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Thursday, May 06, 2021

Dance Alive National Ballet will perform “Robin Hood” this weekend at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, giving Gainesville residents a chance to experience English folklore’s most famous outlaw firsthand.

Linda Rocha, the development director for Dance Alive, said that because of the way their production is performed, audience members who usually aren’t fans of ballet may find themselves pleasantly surprised.

“‘Robin Hood’ is a very light ballet, and it’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s comical,” Rochas said. “They have an archery contest in it, and sword fights. Ballet isn’t the strict, classical ballet that people think of — they’re a lot of fun, and this is a perfect example of that.”

During Dance Alive’s production of the “Nutcracker,” Mayor Lauren Poe surprised a Saturday matinee audience by performing the role of Mother Goose.

“You just never know what you’re going to find at the ballet,” Rocha said.

While Dance Alive, a nonprofit international ballet touring company, has been based in Gainesville for the last 51 years, many locals are still unaware of its existence.

“The dancers spend a large portion of the time touring the country, and it’s very well known outside the country,” Rocha said. “When Prince Albert of Monaco came to Florida, he actually had them perform for him. Very few people in Gainesville are aware that they have this cultural jewel here, and they don’t take advantage of it.”

As the development director, Rocha said she is happy to work in the background and cherishes the connection she has with the dancers. She said she knows firsthand the extent of their hard work.

“They are in the studio rehearsing morning to night,” she said. “Every day when they’re not on tour and even when they are, they rehearse in-between shows. Their whole life is committed to this, and dance is part of their whole existence.”

Andre Valladon, who performs the main role of “Robin Hood,” said the dancers rehearse from the beginning of the season in August until the end of the season in April.

“We travel a lot too, so when we’re not at the studio rehearsing, we’re either dancing or traveling, so it’s pretty intense,” he said.

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