A ballet company and its academy are bringing the art of dance to Peoria’s bustling West Main corridor. The new studio at 826 W. Main Street—home to Central Illinois Ballet (CIB) and the Cornerstone Academy for Performing Arts—offers double the space, room to grow and high visibility, while repurposing an auto parts shop that sat vacant for years. “We really wanted to be in this area because it’s flourishing, it’s growing—it’s an arts community,” explains Rebekah von Rathonyi, artistic director. “It just seemed like the perfect home for us.”
The move has been a labor of love, with much of the construction overseen by Joshua Gullett (von Rathonyi’s husband, CIB board president and principal male artist) and assisted by a team of volunteers and parents. Amidst its second full season as a company, CIB’s dancers are already putting one of the three new studios to use for practice while remodeling continues around them.
Founded in 2012, the Academy serves 120 students who travel from miles around to study classical ballet, as well as contemporary, modern, jazz, tap and hip hop. They start as early as age three, and many choose to follow a professional track of instruction to pursue dancing as a career. That means a rigorous training schedule, but the Academy works to instill strength, agility, discipline and artistry to lay a foundation for their success. And they make every effort to ensure that any child who wants to participate can do so, regardless of financial background. (About 40 percent of its students receive scholarships, funded by donations.)
CIB’s professional company consists of 10 accomplished dancers, along with additional trainees and guest artists, who bring breathtaking beauty to the stage in four mainstage productions each season. Some, like The Nutcracker, feature as many as 100 dancers, and the hours of preparation involved cannot be underestimated—even the costumes are stitched from scratch.
In addition, the company performs in collaboration with other community organizations and considers outreach to nursing homes, schools and libraries a priority. They are also eager to bring ballet to First Friday events—a way to welcome the community into the studio and collaborate with local artists.
Von Rathonyi believes the physicality of dance contributes something profound to the arts that cannot be overlooked. “Dance comes from the soul, so that heightens the experience and hopefully makes everyone fall in love with it—makes them feel every emotion on the face of the earth.” She hopes their audiences will discover “moments where you can just let go… and enjoy this experience with us.” a&s
Visit ciballet.com for information about upcoming classes and performances.