By Katie Fraser

The Twin Cities are merging this weekend as the St. Paul Ballet comes to Minneapolis to preform three separate pieces at the Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts.

Founded in 2002, the St. Paul Ballet began as a school, offering pre-professional and recreational classes. Now, the fully formed company features 13 dancers in total, six women, four men and three apprentices. Directed by Zoe Emilie Henrot, the company performs both classical and contemporary numbers.

The evening begins with two shorter works: “Suite for Strings” and “Off the Base.”

Set to the music of Czech composer Leoš Janáček, and choreographed by director of dance at Interlochen Center for the Arts Joseph Morrissey, “Suite for Strings” features four couples. It is described as fast, furious and fluid.

Next, the company will perform “Off The Base.”

Created by TU Dance company member and choreographer Darwin Black, the piece takes an in depth look at fear and vulnerability.

Finally, the performance will end with an act created by the company’s artistic director, Henrot.

The ballet, “To Billy,” is a call to Lee Hall’s “Billy Elliot,” but also a tribute to the company’s relationship with their neighbor – Element Boxing and Fitness.

When the company relocated, they moved next door to Element. An unlikely partnership began, and the two companies bonded over the physical struggles of their craft and trials of small business.

“During the last two years we have found that the stereotypes we fight in ballet parallel those in boxing,” St. Paul Ballet’s executive director Lori Gleason said in a recent press release. “The truth is that we’re more alike than we are different. We both value discipline, strength, endless practice, footwork and so much more. We even share the fact that we have pre-performance rituals – in ballet, we prepare our pointe shoes; in boxing, they wrap their hands.”

Much like “Billy Elliot,” “To Billy” explores gender roles in both ballet and boxing, but uses the two company’s relationship to tell a deeper story of growing from humble beginnings to a thriving, successful entity.


The St. Paul Ballet will perform Friday, March 3 and Saturday March 4. Show time is 7:30 p.m. on both evenings. Tickets cost between $25 and $35. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit the Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts online.


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