On Friday, the Eagle Performing Arts Center is holding its first-ever Summer Solstice celebration, the likes of which is unique to the Treasure Valley. The Winery at Eagle Knoll provides the scenic backdrop for the stage that will host EPAC dance students, as well as some prominent guest dancers. EPAC is giving solstice swooners the opportunity to see professional dancers from New York City Ballet and Oregon Ballet Theatre, dance under the night sky. Intimidated by tutus? No fear, EPAC ensures you can expect more than just an evening of point shoes and tights. This solstice event is a celebration of the arts with different art mediums displayed and performed. Dean Estess of the Landing Art Institute, will be exhibiting two- and three-dimensional graphic works, and Jeff Romero, faculty member at ArtsWest, will perform a classical music program as well.
Jeff and Cathy Giese opened EPAC three years ago, after leaving Ballet Idaho, where they served as co-directors for five years. Since then, EPAC has grown into a thriving dance school and arts center, with all levels of instruction in many different styles (including ballet, tap, musical theater, drama and even pilates). Boise Weekly caught up with the Gieses to talk about their Summer Solstice event, and how dance in the Treasure Valley is changing for the better.
Boise Weekly: Can you describe how difficult the process has been to strike out on your own?
Cathy Geise: Actually, it's been very easy. I would say that's mainly because we've been very fortunate with the support that we've had in coming here, whether it's from the general Boise community or the businesses, the parents. We have a wonderful group that's working with us. So in that sense, I feel it's been a very easy process really.
Jeff Geise: We've been very fortunate to start a new business and have it prosper in three years. Eagle was very receptive (as a community) to have us out here. They didn't have any classical dance out here. They've been very responsive. We've been very fortunate.
In regards to your work at EPAC, what are you most proud of?
JG: The students. We've got a lot of kids who are extremely hard-working in our performing ensemble, which are basically students from the age of 12 up to 17, or 18. These kids spend anywhere from 15 to 18 hours a week in studio and most of them are 4.0 grade point average, or better, students. They're very hard-working, they love what they do, and it shows.
Does EPAC have any ambition to increase your big productions, like Charlotte's Web, and add more productions, like Nutcracker, or Sleeping Beauty?
JG: No, just simply because we're students. This isn't a professional company. It's about training. I have no ambition whatsoever to have a professional company. And so that's basically where our productions come from; it's geared toward what our students need to learn and how they progress.
Were you excited to be able to secure so many prestigious, outside instructors for the summer intensive?
JG: Oh, yes. The woman who was just here last week, Clara Clavey, was the director of the Houston Ballet Academy for 27 years. [She is a] wealth of knowledge. It's very important that the kids don't just hear us, they hear other teachers.
Is that something that is unique just to summer intensive programs or does that happen throughout the school year as well?
CG: We bring guests in also during the year. Actually, Clara would like to come back again more during the year.
JG: We try to bring people from a lot of different places. Again, it's very important for them to work with different people. A lot of these kids in the ensemble, they've gone off to different summer intensives with the major companies, like Boston Ballet or Juilliard. And in the world of dance, your training is very much classical ballet. But a dancer in today's world has to be versatile enough to be able to do almost any kind of choreography you can imagine. So it's very important in their training that they get exposure to that kind of stuff and start incorporating it into what they do.
What do you think needs to be done locally for dance to thrive in the Boise community?
CG: Participate. Go to the theater. Purchase tickets. Get your kids involved in theater, art, dance, music classes, education, because the more they get involved the more they want it.
JG: I would say that's something that is different with the theaters in town. All those little theaters are here because the community wants them, or they wouldn't be there. They wouldn't have enough support in order to keep going. There's not just one type of dance, there's not just one type of theater. It's just as varied as the books in Barnes & Noble. Ballet in particular has been sold for a long time as, "It's good for you because it's art," rather than, "It's good for you because it's fun. We like it—it makes you a richer person." I think that arts organizations need to think about getting people into seats and exposing them to things that maybe they haven't seen before. Because somebody's opinion of ballet may be, "I don't want to go to that because it's tutus and whatnot." Whereas, maybe they go to see a contemporary company and go, "Whoa, that was really cool! I enjoyed that." There are lots of different avenues to take. But here again, when art starts saying, "Well, you know, we're art, and that's why we're good for you," I disagree with that philosophy. I don't think it's good for the art form, and I don't think it's good for the audience. That's where you get your elitism.
What can attendees expect from the performance Saturday?
JG: First off, it's a collaborative thing where we've got graphic arts like Landing Arts Institute. We'll have live music from ArtsWest ... This is the first year we're doing it. I would like to see it grow to where maybe some year we bring in a guest company. Or maybe we have someone like Boise Contemporary Theater come out and do something. It doesn't necessarily always have to be dance, but we're dancers so we're starting it that way. How it grows will depend on what direction people want to take it. And if this is successful this year, then maybe it will be a little bigger next year.
June 29, gates at 7 p.m., tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the gate for adults; $10 in advance or $15 at the gate for students and seniors. To purchase advance tickets, call 208-337-4633. For more information about Eagle Performing Arts Center, visit www.epacdance.com.