Southwest Virginia Ballet’s new executive director, Renée Hamilton, has been passionate about dance since she was a child. She began dancing very young, in elementary school, and continued dancing in different areas with a focus in ballet well into high school in Winchester, Virginia. Both in college and after graduation, she continued taking classes and remaining active on a voluntary basis.
After spending time in Arkansas, Renée moved back to the east coast and connected with Southwest Virginia Ballet. From the moment she met Karen and Pedro, she knew it would be a good fit for her.
Now, with the Southwest Virginia Ballet’s 22nd production of the Nutcracker approaching, her connection is accompanied by nostalgia.
“The Nutcracker was the first performance I was ever in as a child. I played Clara, and my parents danced in the Nutcracker alongside me. It’s something that naturally brings back childhood memories every Christmas, and makes it magical from the beginning of the season all the way through,” says Renée.
Artistic director, Pedro Szalay, is dedicated to adding something new every year in order to keep the performance fresh and new. Audiences who attend annually are often excited to see what changes he has made to costumes and choreography.
“The other fun part is watching kids in the company and community members grow and change throughout. These are exceedingly well-trained, passionate, artistic kids,” adds Renée.
In addition to supporting the participating young dancers, Southwest Virginia Ballet has a mission to give back to clients of human service organizations. If someone is going through a difficult time, and would have their holiday made better by attending a Nutcracker performance, their therapist or contact person can contact the office and say they are interested in receiving tickets for their client.
If you’d like to be part of this great organization and work with talented creatives like Pedro and Renée, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities!
“You don’t have to have a dance background to get involved. We will not turn away volunteers. We need people who sew, hair stylists, or any people who would like to get involved. We can look for a good match for their interests!” explains Renée.
Learn more about the Southwest Virginia Ballet (and Renée!) by attending events like their Nutcracker Gala on November 18 at the Shenandoah Club. There, you can also participate in an auction of locally handcrafted painted nutcrackers and other treasures! Additional events include Readings with Clara and the SugarPlum Fairy at local libraries through November and December. Of course, we can’t forget The Nutcracker performances at the Berglund Performing Arts Center on Saturday, December 9, at 2 pm and 7 pm, and Sunday, December 10, at 3 pm.
Visit www.svballet.org for more information and to purchase tickets
Photography by McDilda Photography.