A timeless story of star-crossed lovers comes to the stage when Central Illinois Ballet (CIB), in residence at Illinois Central College, presents its world premiere performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet April 29 and 30 in the ICC Performing Arts Center, located on the East Peoria Campus.
Shows take place April 29 at 7 pm and April 30 at 2 pm. The April 30 performance also will recognize the careers of CIB artistic director Rebekah von Rathonyi and dancer Joshua Gullet, who are married and will play the principle roles.
“Joshua and I always knew we wanted to retire with Romeo and Juliet,” von Rathonyi said. “Our first attempt at dancing the roles together felt fantastic, but looking back, I am not sure we fully comprehended the emotional complexity of the characters. As older dancers, maturity gives us more depth and being married allows us to not just play the young lovers, but experience in the moment every sensation as they may have felt.
“Performing Romeo and Juliet onstage together is indescribable for a married couple. We somehow create a sixth sense, our own telepathic language, and for a few moments this beautiful story transcends into a realistic cathartic experience.”
In addition, several celebrated guest artists will appear in the production, two of whom have a very special relationship with the company. Toby Lewellen from Ballet Arkansas will return to Peoria to play the role of Mercutio. Lewellen grew up in Peoria and trained under von Rathonyi. In addition, professional freelance dancer Malachi Squires, who played the principle role of CIB’s October 2016 production of Dracula: Dance on the Dark Side, returns to the stage with CIB, this time cast as the dangerous Tybalt.
Others appearing in Romeo and Juliet include Alexander Kingma, a professional dancer from Ballet Quad Cities, who performs the role of Benvolio and Vic Burnett, retired broadcaster and veteran stage performer, plays Franciscan Friar Laurence.
Also appearing are members of CIB’s Senior and Junior Company Ensemble, which is comprised of current students at Cornerstone Academy and students pursuing a career in professional dance.
Tickets cost $18 for the general public and $10 for students. Group class tickets are also available, with a minimum requirement of 10 students to receive the special discount.
In addition to the on stage performances, CIB is hosting a masquerade ball on April 30 beginning at 4:30 pm in the studio theatre of the ICC Performing Arts Center. Tickets to the ball will be sold at the door for $5 per person and will include an assortment of hors d’oeuvres, entertainment and an unforgettable evening.
Central Illinois Ballet is the result of three highly successful seasons of performances by the Cornerstone Academy performing ensemble. The CIB board of directors, recognizing the demand for professional ballet performances in Central Illinois, formed the Central Illinois Ballet in January 2015. CIB consists of a resident company of 10 professional dancers and five trainees as well as five regular guest artists.
Central Illinois Ballet is supported as an in-residence ensemble by the Arts at ICC, which has a rich history of enhancing the arts community and expanding education beyond the classroom. Arts at ICC presents more than 500 exhibits, performances, lectures, rehearsals, meetings, master classes, clinics, seminars, receptions, orientations, forums, auditions and tournaments annually.
The performances of Romeo and Juliet have general admission seating. Tickets to both performances can be purchased online at ciballet.com/season, by phone at (309) 620-3164 between noon and 5 pm Monday through Friday, and in person at Cornerstone/CIB’s facility, located at 3117 N. Prospect Rd. in Peoria.