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Text by Brittany Casey

The quivering of tassels at the end of two gold cords foreshadow the opening of the grand curtain. As the red velvet splits and slides along its tracks in the Teatro Communale, the strings of the viola section begin to hum. A newly visible, tall, slender woman tiptoes downstage, takes up a broom, and sweeps rhythmically to the score of Prokofiev.

One minute into the choreographed scene, the voice of a woman from behind the sound booth calls: "Attesta! Fermatta!" It is apparent that a technical cue has been missed, so the dress rehearsal for one of classical ballet's favorites – "Cenerentola, or Cinderella" – begins again, correction made.

Backstage, older dancers are making sure hair buns are secure, feet are warmed up, and the tulle of their tutus is fluffed, giving them the standard bell shape of the Romantic era. Youngsters line up in the wings, fidgeting nervously (and probably out of boredom) with the plastic mouse ears attached to their headbands - practically exemplifying the parts they are about to play.

The dancers of Movimento e Fantasia have been rehearsing for several months under the direction of Benilde Marini in preparation for their annual recital. The real training for a great performance, however, comes from years of technique class, determination, and discipline.

Irene Calagreti, Marini's student for 11 years, knows well the dedication it takes to be a good dancer. She has appeared in 11 of the school's recitals and five competitive performances - one of which won second place for their performance in Barcelona.

Video production by Kellie Bramlet

At 18, she spends Monday through Saturday attending dance classes, rehearsing, and performing. And although Calagreti confesses that "sometimes it can be hard" with little time to set aside for friends and family, for the past two years she has committed herself to teaching ballet as well as advancing her own training.

A conventional day for Calagreti begins early in the morning when she heads off to Liceo Scientifico, her high school in Pergola. After school she studies and completes her homework until 4 p.m., and then teaches at Movimento e Fantasia from 4-6 p.m. At 8 she attends her class, rehearses, and seldom makes it home before 10.

One might wonder where she gets all the energy as her tiny frame and delicate appendages indicate they have limits. She explains that dancing keeps her motivated. Like many art forms it allows her release. "I prefer to be free and move my body the way I like," says Calagreti. She is able take abstract emotions and express them physically because "the music and choreography are inspirational."

As for teaching, Calagreti's gratification comes from helping the smaller dancers and inspiring the more advanced. "I like to make others feel what I feel when I'm dancing - maybe even better," she says proudly.

And while teaching suits Calagreti's patient voice and approachable demeanor, her aspirations include dancing. After watching her execute difficult "pointe" combinations with ease, and fluid "por de bras," or carriage of the arms, as Genovessa in Cenerentola, it is surprising to learn that in the future, Calagreti hopes to join a professional hip-hop company.

Her "pas de deux" with the other "ugly" stepsister was well rehearsed. They performed impressive "grande jetes" and other leaps, and an intricate turn sequence to finish the movement.

After the dress rehearsal, Calagreti and her fellow dancers finally remove their tight shoes, rest their over-worked toes, and breathe. Before having class pictures snapped, they quickly practice the curtain call Marini has planned.

Though her skill as ballet dancer is clearly advanced, the young Calagreti could pursue any style of dance and be rewarded. Beginning the art as a little girl with raw talent, she has not leaned on her gift; she has continued to work hard to ensure consistent improvement.

When asked about her plans, she seems less interested in perfection and recognition.

"I want to be in a professional company so that I can keep working on myself; I want to improve." It is this mentality - one where perfection does not exist, where there is always room for improvement - that will bring her success in whatever career she chooses.