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Valley native Isabella Boylston will kick off 2020 with a special homecoming.

Isabella Boylston, Wood River Valley native and now a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, is returning to her hometown this weekend for a trifecta of dance programs at the Argyros Performing Arts Center.

“It’s always so special for me to be back performing where it all started,” Boylston said. “When I was a kid growing up in Ketchum, no one ever thought one day I’d be a professional ballerina—not even me. I feel so much love from the audience every time I come home.”

That love is generously reciprocated, especially in the three shows set for this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Though Boylston’s performance will be bolstered by world-renowned talents James Whiteside, Calvin Royal III, Jacek Mysinski and Kenton Chen, she also made sure to enlist the aid of local dancers.

Students from Footlight Dance Centre—the first ballet school Boylston ever attended—have been invited to join the prima ballerina onstage for all three performances.

“The students are all extremely excited,” Footlight Director Hilarie Neely said. “We can’t wait for these shows next weekend. The students will have the opportunity to work with Isabella and James and Calvin in rehearsals, and they couldn’t be more thrilled. She’s so generous with her time. What a gift it is to the community for her to engage the students in this way.”

For Boylston, to invite Footlight students to join her performance was a no-brainer, especially given her own formative years in the Wood River Valley.

“I really believe dance has the potential to change lives. In New York, I’m involved with two charities that support children’s education through dance, National Dance Institute and STEM From Dance,” Boylston said. “It’s incredible to see up close the impact that dance can have on kids in terms of giving them confidence, an outlet to express themselves, and building greater empathy. When the Argyros asked me to do this show around the holidays, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to collaborate with Hilarie and her students.”

The Friday and Saturday evening performances were both nearly sold out at the time of this article’s completion on Dec. 27. There are, however, plenty of tickets still available for the Sunday 2 p.m. matinee “discounted student-priority show.”

Boylston sees the student-priority show as another chance to foster the arts in young audiences. Not everybody can or desires to dance, but she believes everyone can appreciate it.

“The arts can speak to people in a transcendent way that sometimes words can’t,” she said. “I think sometimes ballet and other so-called ‘elite’ arts can be intimidating or seen as not being for everyone, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Ballet can be enjoyed by everyone and the sooner kids are exposed to the arts, the better.

“I don’t want people to watch my shows and feel like they have to ‘get’ or ‘understand’ something. It’s just about coming with an open mind and letting the emotion of the show carry you away.”

Audiences can be carried away on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.—tickets, if available range from $60-$120—or at 2 p.m. on Sunday—$40 for students and $60 for adults. Visit theargyros.org for tickets and details.

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