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Missoula ballet dancers to accompany Capitol Christmas Tree to D.C.
Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre

Missoula ballet dancers to accompany Capitol Christmas Tree to D.C.

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When a holiday tree from the Kootenai National Forest heads to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, it will have some accompaniment from the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre.

Dancers from the 20-year-old Missoula-based performance school are going along, thanks to an invitation from the U.S. Forest Service, the agency that picks the tree.

The ballet troupe will travel to the Capitol for the tree-lighting ceremony and premiere a classical ballet, "Englemann Spruce and Her Dazzling Companions." RMBT founder Charlene Campbell Carey choreographed the piece herself for four ballerinas, using the music of Russian composer Alexander Glazunov.

The dance troupe includes local students as young as 6 all the way up to professional dancers in their 30s, plus dancers from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

They'll be in Washington on Dec. 4-7 for performances around the city. The tree-lighting ceremony will be broadcast on C-SPAN.

On Saturday, Missoula audiences can get a sneak peek at the pieces developed for the trip. They include the centerpiece ballet; a kickline for Forest Service women; and a "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute" solo by Woodsy Owl. They've also choreographed a hip-hop tribute to smokejumpers called "Our Heroes." "I think they deserve recognition after this last summer," Carey said.

The family-friendly performance is free on Saturday, Oct. 28, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Top Hat.

There are two events in Missoula on Nov. 15 as well. They'll perform at the Missoula Rotary Club, where Bruce Ward, director of the Capitol tree program, is giving a talk. That evening at 6, they'll perform at Southgate Mall when the tree comes through town.

At the Top Hat event, attendees can learn more about Ballet Beyond Borders, a five-day festival featuring international dance competitions, speakers, a film festival, a diplomacy conference and more.

It's a new name for last year's Vienna International Ballet Experience, with expanded events and programming. Carey, who developed and produced the program, said the new name better expresses that it's a Montana- and U.S.-based program. It also alludes to the work RMBT has built to over the years, Carey said, including trips to China and Europe.

Last year, it brought top-flight dancers from around the world to Missoula for classes and competitions that were open to the public. About 200 dancers and 6,000 people attended events throughout the week.

This year, the events will run five days starting on Jan. 9 with a performance by Patricia Kelly, wife of Gene Kelly, and close out with a gala performance on Jan. 13.

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