Ballet presents 2 shows from new choreographer

Dori O'Neal, Herald staff writerApril 12, 2013 

The Mid-Columbia Ballet will present two spring productions, The Ugly Duckling and Abandon, on the same nights this year.

Both ballets will be performed at 7 p.m. April 20 and 2 p.m. April 21 in the auditorium at Richland High School. Admission is $10.

The ballets will be choreographed by Ashley Walton, the ballet company's new assistant artistic director and resident choreographer.

Walton, from Ohio, joined the company earlier this year. Debra and Joel Rogo, who co-direct the company, couldn't be happier about it.

"We are thrilled to have Ms. Walton as part of our team," Joel Rogo said. "She comes to us with a lot of experience. She trained with the South Dayton School of Dance, was a member of the South Dayton Dance Theatre for 10 years, and danced professionally with the Atlanta and Dayton ballet companies."

Walton met Debra Rogo several years ago at the International Ballet Competition in Mississippi.

"I knew the second I met her that she was a very knowledgeable and experienced woman in the dance world," Walton said.

That initial encounter led to an opportunity to guest choreograph a ballet for the Mid-Columbia Ballet

"I jumped at the chance to work with Debra and her organization," Walton said. "When I walked into her facility, I was truly blown away. The studio space is easily compared to state-of-the-art professional dance company studios. And Debra's students are some of the most dedicated and focused dancers I have ever worked with. And that is truly a reflection of her direction and passion for the art of dance."

Debra Rogo couldn't be happier having Walton on board.

"Ashley had already shown she was a very gifted choreographer/teacher, and she's wonderful with the students," Rogo said. "But she also wanted to learn the business of running a school/company.

"She's also the same age I was when I moved to the Tri-Cities (26 years ago) and learned how to run Tri-Cities Academy of Ballet."

Rogo said she is looking forward to passing on some knowledge, such as how to avoid pitfalls and providing some shortcut tidbits.

"Debra is an amazing teacher, and I am truly honored to have the opportunity to work with her and learn from one of the best," Walton said. "It's unheard of to have more than 600 students enrolled in a local academy. The Rogos are obviously doing something right, and who wouldn't want to be a part of that?"

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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