Dancers divide: ballerinas dance for different companies

Nicole Gibson and Anya Koza, juniors, walk into their dressing room after a quick onstage warm-up class. Defying their coaches’ preference of classical music, the girls blast rap as they pull on their tights and ballet shoes. Koza slips on her golden, baggy, genie-styles pants as Gibson pulls on her long, burgundy tutu. After putting the finishing touches on their hair and makeup, the girls are ready to go onstage just as twins and juniors Alaina and Hannah Gonzalez prepare to step onto another. The sisters are ready to take on their roles in The Nutcracker.

For several years, the holiday season has seen the revival of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker executed by a number of professional and amateur ballet companies, such as the around the Salt Creek Ballet Company and Hinsdale Ballet Theatre.

Koza, a member of Salt Creek Ballet Company, played the role of Arabian, while has Gibson played seven different roles in Salt Creek’s adaption of the show this year. In the Hinsdale Ballet Theatre’s adaption, Hannah Gonzalez played the role of Spanish along with two other roles, while sister, Alaina Gonzalez, played two roles, including Snow Queen.

Former members of Salt Creek Ballet Company, the Gonzalezes decided to switch companies at the conclusion of Salt Creek’s Nutcracker last December. The girls said they made the switch for several reasons, including conflict with Central’s poms team.

“[While at Salt Creek] I couldn’t say that I was a part of poms because they would be disappointed that I wasn’t focusing on my time with them,” Hannah Gonzalez said.

In addition to this conflict, Alaina Gonzalez had other reasons for leaving.

“Salt Creek kind of focuses on a few people, and [at Hinsdale Ballet], not only do they want to make individuals very talented, they want to make the corps group [talented as well],” Alaina Gonzalez said.

Hannah and Alaina Gonzalez were not the only ones who left Salt Creek. Since last year’s Nutcracker, the company’s numbers have dropped from 20 to 11, with many of its dancers transferring to Hinsdale Ballet, which has a total of 15 ballerinas. Despite this drop, Koza remains loyal to her company.

“I chose to stay with Salt Creek because I just like it there,” Koza said. “Once you get older, not everyone wants to make that much of a time commitment, but I’m willing to make it.”

Salt Creek performed a total of seven shows on stages as close as Central’s own auditorium and as far as North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, IL. Having only been around for about a year, Hinsdale Ballet Theatre made a fundraiser out of their two shows at The Community House in Hinsdale in order to raise money for competitions and performances. This caused the show to be performed on a smaller stage and contain fewer scenes.

Despite the differences between their companies, the ballerinas shared many of the same goals and responsibilities. All four girls agreed that their studies take priority over dance and that their long rehearsal hours actually help them in school.

“When I have a day off, it’ll take me the whole day to do homework, but when I have 30 minutes between rehearsals or something, I can get so much done in that amount of time,” Gibson said.

Because the majority of the girls said they want to continue to dance in college and eventually join professional companies, Hannah Gonzalez insisted that school takes on a special importance.

“I need to get into a good college before I try out to be in a professional company, so to get [into college] is obviously [my first priority],” Hannah Gonzalez said.

The strongest connection the girls seemed to share was their sheer love for the sport, a connection that seemed to transcend any potential animosity that may have spawned from the company divide.

“I like to dance because it’s very athletic, but it’s athletic in a delicate way,” Alaina Gonzalez said. “I feel like everyone finds what they were meant to do, so (dance) is what I was meant to do.”