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The Helena arts community is holding A Special Evening to Benefit Sallyann Mulcahy at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Myrna Loy Center.

The event features dance, music, readings, an art auction and more.

Money raised will help defray the cost of a hip replacement surgery for Mulcahy. A Helena native and professional ballet dancer, she is the founder of Ballet Montana (formerly Artisan Dance), the only professional ballet company in-residence in Montana.

It has been housed on the Carroll College campus since 1995, drawing a troupe of professional ballet dancers from across the country to Helena each summer to work with her and perform. Often they danced original works choreographed by Mulcahy that incorporated local musicians and artists.

Mulcahy will be having surgery in Chennai, India, the day of the event, said Chuck Driscoll, Carroll Theatre Department director, who is organizing the benefit. He said she plans to return to Helena before relocating to Pittsburgh, where she will be moving with her elderly mother to be closer to family.

Mulcahy has no health insurance, which is one of the reasons she chose to have surgery in India, where it will be less expensive, said Ashley Oliverio, a former Ballet Montana board member. It is expected to cost between $12,000 and $20,000.

In May, Mulcahy announced in Dance Informa — a Digital Dance Magazine — that she and her dance company were taking a hiatus, citing health and financial issues, as well as a drawn out, expensive legal battle with a Bozeman dance school over the right to use the name Ballet Montana.

Chuck Driscoll, Carroll Theatre Department director, said he doesn’t hold out much hope Mulcahy and the dance company will return to Helena.

“Ballet Montana has never gone to the point of becoming a living source of income,” he said. “It’s been very sustaining artistically.”

However, Carroll College President Tom Evans said Monday that no official decision has been made about the future of the dance program at Carroll, where Mulcahy has been an adjunct professor, teaching dance classes to Carroll students. She also founded Ballet Montana Academy that trained professional ballet dancers.

Mulcahy set up the academy so young people passionate about pursuing ballet professionally wouldn’t have to leave Montana at a very young age — as she had, starting at age 11.

There are no Carroll dance classes listed for this fall semester, nor is the college seeking anyone to teach dance.

The popularity of the dance program at Carroll is credited to Mulcahy, said Evans. “We have to have a discussion about what happens when such a star leaves the community. She is truly exceptional at what she does.”

Last summer when Evans first arrived on campus as college president he met several of the professional ballet dancers. They told him “she was transforming their lives.

“She’s given a lot of time and effort and commitment to Montana,” Evans said. “She’s a driving force in the arts community.”

Among those performing Thursday night are dancers from Diane’s Danceworks doing “Blackbird” by the Beatles and sung by Bobbi McFerrin. Dance director Diane Trerise knew Mulcahy when they were both youthful students in Blanche Judge’s dance studio in Helena.

Mulcahy left to study with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, dancing professionally there, as well as with Finis Jhung’s Chamber Ballet and New Jersey Ballet.

Trerise appreciates Mulcahy’s gift for teaching and caring. Her daughter, Nikki, worked with Mulcahy following an injury. “She helped Nikki with her injury and helped her in so many other ways with the world she was entering into in professional ballet. She liked Nikki as a whole person,” Trerise said, noting that can be rare in the world of ballet.

“Helena is a very artistic and caring community, and Sallyann is a part of it. Sallyann ran a program that nurtured and developed dancers. We as a community really benefited from that — so she is going to be missed.

“I know this is not the end of the road — this is a break for her from teaching and mentoring,” said Trerise. “It’s going to leave a big hole in the Carroll program.”

Mulcahy had been working in a lot of pain the past few years, said Oliverio. Eventually, it was too painful for her to continue teaching. Despite her injury, she celebrated her 50th birthday by dancing an original work “Song,” based on a Gustav Mahler work in 2009.

Oliverio will be showing a video Thursday night featuring some highlights of Mulcahy’s dance career.

