Faith-based ballet company readies first show
By Susan DeMar Lafferty email@example.com December 11, 2012 8:12PM
Alyssa Bernal finishes a routine during a rehearsal for the upcoming holiday show "A Carpenter's Son" at the Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts in Frankfort, Illinois, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. | Karen Gioia ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 13, 2013 6:06AM
The Christmas story has been told many times and many ways, but a new faith-based ballet company based in Frankfort believes it can offer a fresh perspective on this timeless tale.
Through classical and contemporary music and a cast of 100 dancers, Ballet 5:8 will present “The Carpenter’s Son,” a story of Christmas from the perspective of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the Tempter, who rejoiced in man’s fall, at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Lincoln-Way East High School auditorium.
It’s the first performance for this new ballet company and school of dance, founded by two young women from Chicago’s South Side who recently took over the former Turning Pointe School of Dance in Frankfort.
Executive director Amy Kozol and artistic director Julianna Slager are excited to carry on the momentum as well as the Christian mission established by Turning Pointe and to tell this Christmas story, choreographed by Slager.
“I love to tell stories. This is one of my favorites,” Slager said of “The Carpenter’s Son.” “It brings to life the struggles, the unimaginable circumstances and the great faith of Mary in what was not a pretty nativity scene.”
The two-hour production — “we don’t do anything small,” Kozol said — gives greater depth to Mary and Joseph than the typical Christmas play. It will feature 100 dancers — students from their ballet school, including many area children.
The women are eager to get involved in the community, to share their art and their faith through art.
Kozol originally is from Iowa and Slager from Michigan, but they met at Ballet Magnificat, considered a premier Christian ballet company, and worked at a coffee shop together. They moved in 2009 to Chicago, where there were lots of dance companies but no Christian-based groups. An initial effort to start a company failed, but they still felt called to do something.
Both women worked at Turning Pointe, and when previous director Julie Kapenga moved on, she gifted the school to the creative pair this year, Slager said.
“We realized what a good team we were. We have different strengths, but our goals and visions are similar,” she said of Kozol and herself.
Their company’s name, Ballet 5:8, reflects a Bible verse — Chapter 5, Verse 8 of Romans (“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners”) — and explains why they use their passion for ballet to communicate and celebrate God’s love.
“This is what we believe. How can we not share it?” Slager said. “We want to show the beauty that the Creator put into the world.”
They have a desire to use their art to connect with, encourage and inspire audiences.
“God is the ultimate artist,” Kozol said.
The nonprofit company includes six professional dancers and apprentices who have been performing a mix of pieces with performances at Hickory Creek Community Church in Frankfort and Calvary Church in Orland Park. They also have been asked to choreograph specific pieces.
Additionally, the ballet company is very “portable. We are able to set up shop wherever we go,” said Kozol, who also is one of the dancers.
What sets Ballet 5:8 apart from other companies are the stories the women tell. Each ballet is different, said Slager, who writes and choreographs them and tries to leave the audience with a simple moral or truth.
“It’s a gentle way to introduce faith,” she said.
Their school of the arts offers programs for all ages and abilities, ages two through adult, who are interested in dance. Students can learn ballet, jazz and tap dancing or take pre-professional training. There are also yoga and fitness classes.
Students put their talents to work in two performances a year. After “The Carpenter’s Son,” the company will perform “Messiah” in the spring. For more information, visit www.ballet58.org.