For those who like dance in bite-size pieces, Ballet Quad Cities brings back a tasty buffet of "Love Stories" this weekend.
There are seven wildly varying romantic pieces on the program -- the company's first in Augustana College's Wallenberg Hall -- including new dances by five choreographers.
Despite Wallenberg having a wide and shallow stage, guest dancer and teacher Rebekah von Rathonyi, of Peoria, said it will be great.
"Obviously, the stage is not as big as it would be normally, but I think the wonderful thing about that particular venue is, the audience is up close," she said. "You can really get that connection, whereas in most theaters, you're so far back. It's important with the love theme; you can see all the details, the relationships, the communication in body language, but also through the eyes.
"That's why I go to see ballet -- to get lost in that storyline, the emotion," Ms.
von Rathonyi said. "I want to feel what those dancers are feeling."
A native of Rochester, N.Y., she has been a principal dancer at Rochester City Ballet and Peoria Ballet, artistic director at Flower City Ballet in Rochester, acting director in Peoria, and will teach at Cornerstone Academy there starting in April. In addition to teaching BQC dancers Margaret Huling and Jason Gomez the original 1877 choreography of the Black Swan pas de deux from "Swan Lake," Ms. von Rathonyi and her husband will dance the balcony duet from Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet."
"'Swan Lake' is a staple in the ballet community, even more so now with the 'Black Swan' movie," she said. (The popular ballet melodrama earned Natalie Portman an Oscar.) "It's also a beautiful pas, not only artistically, but technically. It engages the audience. It's very emotional. It's just an exciting piece to see."
Ms. von Rathonyi hasn't seen "Black Swan" but has taught and danced with Natalie Portman's dance double for the film, Sarah Lane, in Rochester. Ms. Lane -- a soloist with American Ballet Theatre -- told people not to see the film "because it doesn't show dancers in a very positive light. It was very overdramatic," Ms. von Rathonyi said.
She especially enjoys performing with her husband, Joshua Gullett. "You always find different partners through your career, but when it's actually the person you live with, the person you're in love with, it's a whole 'nother level for a dancer," Ms. von Rathonyi said. "It means so much more, so much more passionate. You have an even stronger connection on stage."
She called the BQC dancers "exquisite ... The dancers here are absolutely beautiful. Their work ethic is beyond anything I've seen. The environment here is so healthy and so upbeat, it's like we're a family."
One of the company's newest members, 21-year-old Kelsee Green, will debut her first professionally choreographed piece, a 13-minute medley of "old-school jazz -- really fun swing jazz," she said, noting it goes perfectly with the love/relationship theme and adds humor to the program.
"It's very much a learning experience. I'm really excited," Ms. Green said. "I had an idea, had this epiphany of this battle between relationships. It's really coming together. I'm really excited to see it onstage."
She wanted to do a jazz piece, since she teaches jazz dance here and grew up dancing jazz and hip-hop, including working with one of Janet Jackson's backup dancers. "I really enjoy dancing it and choreographing it. I think it shows their diversity, the ability to commit, to show we might be prima ballerinas, but we can also be very stylish," Ms. Green said. "I respect companies that can actually do that."
Other pieces in "Love Stories" include two modern ones from Bettendorf native Lynn Andrews (also featured at last year's "Love Stories"), one Beethoven string work restaged from former artistic director Johanne Jakhelln's choreography, and a fun, "tabloid theme" piece from frequent BQC choreographer Deanna Carter.
This is the third year for the Valentine-timed "Love Stories," which last year was performed at Davenport North High School. Audiences responded well to the mix of dances, "for people who may not want a full-length classical ballet," said artistic director Courtney Lyon.
She called Augustana's Wallenberg Hall, frequently used for music concerts, "a gorgeous space" with wonderful acoustics.
BQC is calling the program "Love on the Run" because they're moving around a lot, with the Capitol Theatre closed and Davenport North often busy, Ms. Lyon said. "Love Stories" also will be done in Muscatine in April.
If you go
Ballet Quad Cities' "Love Stories – Love on the Run"
Wallenberg Hall, second floor, Denkmann Memorial Building, Augustana College, 3520 7th Ave., Rock Island
8 tonight, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
$20; seniors, $15; students and children, $10; (309) 794-7306.