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Catching Up With Rhea Keller

Central Illinois Ballet principal

dancer Rhea Keller talks about her experience so far dancing with the ballet ensemble in Bellydance Evolution's production of Le Voyage de Schéhérazade.

So far, Central Illinois Ballet’s fall season has been off to busy start! With August 13th being their first performance of “In the Shadow of the Swan” and then recently returning from their tour in Dallas, it doesn’t seem possible for the company dancers to have time to do much else. Yet, principal dancer Rhea Keller has been traveling up to Chicago to rehearse with five other dancers for a production that will be premiering in Casablanca and Rabat, Morocco next week! In the midst of rehearsing as Mina for CIB’s upcoming performance of Dracula as well as beginning Nutcracker rehearsals she still has found time to be a part of this amazing experience.

What interested you about Schéhérazade to add this production to your already busy schedule?

At the beginning of the summer, Julie Benirschke, a guest artist with CIB, contacted me saying that she was working on this production that was touring to Morocco and that needed more ballet dancers. I contacted the choreographer, Sabah Saeed, with my resume and a video of my dancing, and she invited me to rehearsal. A couple days after the rehearsal, I was sent a contract. Performing overseas is something that I have always dreamed of, but never really thought would end up being a reality. To be traveling to Morocco for dance almost feels surreal. I'm extremely grateful for this opportunity!

Tell us a little more about Bellydance Evolution and what type of dance you will be performing will in Morocco?

Bellydance Evolution is a bellydance company based in LA that tours internationally, and has contracted dancers from LA, Chicago, Morocco, and parts of Europe to put this production together. I'm actually amazed by the high level of networking that has gone into organizing all the dancers and putting this production together scene by scene from three parts of the world.

Schéhérazade is originally a ballet about a girl named Schéhérazade and her journey to cure a king, her husband, of his madness and save her own life. Every night, she reads him a story of one of Sinbad's adventures from 1,001 Arabian Nights.

What is unique about this production, is that we actually recreate Sinbad's adventures, which are not seen in the original ballet. Also, to have a collaboration between belly dancers and ballerinas is quite unique.

In case you were wondering, I won't actually be belly dancing! However, I did have to learn a couple of belly dancing moves that supplement our ballet choreography. It's been a lot of fun learning part of a technique unlike anything I dance normally!

If you have any free time, are there any places you are interested in visiting while there?

I would love to see the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca and to visit a souk (an outdoor market.) However, to see another country and culture and dance there is going to be an amazing experience in itself.

Rhea will be leaving this Wednesday to fly with the rest of the cast to Morocco! Once there, she has five long days of rehearsals to prepare for three performances in Casablanca and Rabat.

Good luck Rhea! We cannot wait to hear more about this amazing trip.

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