Bloomington ballet company marks 25 years

Although the times may change, in the world of ballet a Bloomington ballet company is determined to ensure that time stands still.

Continental Ballet Company is marking its 25th anniversary with a pair of classical ballet performances this month. The company’s premiere of the ballet “Giselle” and performances of the comedic ballet “Coppelia” are scheduled during the next two weekends at Bloomington Center for the Arts.

“Giselle” is often referred to as the “white ballet” for its corps of dancing spirits during the second act. The ballet tells the story of a peasant girl who has a passion for dancing. When she finds out the man she loves is engaged to someone else, she dies of a broken heart. In the Continental Ballet version, her great love saves both her life and the life of her true love.

“Coppelia” revolves around a magical doll maker and two young loves, mixing story-mime with classical dance.

The two ballets are very much in line with the mission of Continental Ballet, according to Riet Velthuisen, its founder.

Staging ballets by professional dancers and operating a ballet studio for students of all ages and abilities, Continental Ballet focuses on the classics of ballet rather than contemporary pieces, Velthuisen explained.

Velthuisen, a native of Holland, studied and performed with several European ballet companies. When her husband was transferred to the United States as an employee of Holiday Inn hotels, Velthuisen moved along with him, bouncing from one destination to the next until they settled in Minnesota. Velthuisen had given up performing when she arrived in Minnesota, instead turning her attention to teaching. What started as a small endeavor soon grew into Continental Ballet Company, she recalled.

The nonprofit company continues to serve as a source for classical ballet performances and education after a quarter-century. The world may change, but the interest in classical ballet remains vibrant, according to Velthuisen.

Performances of “Giselle” are 7:30 p.m. March 16 and 23. Performances of “Coppelia” are 3 p.m. March 17 and 24 at Bloomington Center for the Arts, 1800 W. Old Shakopee Road. Tickets are $25 for adults, $19 for senior citizens and students and $13 for children 12 and younger.

Children are invited to bring their favorite doll to performances of “Coppelia.” Tickets for a pre-performance “Dolly and Me Tea” are available for $5.

An alumni ballet class taught by Velthuisen, a continental breakfast hosted by the company’s board of directors and a post-performance reception with current company members, the director and staff is planned in conjunction with the March 16 performance of “Giselle.” Tickets for the reception are $10.

Tickets are available by calling 952-563-5361 or online at