it has helped to mature my dancing and give it a more graceful quality in every style.

    Tim Early has been an amazing resource. He has put so much work and time into giving Brandywine Contemporary opportunities to perform for a variety of audiences and making us the best dancers we can be in every style. In my final year with Brandywine Contemporary, I find myself sentimental about our Sunday morning rehearsals, the memories I have, and the people I met with Brandywine Contemporary. It is a wonderful program that gives its members opportunities to dance and perform more and to develop other talents and styles. I feel lucky to have been a part of Brandywine Contemporary and grateful for the impact it has had on my dancing and me.

    You don't want to miss the next chance to see Brandywine Contemporary perform, at the Philadelphia Youth Dance Festival, on March 26 - 1pm, at Drexel University. Tickets are on sale now here!