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Waltzing the Night Away

February 4, 2011 - Phyllis Sigal
Congratulations to the 20 young men and women who were selected to be members of the Viennese Winter Ball Cotillion.

It's an honor to be one of the 20 high school seniors who have earned the opportunity to dance at the Viennese Winter Ball.

This year's Cotillion includes: Lauren Chandler, Taylor Croft , Andreah Frenn, Alicia Kepner, Diane Long, Jessica Patterson, Molly Robinson, Samara Pollock, Abagail Showalter, Whitney Thompson, Derek Andreini, Sabin Colton, Joseph DiBartolomeo, Aleksandr Fedyszyn, John Mark Helfer Jr. , Jacob Holden, Keith Michael, Nicholas Naum, Matthew Saseen and Zachary Werner.

These kids have worked hard.

First, it takes hard work to be selected. They and their parents have been ongoing supporters of and volunteers for the Wheeling Symphony and the Viennese Winter Ball. The kids usher at symphony concerts, perhaps work at the symphony office and help out with the ball during their years in high school. All that, along what their parents might help out with, are taken into consideration. Second, once they've been selected, they work tirelessly for several weeks, to learn two or three Viennese Waltzes. And some of these girls and guys have never even danced before, let alone waltzed.

And then, there they are, on the night of the ball (Feb. 5, this year), presented in their formal finery, to perform what they've learned. It's a beautiful sight. And no one is more proud than their parents, and their dance instructor, Cheryl Pompeo.

Cheryl, who is director of the dance department at Oglebay Institute, has been preparing the Cotillion members for the big night for years.

I remember way back when, around 20-some years ago, I was doing a feature story on the Cotillion. It was a Sunday afternoon rehearsal at the YWCA, and I took my little daughter, Amanda Rose, with me. She was around 2.

Cheryl told me, "Someday this will be Amanda. ... "

"No, I don't think so," I told her. I didn't much see myself as a symphony supporter way back when.

But things change, and years later, Amanda was in fact one of those Cotillion members in the spotlight.

It was a magical evening for us all. She didn't want to take off her white ballgown that made her feel like a princess. And we were very proud parents.

A couple years later, my son Leland joined the group.

In order to carry out the responsibilities of being in the Cotillion, they both had to give up something very near to their hearts — the annual Wheeling Park High School theater trip to New York City. The trip always seemed to coincide either with the Patron Party — the party the week before the ball when the kids are presented to the ball patrons — or the ball itself.

But both were glad they did it. They especially enjoyed meeting kids from other schools, and learning something new. Luckily, both of my kids were dancers, and enjoyed that aspect of the experience, as well.

We are all very much supporters of the Wheeling Symphony now. I've been involved with the ball committee since 2001. And my husband has worked for the WSO since around 2000, first as production manager and now as executive director.

So, to all Cotillion members past and present, congratulations. And my hope is that you have become sincere supporters of what's at the heart of this: the appreciation of live, symphonic music.


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