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Brandon Ballet presents 'Cinderella' April 21 at Spoto High School

They certainly know their plies from their port de bras at the Brandon Ballet.

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What's a little more surprising is that the dance company also knows how to implement innovative fundraising and marketing.

Incorporating yard sales, candle sales, bowling afternoons, special shopping discount deals at stores like Macy's as well as performances at local bookstores and civic centers, Brandon Ballet is its own best public relations and advertising agency.

It even hosted a gold night last month where members had their valuables appraised by local dealers.

Necessity is the mother of their invention, said Martha Oddo, the ballet's vice president of fundraising and marketing.

"It's all needs-based," she said. "We don't have an endowment so we raise all the funds ourselves to keep the ballet going."

Added founder and artistic director Alice Holden Bock: "We want to be seen in the community because that's where the funds to support us come from. Anywhere we can go to meet parents and children and let them know about dance is important to us."

The events also return a favor, Bock said, allowing the company to give back to the community.

Founded in 1993, the Brandon Ballet includes 35 to 40 student dancers age 9 to 17 (apprentices, juniors, seniors and preprofessionals) as well as two to three paid professional dancers, Bock, an administrative coordinator, a costume manager and a production manager.

Debbie Ploor, a member of the Brandon Ballet's first board in 1993, attributes the company's innovative marketing to the passion of the staff and parent volunteers.

"They have lots of great people there who really believe in the arts," said Ploor, who had two daughters in the ballet. "The students are truly getting a wonderful education. They have a real passion and Alice (Holden Bock) does an amazing job,"

Ploor credits Bock's training and support to leading one of her daughters to co-own a dance company in New York.

Committed to a spring performance — this year it's Cinderella on April 21 at Spoto High School — and four Nutcracker shows during the holidays, the ballets don't come cheap with hall rental, costumes and equipment fees taking the bill easily into five figures.

"The staging is very labor-intensive so the dads will help with that," Oddo said. "Then we have moms helping with concessions and backstage. At the Nutcracker, we had 20 moms backstage helping with the costume changes. Even my 15-year-old daughter was back there helping out."

Unlike many after-school programs, the Brandon Ballet program is a commitment for dancers and parents.

Dancers typically sign a contract and commit to working two to three days a week with many giving up their Saturdays to practice. Oddo has no doubt the work will pay off for her daughter, a member of the ballet for three years.

"She's learning that when she says she will do something she has to do it while also learning that hard work and commitment pays off."

Parents signing up a youngster are also signing themselves up, Oddo said.

"There's a saying in sales that you get 80 percent of your sales from 20 percent of your clients, but here I think we have had 100 percent participation from our parents in the last two years," said Oddo, a 20-year veteran of the marketing-recruiting industry.

"We have a wonderful set of dancers and parents that realize what a huge production it is but also that it's giving their child a chance to be part of something bigger and better so that the ballet can be there for others in years to come."

The full-court public relations press pays off, said Victoria Sunderland, president of the ballet's board of directors and mother of a daughter who has danced with the company for a decade.

"People who might have asked who we were in the past now know who were are," Sunderland said.

Kevin Brady can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

.EVENTS

Cinderella

The Brandon Ballet presents Cinderella at 7:30 p.m. April 21 in the Spoto High School Auditorium, 8538 Eagle Palm Drive, Riverview. It's presented in partnership with the Giving Hope Through Faith Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps families of children fighting cancer.

Free backstage tour

The ballet is also offering a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into putting on a full-length ballet. Visitors will be able to learn about the ballet, composer, and choreographer, see costumes up close, ask dancers questions and watch rehearsal. The free tour is set for 2 to 3:30 or 3:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Brandon Ballet, 161 E Bloomingdale Ave, Brandon. Children must be accompanied by an adult; call for

reservations, (813) 482-4282.

Princess Party

The ballet presents a party for youngsters from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the ballet. Children are invited to dress in their favorite ballerina princess costume, learn to dance from Brandon Ballet's own company dancers and decorate a cupcake. Tickets are $20.

For more information on any of these events, call (813) 684-4282, visit brandonballet.org or email dance@brandonballet.org.

Brandon Ballet presents 'Cinderella' April 21 at Spoto High School 04/12/12 [Last modified: Thursday, April 12, 2012 4:30am]
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