A young Gladisa Guadalupe delighted audiences as she twirled onstage in a soft pink dress while portraying Maria in an early 80s Cleveland Ballet performance of The Nutcracker. It didn't take long for the annual PlayhouseSquare show to become a local holiday tradition and for Guadalupe to fall in love with the company.
But after 25 years together, financial issues caused the Cleveland Ballet to dissolve in 2000, leaving Guadalupe crushed.
"I've seen a lot of ballet companies all around the world, but Cleveland Ballet at that time was phenomenal," says Guadalupe. "I lived the dream."
Guadalupe went on to teach and choreograph at the Cleveland School of Dance, where she trained dancers who left for other companies after graduation. Along with 10 former Cleveland Ballet members and board members, she created the Cleveland Ballet Youth Co. last year. They hope that members of the preprofessional group will become the core dancers of the revived Cleveland Ballet.
"I'm really hopeful that the youth company will become the Cleveland Ballet, so I can stay here being close to home," says 18-year-old Victoria Watford, a Cleveland Ballet Youth Co. dancer.
As Guadalupe works to restore funding for the Cleveland Ballet, the Cleveland Ballet Youth Co. is preparing for a benefit performance at 7 p.m. April 25 at the Hanna Theatre.
The show will feature new works choreographed by Medhi Bahiri, a co-artistic director of Ballet NY, along with musical accompaniment by the new Cleveland Ballet Orchestra.
"The city needs this," Guadalupe says. "I want to put Cleveland back on the map for artistry with this professional dance company."