ART In The Family
Published May 5, 2023
ART In The Family
by Rosine Bena
In 1999, our family had the honor of being included in the book The Family of Women by Carolyn Jones. We were invited because we are three generations of ballet dancers passing down and working together on the same art form.
I worked under my mother’s direction when I was a dancer and worked with my father who was set designer/stage manager. I was trained as a teacher by my mother, and my daughter, Ananda, studied ballet with both of us and joined our school teaching staff at a mere 14 years old.
In later years I became choreographer for our professional company in the SF Bay Area and later took over directorship of the school with both my mother and daughter on the teaching staff. The opportunity to take both the lead position and support position has its challenges and its rewards.
There is nothing as amazing as working together as family. While it is not without difficulty, working together is richly rewarding and one of the greatest experiences in life. It contributes to our growth as both human beings and artists.
Through the years, I began to create more and more choreographic works for our company, assisted by both my parents. In 1989 (when Ananda was just a tiny tot) I choreographed my first original full-length story ballet The Last Unicorn under my mother’s direction, with sets designed by me and my father. It received rave reviews from critics in the SF Bay Area. SNB will perform an excerpt of this ballet on Brew, Brats & Ballet at the Reno Little Theater on May 5, 6 and 7 and the full production on July 22 at the Pioneer Center in Reno; on July 24 at the Sand Harbor venue at Lake Tahoe and on August 5 at the Carson City Community Center.
In 2001 I founded Sierra Nevada Ballet with my mother as artistic advisor (until her death in 2008) and Ananda as lead dancer, artistic coach, and teacher.
Ananda began taking more and more of an active role in the creative process as she matured. In 2018 Ananda was made Associate Artistic Director of the SNB company and created her first original full-length story ballet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream – A Steampunk Ballet, followed by Twelfth Night – A Ballet Noir in 2019. Both of these works proved to be the most artistically successful works in our SNB repertoire.
Ananda is presently in the process of creating a new full-length Dracula ballet for SNB that will premiere in October of 2023. SNB performs an excerpt of this new work on our Brew, Brats & Ballet program this weekend at RLT.
“I grew up in a family of artists who worked together,” Ananda said. “My parents danced together in the company; my grandmother directed, and my grandfather created the sets. Each was an exquisite artist in their own right, and the work that they created in collaboration was truly wonderful. Since I grew up looking at all this, there was never a doubt in my mind that I would find my place in this collaboration and lend my own artistry to what our family was creating. Participating in this process and having the opportunity to create art and exchange ideas with my closest family is one of the most rewarding aspects of my life. I feel so lucky to be able to have this working relationship with them. It allows me to get to know them as individuals, to appreciate them for who they are, and to have deep and meaningful friendships well beyond the usual obligations of family life.”
The creative mother/son team of Mary Bennett and Alexander Biber agree. Mary is the Director of Brüka Theatre in Reno and Alex is a dancer/actor/choreographer and Ballet Master with SNB. The team created a wonderful new work for SNB’s 2023 Brew, Brats & Ballet called Raisonneur.
“I consider working with Alex artistically one of the highlights of my life,” said Bennett. “Alex and I have similar training in terms of movement, improvisation and theatre, which helps us speak the same language. I believe we deeply respect each other, and we are in line with keeping the tradition of live theatre and classic dance alive in the work that we do. One thing that stands out to me is that one idea inspires and builds on the next, and putting the art or project before our individual egos has been tremendously beneficial.”
Biber agrees: “After working with my mom at Brüka for so many years, it was a joy to bring her to SNB. It is great to see how she works with the dancers and gets them to open up and take more risks.”
In addition to working on SNB’s Brew, Brats & Ballet, Mary and Alex are working on a new production for Brüka: Kinky Boots.
“I love working on projects with my mom; I feel like I am still learning new things about theater from her, and she gets to learn more about dance through working with me,” Biber said.
Mary Bennett and I share the same sentiment: “Not many have the opportunity to work with and learn from their children in such a special way. Every day I am blessed.”
I feel doubly blessed, as I got to work with both my parents and now get to work with my daughter.
For ticket information on: SNB’s Brew, Brats & Ballet, visit the Reno Little Theater’s website at renolittletheater.org; The Last Unicorn, visit the SNB website at sierranevadaballet.org
More from Rosine Bena
SNB Presents an Eclectic Brew, Brats & Ballet by Rosine Bena — March 31, 2023
A Labor of Love by Rosine Bena — February 24, 2023
A Strong Spirit of Collaboration is Evident in the Reno Arts Communityby Rosine Bena — January 20, 2023
The Peanutcracker: The Story behind the Story by Rosine Bena — December 16, 2022
A Tale of Two Sugar Plums for Sierra Nevada Balletby Rosine Bena — November 11, 2022
Dance Theatre of Harlem Returns to Renoby Rosine Bena — October 7, 2022
Ballet Training Can Greatly Enhance the Child Birth Experience by Rosine Bena — September 9, 2022
SNB’s Swan Lake: The Product of a Devoted Arts Communityby Rosine Bena — August 12, 2022
SNB Presents Swan Lake with an International cast of Professional Dancers by Rosine Bena — July 15, 2022
SNB Performs Swan Lake at Eldorado as Part of Artown by Rosine Bena — June 17, 2022
Swan Lake: A Life-Changing Experience by Rosine Bena — May 20, 2022
SNB Presents the Popular Brew, Brats and Ballet in Reno and Carson Cityby Rosine Bena — April 22, 2022
Regional Dance America Presents Inaugural Festival in Renoby Rosine Bena — April 1, 2022
This PBS Reno series delves into the local arts scene, looking at the lasting impact the arts have in our communities and beyond.