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Hanford's Bethel Ballet Academy is preparing for its production of "Manifesto." The free performance is set for 6:30 p.m. June 13 at Immanuel Schools Auditorium, 1128 S. Reed Ave. in Reedley.

The Sentinel talked with Artistic Director Amy Sagastume and Assistant Artistic Director Sarah Vela to find out more.

Question: When was Bethel Ballet Academy started and how did it get its start?

Vela: In 2004, Hanford native Amy Sagastume was a young woman training full time in ballet, planning her wedding and trying to decide between pursuing a dance degree at Belhaven University or an opportunity to attend a trainee program with a professional Christian ballet company. But through a series of unexpected events and open doors, she ultimately made the decision to return to Hanford and take over the small studio known as Jeanne's School of Ballet. Bethel Ballet Academy was born from that decision, and for the past 11 years our mission has been to provide the Valley with not only excellence in classical ballet training, but to train our students in an environment that is honoring God and life-changing to all those who come through our doors.

Q: With it being a faith-based studio, are a lot of the performances unique to Bethel Ballet Academy in that they were written by board or staff members?

Sagastume: Over the years we have drawn from a wide range of material for our productions. We have adapted classic fairy tales such as "The Ugly Duckling," contemporary children's books and Bible stories, as well as several original stories written by our directors. Each of our annual productions is different with a message and value that audiences can take home. We like to give the audience a story beyond a story; to send them home with something that will have an impact far beyond one evening's performance.

Q: So tell me a little about the upcoming performance. 

Sagastume:  This year's production is an original story entitled "Manifesto." The motto of this production is "Know Truth, Seek Wisdom, Choose Integrity." The story alternates between dream and reality, set in both the present-day, modern world and in the dazzling, multi-faceted, mysterious museum that the story's protagonist visits.

With over 75 dance students, partners and company members, nearly 150 costumes and props, multiple choreographers and a wide variety of music, we are excited to be featuring several exciting new elements. This is one of our largest and most extensive productions to date, and is something not to be missed. 

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Q: How many classes of students do you train? What are the age ranges?

Sagastume: BBA has students from age 3 to adult. We have two divisions; our Lower School provides an introduction and foundation in ballet to our youngest students, ages 3-7, while our Upper School provides increasingly advanced training through five levels of technique-based placement.

We currently have five members on our teaching staff; classes offered include both Classical and Contemporary Ballet Technique, as well as Pointe, Adult Ballet, Conditioning & Partnering.

Production season requires 110 percent from every one of the dancers, teachers and families, and is full of challenges, hard work, sweat, bruises, long nights, and week upon week of behind the scenes preparation. But to all of us involved, especially the advanced company and staff, it's worth all that and more.

We are incredibly blessed to be able to not only pursue our passions and talents, but to use them to reach out to others on a very personal level. It's one thing to tell a story; it's another to live that story, both in an hour on a stage and in our everyday lives. Being able to open doors for thought and to present a message in a very deep and personal way is life-changing for those of us who get to come together as performers, but more importantly, as ministers.

We spend hours together, learning and growing, pursuing excellence, discovering what it means to have grace, love and perseverance, and extending ourselves wholeheartedly to all we meet, both inside the theater and out.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like people to know either about the recital or the academy?

Vela: For more information on Bethel Ballet Academy, student information, class schedules and more, please visit our website, www.bethelballet.com, or drop by the Bethel Ballet Academy Facebook page. You may also follow our Instagram account at bethel_ballet_academy. Please keep checking in with us for information and announcements of several exciting new events, including summer classes, new student registration and information and scheduling for our 2015 Nutcracker open auditions. These auditions will have a variety of casting opportunities, including dancers, walk-ons, partnering, and more, and will be open to the community.

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