Dancing through lifeWodbury resident Andy Rist, who currently serves as the artistic director for Ballet Minnesota, founded the company in 1987 along with the Classical Ballet Academy. Both are located in St. Paul.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
While growing up Andy Rist knew wanted to “create” and “teach” — but wasn’t sure exactly what.
“If I were creating ant farms I think I’d be happy as long as ‘create’ is there,” said Rist, of Woodbury, who founded a ballet academy and production company more than 20 years ago.
Rist, who currently serves as the artistic director for Ballet Minnesota, founded the company in 1987 along with the Classical Ballet Academy. Both are located in St. Paul.
Ballet Minnesota will produce its fall concert, which celebrates the music of Gershwin and Mozart, on Nov. 6-7 at the Fitzgerald Theater.
The Life of a Dancer
Rist, who has a chemical engineering degree, has been dancing for 39 years.
“I loved to dance, but I always looked forward to the day where I could choreograph,” he said. “I enjoy dancing — when I dance it’s just an amazing feeling — but my biggest thing was to create.”
Being a ballet dancer and the artistic director for a ballet academy and company does have some trade offs when it comes to free time, family time, and even money in some cases. But Rist said it was a decision that he’s never looked back on.
“It’s not really a job, it becomes a lifestyle,” he said. “I had to realize that doing this was getting yourself to commit and make a choice that you are going to live your life this way — it’s a lifestyle and choice.
“I have no regrets — that’s the amazing thing — nothing can hold a candle to this.”
Rist isn’t Woodbury’s only tie to Ballet Minnesota. His wife Cheryl is the director for Classical Ballet Academy. And principal dancer Erin Warn is the head instructor at the ballet academy’s Woodbury studio.
“Every time I hear music, I can’t stop my body from moving,” Warn said. “On the days we have off, your muscles twitch wanting to move — it’s in your soul.”
Warn, who has an applied mathematics degree, started dancing at the Classical Ballet Academy when it first opened in the late 80’s. She has been dancing ever since.
“There’s a select few dancers that get that opportunity to show themselves on stage and show who they are inside as well as outside,” she said.
Warn took a 5-year hiatus to have her first child. She also just recently returned from maternity leave for her second child.
Making a return after so much time away from dance took a lot of dedication, Warn said, but like Rist, Warn said she wouldn’t trade the dancer’s lifestyle for anything.
“It was a very humbling experience to not be able to lift your leg up, but I was ever so grateful that I was still able to move,” she said. “I’m lucky to be able to do what I love to do and make it work.”
Additionally, Warn said she loves being able to teach at the Woodbury studio because it provides a chance for her to pass her love of dancing on to the next generation of dancers.
“It’s in you to want to show people that they can love it just as much,” she said.
When Rist sits down to create a ballet he looks for inspiration in the music, nature and life in general.
The Ballet Minnesota productions are story-oriented because it is the stories that make the movements so much more powerful and real for the audience, Rist said.
“The only way you grab the audience is with the story — the dance doesn’t make sense without the story,” he said. “The acting has to be so sincere that it grabs their eye.”
Warn said being both the dancer and the actor in the ballets comes naturally for her since the movements and the stories have so much emotion behind them.
“Every single time you dance, you are acting even if you don’t have a character,” she said. “Whether or not there’s a story, there’s always a sentence or a conversation and you’re trying to talk to the audience — it definitely takes time to learn.”
Rist said putting a ballet together can be a challenging task because of how many different layers there are with the dancing, the story and the emotion.
“There’s a lot of layers that go into a ballet — it takes a long time to breathe life into it,” he said. “You create steps and put something together, but to make it a living piece of art that takes some time.”
Both Warn and Rist said rehearsal, not performing, is their favorite part about being a part of a ballet company.
“Performing is a wonderful feeling afterwards, but it’s all the work in the studio that makes it worthwhile to go on stage,” Warn said.
For more information about Ballet Minnesota and its fall concert, visit www. http://www.balletminnesota.org/.
Kispert can be reached at akispert@woodburybulletin