For the Cumberland Times-News
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Since 1996, Desiree Witt has been working in West Virginia with the Morgantown Dance board of directors to stage story ballets, such as “The Nutcracker,” for the community.
Most recently, she was given the opportunity to create a new evening-length ballet, “The Snow Queen,” which premiered at the downtown Metropolitan Theatre Friday and Saturday and will continue today at 2:30 p.m.
“The Snow Queen” is based on the popular children’s story written by Hans Christian Andersen, and features local performers and guest artists from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble.
“The amount of work necessary to produce a dance surprises patrons,” said Witt in a news release. “Creating a new ballet requires a tremendous investment of time, energy and research on the part of the creation team before rehearsals even begin. Not to mention the monumental strength, flexibility and en-durance that dancers cultivate to be able to rehearse for months until the curtain opens.”
What exactly does a choreographer/artistic director research and develop besides dance steps? In this instance, Witt analyzed the narrative content of the story, catalogued how it has been turned into a performance by other dance companies and theater groups, listened to pieces of classical and contemporary music, drafted costume and scenic designs, and met regularly with the production team and the Morgantown Dance board to seek financial support and gather community volunteers. Many decisions were made prior to auditions, so that her ideas could be brought to life in the most efficient and economical ways.
The next stage in the life of a ballet is also challenging: creating and perfecting movements that convey the story. Morgantown Dance encouraged Witt to involve as many dancers as possible from every local studio in Morgantown, Fairmont, Clarksburg, Bridgeport and Uniontown.
Witt, along with other Morgantown Dance faculty, created at least 75 roles for young children and adults, absolute beginner to professional skill levels.
Witt holds a bachelor of science degree in music education and a master’s degree in dance education from Frostburg State University. She holds a Maryland state teaching certificate for music for kindergarten through grade 12 and has been teaching in Maryland for more than 20 years.
She serves on the fine arts education advisory panel for the Maryland State Department of Education and has been a member of MENC and MMEA for 23 years. At Morgantown Dance she teaches the advanced levels of ballet and pointe and has worked extensively directing, choreographing, and performing in such ballets as “The Nutcracker,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Snow White” and “Cinderella.”
Witt’s ballet students have been placed in prestigious schools and companies such as The Joffrey Ballet, School of American Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (Schenley Park), Point Park University, North Carolina School of the Arts and The Juilliard School.
For ticket information about “The Snow Queen,” visit the websites www.morgantowndance.org, www.morgantownmet.com or call 304-292-3266.