Palmer Auditorium Reopens with Performance by San Diego City Ballet

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Palmer Ballet 1

BRAWLEY — Following a two-year closure due to earthquake damages, Brawley’s Palmer Performing Arts Center reopened with a long-awaited performance by the San Diego City Ballet troupe Tuesday April 28. The show was hosted by the North County Coalition for the Arts (NoCCA), and attended by elementary students.

NoCCA Executive Director Rosemary Wood said it was a “miracle” that the theatre opened today.  “We (NoCCA) are super excited to be here,” she said.

Wood said the re-opening of Palmer means the group can expect to showcase three to five school concerts a year. Palmer was closed in 2012 due to damage from a series of earthquakes, and performances and school concerts have not been the same since it shut down, Wood said.

Jason Contreras, a Brawley Union High drama teacher and director of theatre stated, “I am really happy that Palmer is back open to the public. The ballet was a great show for Palmer to begin with. It was a show that fit what we are able to do in the auditorium right now.”

The City Ballet of San Diego performed a new interpretation of “The Ugly Duckling,” sending a 30-minute message to elementary children about anti-bullying. The idea of the play was to inspire kids to be true to whom they are – seen through the fact that in the ballet’s version, the ugly duckling stays the same, said Wood.

Joann Emery, managing director of the City Ballet, introduced the play and then followed up the performance with an explanation of the message and a conversation with the students regarding anti-bullying. The new rendition was choreographed and composed specifically for an audience of children by John Nettles.

“It (the play) was well received by the elementary students,” said Contreras, “and a lot of my student workers have never seen a ballet before. It was a great experience for them.”

Two of those students, Brawley high seniors Danielle Torrez and Jonathan Gastelo, said they enjoyed the experience. Torrez described it as being, “cute, creative, and a good message for little kids.” Gastelo was inspired by the creativity of the play, calling it a “unique performance.”

Torrez was impressed with the transformation of the auditorium.  She explained that “last year the ceiling was falling, there were ropes hanging, and you couldn’t tell there was a stage.”

With the reopening of Palmer, drama students will be able to put on variety shows and plays again, Contreras said. “My students are very much looking forward to doing the shows and plays, as well as as many community events that we can possibly handle.”

Although the auditorium still needs some additional tweaking, it should be finished in the near future, said Contreras. “We are going to be finishing wiring for lighting and sound, and doing more work on earthquake retrofitting – we’re very close,” he said.

Through all of this, NoCCA has been a close partner and friend, according to Contreras. “It was great to have NoCCA be here for the grand opening, as they have been such an instrumental part of providing Palmer with services and equipment in the past,” he said.

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