Skip to main content
Art Views

Get Ready for Vortex, the Ballet that Rocks!

Published July 5, 2024

Get Ready for Vortex, the Ballet that Rocks!

by Steve Trounday

Last month, the Reno Rodeo celebrated 105 years of Wild West family fun. Over the years I’ve talked about the challenges of selling ballet to a rodeo town and how this has changed over the years. Prior to the pandemic, A.V.A. Ballet Theatre, the resident ballet company of the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, has had record ticket sales over the past 20 years and it appears that cowboys and cowgirls in the region are attending the shows.

Filer image element
Vortex 2018 Spidey

Of course, none of this would be happening if Alexander Van Alstyne, the artistic director for A.V.A. Ballet Theatre, wasn’t choreographing entertaining shows. The talent of the dancers and the orchestra provide a real treat for the senses. As a board member for the ballet and their volunteer marketing person, I am pleased to see how this art form has been so well received in the community. A.V.A. Ballet Theatre performs three classical ballets with the Reno Phil at the Pioneer Center and the popular rock ballet Vortex during Artown.

When people typically think of ballet, they picture ballerinas dancing en pointe (on their tippy toes for the ballet-challenged like me) to the classical sounds of an orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s moving scores. With Vortex, Van Alstyne likes to shake things up a little and does something that is a little unconventional. He choreographs an exciting contemporary ballet that’s like no other. Imagine ballerinas performing grande jetés to music by popular rock artists such as Rihanna, Metallica, Jennifer Lopez, and Lady Gaga. The dancing is classical ballet moves en pointe but with an edge and quite a bit sexier than say, Swan Lake.  

Vortex is performed outdoors at the gorgeous Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater at Bartley Ranch Regional Park in Reno. For those who may be intimidated by a ballet and avoid attending a classical one, this is the perfect show for the novice. It’s a little over the top but it is great entertainment. Van Alstyne changes the show each year, so you never quite know what he’s going to present. 

Filer image element
Vortex 2016 Two Dancers Cool

A staple of the shows is the scaffolding set and lighting. The dancers interact with both, and it gives the audience a visual spectacle. The props for Vortex are always interesting and it’s fun to see how the choreography is meshed with each one. Props from the past have included a shark cage, a rotating pyramid, cars, motorcycles, and ballet dancers’ barres. There’s the infamous spinning bed. Yes, a spinning bed and ballet – a unique combination. 

Van Alstyne says the spinning bed has been retired but he has some new surprises for the stage. Several of the crowd favorites will be returning including the dancing cowboys and spiders with absolutely crazy lighting.

The audience reactions at a rock ballet are a little different than that of a classic ballet. Polite applause and the occasional “bravo” you encounter at the Pioneer Center are replaced with shouts and whistles at Bartley Ranch. Yes, the rock ballet audience seems to interact more with the dancers, and the whole atmosphere is fun and a bit raucous. 

Filer image element
Vortex Padam

As with all A.V.A. Ballet Theatre productions, guest principal dancers from big city ballets will come to Reno to perform. This year, Marize Fumero and Marko Micov will be joining the cast of local dancers. 

Fumero was born in Havana and trained at the National Ballet School of Cuba. Upon graduation in 2009, she entered Ballet Nacional de Cuba where she performed many roles. In 2012, Fumero joined the English National Ballet where she danced as Aurora’s Friends and Jewel’s variation in Kenneth MacMillan’s The Sleeping Beauty. She also appeared in Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort, George Williamson’s Firebird as well as Derek Deane’s Swan Lake and Romeo & Juliet at the Royal Albert Hall. Fumero joined Milwaukee Ballet in 2014, and was promoted to Leading Artist in 2015. Fumero received a Miami Life Award nomination as Best Female Classical Dancer in 2017.

Micov was born in Skopje, Macedonia and began his ballet training under the direction of Sonja Zdrakova-Dezparovski, Ph.D. at the school of the Macedonian Opera and Ballet where he was a member of the corps de ballet. Marko received a full scholarship from the Academy of Mystic Ballet in Connecticut and moved to the United States to continue his training and career. 