“In all of the arts, it’s been difficult for fundraising and for the arts to thrive,” said Oliverio. “Ballet is customarily the hardest hit. Typically it receives lower funding than, say, art museums. Ballet companies by and large have been struggling for years.

“Ballet Montana was supported very well by professional dancers who sought her out. She gave them a new breath of life. She is also very well known in the ballet world for her original choreography. Even when dancers were unpaid or on minimum stipends, they came to Helena to dance.”

The audiences that showed up each summer to see these performances never knew all the things Mulcahy did behind the scenes to make these performances happen, said Oliverio. Mulcahy even helped to stitch the costumes.

“She brought incredible world class art to this community. I think this is an opportunity for the community to step up. She’s a hometown girl. She believed in bringing professional ballet to Helena. We need to help her as much as we can to defray those expenses.”

Writer Ed Noonan, who is also Myrna Loy Center executive director, will read two original works at the event — a poem about dance, which is one of Mulcahy’s favorites, and a poem about departures.

“It was obviously a time of real turmoil,” he said, of Mulcahy’s decision. “We can only hope the best for her. Living the life of a dedicated dancer is not at easy task. It’s a 9 to 5 job that gets a minimum salary.”

As soon as dancers complete one engagement, they have to get right back out for another.

“It’s a very difficult life,” Noonan said. “My mother was an Army nurse in World War II at Guadalcanal. She’d say she never wanted a son who was a Marine. Well, I’d never want my child to be a dancer. But I have great admiration for what they do.”

People often say “it’s OK, they’re doing what they love,” said Noonan, “but you’ve got to be able to live.

“This situation — this injury — has turned her world upside down. So it’s going to take a while to settle,” he said.

“I’ve been receiving warm responses from all over the place offering their support in whatever way they can,” he added. “(The benefit) is a nice way to honor a Helena artist’s work and commitment.”

As to Mulcahy and Ballet Montana’s future, “I don’t think anyone knows that,” said Noonan.

At the end of the Dance Informa article, Mulcahy said, “Love is still pumping in my veins. I want to get back out there and work again.”

If you go:

What: A Special Evening to Benefit Sallyann Mulcahy

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 11

Where: Myrna Loy Center, 15 N. Ewing

Cost: $20

Contact: Chuck Driscoll 202-1341 or Ed Noonan 443-0287

Donations: Donations can be made at the Myrna Loy Box Office or mailed directly to:

Sallyann Mulcahy, Carroll College Fine Arts, 1601 N. Benton Ave, Helena, MT 59625. This mailbox is available until September 2013

Program highlights:

Ed Noonan: Two poems by Noonan

Diane’s Danceworks: Diane Trerise, “Blackbird” Composed by the Beatles, sung by Bobbi McFerrin.

Donna Davis: Two poems by Davis

The Creative Art Center: Charlene White

The Creative Art Center: Tanya Call

Julia Porter: An Open Letter to Sallyann from April

Julia Porter with Fred Cobb accompaniment: “I’ll be here”

Sarah Frazier: “Human”

Michael McNeilly: “Different Pieces of Pieces”

Patrick Marsolek and Lori Mitchell: “A Evarista Carriego” by Color Tango

A Video Montage of Sallyann Mulcahy- the artist and her work

Visual Arts Live Auction Donations – Hosted by Mr. Michael Casey, auctioneer

Tim Holmes: Three mounted drawings of ballet rehearsals: Logo Leg , Christie Pauses, Quarter Rest

Carol Novotne: Painting — Flowers.

Chip Clawson: Mask-Making workshop for 6.

Ralph Esposito: A set of four bowls, a set of eight wine cups, a cheese dish and a luster vase.

Lisa Ernst: Teapot and cup

A complete set of framed posters of performances by Artisan Dance and Ballet Montana that will be auctioned as a set only.

Memorabilia for sale – In the lobby – pay at the Box Office.

A collection of Artisan Dance and Ballet Montana items and memorabilia, mugs, posters.

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