STLMade Conversations: Ballet 314

Okay, So: What is Ballet 314?

Bodi: We are a St. Louis nonprofit professional ballet company, and we employ 17 professional dancers.

Poe: I like to think of us as St. Louis’s newest and most favorite classical ballet company.

Tell us about your version of “The Nutcracker.”

Poe: Last December, we premiered our version of “The Nutcracker.” We rewrote the story to take place right here in St. Louis during the World’s Fair. We wanted to include a bit of St. Louis history in the story, because there are so many versions of “The Nutcracker” that are performed already that we wanted to make this one unique to St. Louis.

Bodi: Our community cast of the Nutcracker included 90 different people, including professionals, children, and adults who are enthusiastic amateurs.

What’s next for Ballet 314?

Bodi: After we did this version of “The Nutcracker,” we started thinking about how we can improve on it for 2020. And so we started the process of writing this as a children’s book. And we have a local illustrator, Pip Flory, who has done such beautiful imagery to make it really come to life. And Robert and I took our synopsis of the ballet, and made it more of a narrative from the children’s perspective. And then it turned out that we entered into March and now everything has become uncertain with the pandemic, and performing has become not only difficult but nearly impossible.

So we feel so fortunate that we started this so soon in the year, and now we can provide some semblance of this Nutcracker tradition that everybody’s still fond of and support our dancers still throughout this difficult time.

And we are just are so excited that we then transferred this hard cover book into something really special. It’s going to be an interactive e-book as well, where you’ll be able to click on an image in the story and it will bring it to life, with video of our dancers on stage.

What do you love about Ballet 314?

Bodi: What I love about Ballet 314 is that we have really made this a dance home for our dancers and for us. We want to be all encompassing of all abilities of all styles, of all bodies and shapes and colors and unique skillsets that each of these dancers provide. All of our dancers have many other interests as well. I’m a mother, I am a teacher. Some of our dancers are going back to school, some of our dancers own their other businesses. We just couldn’t be more proud of the people that they are. And so to get to utilize these special dancers for the thing that brings them joy and brings joy to other people is just my favorite feeling in the world.

Poe: I really am working hard alongside with Rachel on making sure that our space is a safe space, you know, where dancers can come and work as hard as they possibly can and know that there’s not going to be judgment or negativity. When we say we want an inclusive and positive atmosphere, we mean it. And we’re also recognizing that it comes to the top.

It’s also really gratifying to kind of be someone who gets to make decisions on what kind of repertoire do we do? What kind of content do we ask our dancers to bring forth? We both definitely want to make sure that the stories we’re telling and the repertoire that we invite is meaningful and relevant. And if we can make sure that it’s meaningful and relevant to our dancers who are part of the community, then we know that it will be relevant to the rest of the community. My favorite part is just being in a position where I get to make those decisions, and consider all the factors that come into planning a season and planning a rehearsal and making sure our dancers are well taken care of.

What are your favorite hidden gems in St. Louis?

Bodi: There are three different restaurants that we’ve worked with in pop-up fundraisers, and they really are gems.

The first one is Balkan Treat Box. Their food is amazing. They’re phenomenal people.

Charleville Brewing Company has amazing drinks and amazing food.

And then the Gaslight Theater has allowed us to film the e-book there. And we are so appreciative for that space. It was perfect for what we needed.

All of those people’s generosity has helped us to reach the community more.

Poe: So in the Grandel Theater, which is in Grand Center, in the lobby, there’s the Dark Room. Their food is great. The wine selection is awesome. They have live jazz music all the time. It’s such a great place with a great vibe.

The Grandel Theater is a beautiful stage, very intimate. There’s no curtain. You sit in there, you feel like you’re a part of the action from the moment you walk in. I don’t know if it’s all that hidden, but it’s definitely a gem.

Thanks for talking with us, Ballet 314.