From the beginning,” instructor Artem Yachmennikov addresses his dance troupe, including Bailey Hetzel (11), during the final few moments of class.
His students are preparing for their last run-through for the King Center for the Performing Arts’ production of “Swan Lake.” The swans look at each other and then prepare for what they hope will be the last time during the rehearsal. Despite the amount of homework and chores they have waiting at home, their passion and love for dance pushes them on.
“I have been dancing since I was 4 years old, so I’m on my 12th year,” said Elizabeth Beattie (11), who has been dancing for Melbourne City Dance since it opened in August 2017. “It is definitely not easy to balance school with dance. So keeping up with school work becomes a struggle sometimes.”
“Swan Lake” is a classic love story that mixes romance, trickery and tragedy. Prince Siegfried is featured alongside the swan princess named Odette. Von Rothbart is an evil sorcerer who casts a spell over the princess that transforms her into a swan, but she is able to retain her beautiful human form at night.
In advance of the upcoming production, Beattie and her peers put in at least 14 hours a week of regular dancing which doesn’t include rehearsals. Since passing the auditions, the dancers have prepared themselves for a rigorous journey that will last till December.
“The auditions for ‘Swan Lake’ were early June,” Beattie said. “We came to Melbourne City Dance Company and learned excerpts of corps and showed them to the artistic director, Artem Yachmennikov.”
Because of last year’s successful production of “Sleeping Beauty,” the dancers look forward to the upcoming production. Hetzel has her goals set high as she aims for a prominent role in the show.
“There are a couple of parts I’m being looked at for the ‘Corpes De Ballet’ which is when everyone dances together as a flock of swans hence the name ‘Swan Lake,’” Hetzel said. “There is also a solo role called Neapolitan in the Neapolitan Dance which is more of my preference. I like this solo role because of the Italian style of the dance and music.”
With this being Yachmennikov’s second show with his own studio, he continues to entertain those who come with a new show each year.
“We didn’t just want to be doing ‘The Nutcracker’ every year, we wanted to bring something new to the community,” Hetzel said. “[With] Artem being our instructor and all, we all wanted to follow him and do other shows with him.”
The opportunity to do different shows has allowed MCDC to collaborate with dance studios overseas. The dancers who come from overseas will take on the most demanding and important roles of the show.
“This year we will be collaborating with Odessa Ballet theatre which is a professional ballet company in the Ukraine,” Hetzel said.
The dancers work all year for the production of just two shows, including “Swan Lake” which leads Hetzel sometimes wonder if it is why she does it. But while it is stressful to balance the demands of dance and school responsibilities, Hetzel said it is worthwhile.
“If you’re truly an artist you go through all of that for the end product,” Hetzel said. “For us, it’s being on stage and that sound of the audience and the lights, there’s nothing like it.”