Ballet company founded by Clintonville resident helps amateur dancers shine

A real-life nanny will dance alongside one of fiction's most famous nannies in a ballet version of a beloved story.

Sara Overberg of New Albany is among the dancers who landed roles in the Artisan Ballet Company's next production, "Mary Poppins."

The ballet will be staged at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 and 2 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Northland Performing Arts Center, 4411 Tamarack Blvd.

Overberg, starring in her second Artisan Ballet Company show, said she hasn't taken too much ribbing from the other members of the troupe as a result of her occupation.

"I cry a lot at the end of the show when Mary Poppins has to leave the kids," she said. "That part's very sad for me."

The company, a performance ensemble of mostly adult dancers, came into being almost by chance, said founder Jessica Kehn, who lives in Clintonville.

When she opened Artisan Dance Studio in Clintonville about five years ago, Kehn expected to be teaching children exclusively, but enough grownups inquired about classes that she decided to create a program for adults.

The response, the studio owner said, was almost overwhelming, from absolute beginners to accomplished dancers.

In 2014, Kehn said she was contacted by someone from a local nursing home who asked if her students would like to perform for the residents. However, it was the middle of summer and few of her younger students were on hand. She offered instead to have some of her adult dancers perform, and when that was accepted, she sent out an email blast expecting perhaps six or seven people would want to participate.

"I think there were like 30 people who expressed interest," Kehn said.

From there, the fledgling ensemble performed at other retirement communities and during the Clintonville Arts and Music Festival, leading to a two-night show in the ballroom of Mozart's Bakery and Piano Cafe.

Last year, after staging "Don Quixote" at the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center of Worthington in 2015, the troupe moved to the Northland Performing Arts Center for a ballet treatment of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

"It was magical," Kehn said of the new venue. "You just feel like you're at any other real theater. The technology they have at Northland is exceptional."

The ballet adaptation of "Mary Poppins" features a cast of more than 50 adults and children. The ballet doesn't use songs from the 1964 film, for which Julie Andrews won an Oscar, but rather music from the early 20th century in which it's set, Kehn said.

Ashley Bulinski of Hilliard is in her third Artisan Dance Company show, but her first as the lead.

"This has definitely been the most overwhelming," said Bulinski, who is in her last year of studying to become an eye doctor at Ohio State University.

"The dancers, we're all here because we love it," she added. "I think that is almost contagious for the audience."

Wendy Klatt, a Clintonville resident and another member of the cast, said she began taking classes at Artisan Dance Studio in 2013. She said "never in my wildest imagination" did she think she would have an opportunity as an adult to perform as a dancer.

Northwest Side resident Sophia Viglione, a teacher at Reynoldsburg High School who is in her second show with the troupe, echoed that sentiment.

"It's really awesome because a lot of us grew up dancing, but then you don't really expect to find an outlet for that as an adult when you're not a professional," Viglione said. "I'm a full-time teacher, but I'm able to keep dancing, which is just really nurturing."

"It's been wonderful," said September Long of the Northwest Side, who started classes at Artisan after moving to Columbus two years ago. "Honestly, it's the first company or studio I've come across like this. I love that there are men and women of all ages who participate in this."

Lauren Boulant, 14, of Clintonville plays Michael Banks, one of the children Mary Poppins cares for.

"It's been a blast," Lauren said. "I think that my favorite thing I've ever done is Artisan Ballet."

Tickets are $15 and may be purchased at tinyurl.com/poppinsballet.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1