Few 15-year-olds can claim to have performed in a space that has hosted world-renowned dancers for over a century. Bemus Point resident Cate Walter, however, is one of those few.
Walter made her ballet debut in the Amphitheater June 15 during the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet Spring Gala 2018 to begin her season of performing on Chautauqua Institution stage.
After completing three years of competitive training in New York City at the School of American Ballet, she auditioned and was accepted into the School of Dance this summer under the direction of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux.
After visiting the Institution to watch dance performances as a child, Walter is thrilled to be given the opportunity to perform in that same space.
“I’m excited to spend the summer close to home and have a different experience from the last three years.” Walter said. “It’s important to learn from a variety of different instructors, I think.”
Additionally, the Institution’s seven-week program is longer than the five-week course offered by SAB and Walter said, “all of the teachers at the Chautauqua workshop have such a great vibe.”
Walter and her colleagues will be moving in for the summer beginning on Sunday.
During the Spring Gala, 58 students ranging in age from 3 to 17 performed a variety of dances from several pieces.
The younger group of students, ages 3 to 11, performed to pieces from “Carnival of Animals,” “Suite in D” and “Until the Dawn.”
Guest choreographers and dancers Brittany Bush and Spencer Keith performed with the students and during a duet in the second act.
Walter performed en pointe as a soloist in “The Gypsy Suite” from “The Red Violin” and in a duet and a group during excerpts from “La Bayadere.”
Monika Alch, CRYB’s artistic director from Vienna, Austria, said she has enjoyed working with all of her students, including Walter.
“They are so disciplined, so respectful. They are just an absolute joy to work with,” she said.
Many of Alch’s students have advanced to eventually perform on national and international stages.
Jordan Leeper, who graduated from Alch’s program in 2015 and performed at Chautauqua with the Charlotte Ballet, has recently joined the Atlanta Ballet in Georgia.
Megan Stefanik, a 17-year-old student of Alch’s, performed her final solo piece at the gala as she prepared to graduate high school.
Stefanik has been accepted into the Conservatory of Dance at Point Park University in Pittsburgh as a dance major.
In addition to Walter, five CRYB students were accepted into summer programs: Bryce and Lillian Jache to the American Ballet Theater; Cecelia Johnson and Maya Swanson to SAB; and Emilee Shafer to the Nutmeg Conservatory and BalletMet.
“For a program in such a small, rural area to produce this many students who are accepted into presti-gious programs around the world is a testament to Monika’s work,” said Elizabeth Bush, the gala’s production manager.
Walter, Alch and Bush were all excited to be holding the gala at the Institution’s Amphitheater for the first time.
“We are all just so thrilled to be performing here because it is so famous,” Alch said, “Cate watched shows here as a little girl and now she gets to perform on this stage.”
The Spring Gala isn’t only the first time this summer that Walter will be seeing the stage, however, because a key component of the Chautauqua School of Dance is that its students are taught by professional dancers with whom they perform in the Amp several times throughout the season.
Deborah Sunya Moore, Chautauqua’s vice president of performing and visual arts, is excited to have the dancers from these professional in-residence groups work directly with the students.
“It adds to that sense of community life that is so unique about Chautauqua,” she said. “It is one of the many ways in which we are working to infuse dance and arts into Institution life even more.”
Walter will be performing at the Amphitheater during the two Chautauqua School of Dance Galas, July 15 and Aug. 12, as well as throughout the summer during workshops with professional dancers from the Charlotte Ballet, Pilobolus and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.