Filer image element
Vortex 2018 Diamonds

In 2012 he received an invitation from the legendary Gelsey Kirkland to join her company in New York City. In 64 years of Macedonian ballet history, he is the first dancer from his country to begin a professional career in the United States of America. The spring of 2016, he joined the Ballet San Antonio where he made his debut with the company in Ballet Alive and was named by artistic director, Willy Shives, to perform the lead male in Ballet San Antonio’s premier of Frederik Franklin’s Tribute.

Micov joined Milwaukee Ballet Company for the 2019/20 Season and continues to dance with the company. He was featured as Fritz in The Nutcracker and performed in Garrett Glassman’s I Do, Don’t I? in Ballet Russe Reimagined. Both Micov and Fumero danced with A.V.A. Ballet Theatre in last spring’s Cinderella.

I asked Van Alstyne about the differences in choreographing the rock ballet versus a classical one. “I can be more inventive with the rock ballet,” he said. “I enjoy pushing the limits of the art form.”

Filer image element
Vortex David and Nora The Impossible

Once again, due to the generosity of many private foundations and a successful classical ballet season, Vortex is being offered free to the general public. A performance being free to the public has always been a hallmark of Artown and A.V.A. Ballet Theatre is pleased to be able to showcase contemporary ballet to a broader audience.

There will be two showings of the rock ballet Vortex – Friday July 19th and Saturday July 20th. Both shows start at 8:30pm. It’s just getting dark when the music of the rock ballet begins, and I can assure you the lighting is an integral component of the production. If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a summer evening, there is no better place than Bartley Ranch. The dancers from A.V.A. Ballet Theatre are sure to excite and entertain you.

On another exciting topic, A.V.A. Ballet Theatre and the Reno Phil will be preforming Alice in Wonderland at the Pioneer Center September 21st and 22nd. Laura Jackson will be conducting the Reno Phil. There is no canned music for an A.V.A. Ballet Theatre classical performance.

Steve Trounday is a board member at A.V.A. Ballet Theatre, the resident ballet company of the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts.

More from Steve Trounday

Shining a Light on Ballet by Steve Trounday — May 29, 2024

Higher for Hire: Ballet Benefits a Résumé by Steve Trounday — April 26, 2024

Classic Fairytale Cinderella Takes the Stage at the Pioneer Center by Steve Trounday — March 22, 2024

Bené Arnold - Legendary Ballet Dancer and Instructor by Steve Trounday — February 16, 2024

A.V.A. Ballet Theatre’s 2024 Season by Steve Trounday — January 12, 2024

Behind the Scenes of The Nutcracker by Steve Trounday — December 8, 2023

Dance: The Most Physically Active Job in America by Steve Trounday — October 27, 2023

Don’t Miss Coppélia This Weekend by Steve Trounday — September 15, 2023

Step by Step: Ballet Basics by Steve Trounday — August 11, 2023

Vortex, the Ballet that Rocks by Steve Trounday — July 7, 2023

Heart and Soul by Steve Trounday — June 2, 2023

The Cost of Performing Arts by Steve Trounday —April 28, 2023

Do You Want to Go See Frozen? by Steve Trounday — March 24, 2023

Choreography Elevated by Steve Trounday — February 17, 2023

2023 Performances Featuring A.V.A. Ballet Theatreby Steve Trounday — January 13, 2023

The Nutcracker Takes the Stage by Steve Trounday — December 9, 2022

Look Forward to Giving Back by Steve Trounday — November 4, 2022

For the Love of Costumes by Steve Trounday — September 30, 2022

Swan Lake Takes Flight in September by Steve Trounday — September 2, 2022

Dancers Near and Far Share the Stage by Steve Trounday — August 5, 2022

Vortex, the Ballet that Rocks 2022 by Steve Trounday — July 8, 2022

Ballet with a Live Orchestra by Steve Trounday — June 10, 2022

En Pointe by Steve Trounday — May 13, 2022

Local Dancer’s Rise to the Top by Steve Trounday — April 15, 2022

Back on Stage with Beauty and the Beast by Steve Trounday — April 1, 2022

Additional ART VIEWS Contributors