Judith Svalander celebrates 50 years with Festival of Dance June 4-5

  • Judith Svalander School of Ballet is celebrating 50 years.

    Judith Svalander School of Ballet is celebrating 50 years. Courtesy of Judith Svalander School of Ballet

Updated 5/26/2022 6:38 PM

The curtains will open to a stellar scene in the grand classical style of days gone by as the 50th anniversary of celebration gets underway for the Judith Svalander School of Ballet.

Started in 1972 by Judith and John Svalander, the school continues training young dancers in the art of dance.


The two upcoming performances at the Woodstock Opera House will honor past teachers' beloved choreography that has remained in the school for most of the 50 years.

Many of the pieces were once performed by the 15 alumni who are dancing professionally across the country right now. They will be seen again by audiences in June through stunning performances by current students.

How do dancers become proficient in different genres of dance? Svalander says, "They start with ballet. It is the basis, like learning your alphabet, of all other dance forms." This eclectic, entertaining, and exhilarating show will demonstrate just how a ballet school does all of that!

The performance includes musical treats for the ears as well with music from Strauss in a choreographic collaboration between Svalander and and Assistant Artistic Director Julie Fiore Hirsch. Kenneth Bieschke will bring Ray Charles' version of "Georgia, On My Mind" to life in his final performance before leaving for the esteemed Ballet Austin on full scholarship. The piece was choreographed by Roger Turner and first danced by Turner just a few months prior to his passing almost 30 years ago. Hirsch is now the curator of Turner's works. Ella Weyland, Lindsey Cone, and Helena Kucera will dance solos to three Adele songs reflecting the precious moments they will soon leave behind as they graduate. The nostalgic music of Simon and Garfunkel will fill the theater with Pamela Bedford's audience favorite, "Time it Was" revived by Hirsch.

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The performances will include "Memories of Childhood" inspired by Svalander's teacher and mentor Walter Camryn; Hirsch's dramatic "Gypsy Fire" featuring company soloist Kathryn Rowley, and Svalander's haunting contemporary work "Loving, Longing and Leaving."

Children from the school under the direction of Laura Bobowski and Chesney Murphy Lofgren will also be featured in graded levels of classical and character dances in a one-hour children's presentation at 2 p.m. June 4. It is a great opportunity for the audience to see just how the dancers advance through the school.

After last few tough years, Svalander invites the public to come and celebrate the joy of live performance, of art on stage, and of being in community together.

The Festival of Dance will be at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 4, and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 5, at the historic Woodstock Opera House. Tickets for $20 at (815) 338-5300 or www.WoodstockOperaHouse.com. For more information about Judith Svalander School of Ballet, visit www.SvalanderSchool.org.