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Ugly stepsister, beautiful show

Morris’ Gibby Kirby plays a starring role in Champaign-Urbana Ballet’s ‘Cinderella’

Dance Mistress, performed by Abigail Kaesberg, attempts to teach the stepsisters, Gibby Kirby, left, and John Dayger, right, a graceful waltz.
Dance Mistress, performed by Abigail Kaesberg, attempts to teach the stepsisters, Gibby Kirby, left, and John Dayger, right, a graceful waltz.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In 2001, Gibby Kirby took his first ballet class.

He’d done band and theater throughout high school, and a teacher had told him he had a unique way of moving across the stage. The teacher suggested he take a dance class.

So he did.

Fast forward 12 years, and the Morris resident is set to star in the Champaign-Urbana Ballet’s production of “Cinderella” as one of the ugly stepsisters who torment the title character.

“It’s been so fun,” Kirby said. “I have really loved it.”

This is actually Kirby’s second time performing in a CU Ballet production of “Cinderella.” The first time around, he played one of the dancing gentlemen.

When they asked him to do the ballet again, he said he would – if he could play one of the ugly stepsisters.

“It’s one of those very character roles,” Kirby said.  “Everyone is disgusted by them because they’re so hideous, but they’re also really funny.”

He said that, though there is a darkness to the character, he plays up the comedy.

“After rehearsal, after we just tormented Cinderella, she was like, ‘It was so hard for me not to laugh because you were hilarious,’” Kirby said.

Originally from the Champaign-Urbana area, Kirby’s first classes were with the CU Ballet.

He said there’s a sense of family there that isn’t necessarily present at other ballet or dance academies.

“Immediately, it was a place that felt like home,” Kirby said.

With what a teacher called his “natural affinity for movement,” Kirby then studied dance in college at Illinois State University.

While some of his friends from college are now dancing professionally in New York, though, Kirby said it was never his intention to go pro.

“I do it because I love it,” he said. “I want to make sure it stays my passion, not something I do to pay the rent.”

Plus, he said, there’s something special about bringing high-quality productions to his own community.

“I think great dance can happen in our own communities,” Kirby said. “Great theater can be in our communities. And [Cinderella] is a really high-quality production.”

The CU production follows the classic fairytale, with a couple exceptions. For example, there’s no stepmother, and only two stepsisters.”

But, Kirby said, it’s an “absolutely gorgeous,” professional-level production.

“It’s a hilarious show,” Kirby said. “Where else can you see two older men play ugly stepsisters and it’s still funny?”

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