by Catherine L. Tully
The Joffrey Ballet opens its Bold Moves program Wednesday, February 10th at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre with one world premiere and two audience favorites. The evening will feature live music from The Chicago Philharmonic, with Joffrey Music Director Scott Speck at the helm.
Jirí Kylián’s Forgotten Land is the opening piece, set for 12 dancers, with music by English composer Benjamin Britten. Last performed by the company in 2012, this well-received ballet was inspired by an Edvard Munch painting of women staring at the sea from the beach. The choreography does indeed evoke water, its many lifts and swirling motions resembling the ebb and flow of waves.
Preview of world premiere:
Another work for 12 dancers, Ashley Page’s world premiere, Tipping Point, is the next item on the program. This piece is centered around the music, Thomas Adès’ violin concerto Concentric Paths. An award-winning choreographer, Page has a strong background in ballet, but this abstract piece focuses on highlighting human behaviors that are illuminated by the shifting tensions of the score. Take a closer look at how Page came to work with Joffrey in this post on Art Intercepts.
RAkU is the final piece in the Bold Moves program, and it is a truly unique offering. First created for San Francisco Ballet in 2011, Yuri Possokhov’s contemporary story ballet is based on the burning of Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion. The choreographer commissioned a score by composer Shinji Eshima, and the music illuminates the love story beautifully. A stunning visual piece as well, RAkU fits nicely with the program’s theme, as it leaves quite an impression.
Bold Moves runs from February 10th through the 21st at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre.
Take a quick peek at the three program pieces here:
A tragic love triangle, the City of Lights, and the bohemian nightlife of the late nineteenth century—Atlanta Ballet brings Jorden Morris’ Moulin Rouge® – The Ballet back to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre from February 5-13.
Created in 2009 for the 70th anniversary of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the production has since toured internationally, been adapted into a ballet film, and was re-staged on Atlanta Ballet in 2010.
Inspired by the iconic French nightclub depicted in the art of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Moulin Rouge® blends ballet, Cancan, and tango to the music of composers such as Debussy, Offenbach, Shostakovich, Ravel, Johann Strauss Jr. and Astor Piazzolla, among others.
A fantasia of history and imagination, the ballet follows the stories of Nathalie–a laundress turned cabaret dancer, Charles Zidler–the sinister proprietor of the Moulin Rouge (“The Red Mill”), Matthew–an aspiring painter, and, of course, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Atlanta Ballet veteran John Welker, now in his 21st season with the company, will portray Zidler and Toulouse-Lautrec. “What I really enjoy about these roles is that they are both based on real people,” he says. “They are not just a figment of the choreographer’s imagination. I love that, in some strange way, it makes you feel connected to that time period in Paris.”
Interestingly, the historic Toulouse-Lautrec would not likely have been able to dance. After breaking his legs as a youth, the bones did not heal properly and stopped growing. As a result, he was disproportionately short and struggled to walk, even with a cane.
Nonetheless, Morris wanted to bring him to life through dance. In an interview for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, he explained, “When choreographing the dance for Toulouse, I wanted the audience to see the amazing and beautiful things going on in his mind – which is translated through dance. It would have been easy to make his choreography twisted and deformed, but then we would never see the beauty behind what was in his mind.”
As Nathalie, the rags-to-riches Moulin Rouge star whose life is fatefully intertwined with Matthew, Nadia Mara returns to a role she first visited in Atlanta Ballet’s 2010 production. She delights in the character’s creative and dramatic possibilities. “Nathalie goes through so many emotions and transformations during the story,” she says. “It allows me to explore and work on my acting, which I always love. I can’t wait to show the audience this beautiful ballet!”
If you would like to be in the audience of Moulin Rouge®–The Ballet, tickets starting at $25 may be purchased here.
Aloha! Nancy Wozny, our Somatics specialist on the 4dancers Dance Wellness Panel recently gave us Part I of “Flash Feldenkrais for the Busy Dancer” – here is Part II. This one is focused on what to do after a trauma, like a fall, or a disorienting movement experience (like a hectic, packed rehearsal day!). Thanks again to Nancy, and Happy Holidays to All! – Jan Dunn, Dance Wellness Editor
by Nancy Wozny
I scampered to the edge of my seat to watch Cassandre Joseph fall from a great height as part of the kinetic pyrotechnics of STREB FORCES. She falls (or flies) and crash lands unharmed, as all of the STREB’s super action heroes do during their recent show at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Houston. Part of Elizabeth Streb’s brilliance is her meticulous methodology of falling, flying and crash landing in a way that we feel the visceral excitement of the motion.
Falling, jumping, unusual landings and the like, are all part of the contemporary dance landscape now, as dancers need to be fluid movers on the ground and in the air. Even partnering has evolved to include fabulous eye candy lifts and maneuvers. But there are times when dancers take a tumble when it wasn’t in the choreography. Most often, you stand up without any apparent injury, just feeling little stunned. Whether one sustains injury or not, unintentional forces have entered our systems, and we may feel discombobulated for a while. We’ve taken a blow, and that has an impact whether or not there are any visible scars.
All of this leads us to the continuation of my Flash Feldenkrais for the Busy Dancer. During Part I, we focused on coming back to neutral in the joints. This next lesson addresses how we organize ourselves for action, and is especially aimed to help us regain a neutral organization after a tumble or trauma. Even a minor trip can have somatic repercussions and lead to unnecessary holding patterns. The lesson is also great at just calming us down, and who doesn’t need a little bit of that now and then in the dance biz?
Flash Feldenkrais Lesson #2: Organizing the Spine in Side Lying
When to do this lesson: After any form of trauma or disorientating movement experience.
Why do this lesson: The lesson will help you return to a more neutral organization, calm down, and improve well being, if you feel a bit shaken up from a minor fall or a hectic day of rehearsal. If post injury, check with your doctor first.
What you need to do this lesson: You will need about 20 minutes of uninterrupted time, a soft mat or blanket and a towel to support your head during this lesson.
Remember: Rest between each step and before you fatigue. Do each instruction just a few times. Make the movement as easy as possible.
Rest on your back and notice your contact. Determine your favorite side. You will be lying on that side during the lesson. Turn to the preferred side so that your arms and legs are at a right angle to your torso. Your knees are bent at right angles but your arms will be straight and not bent at the elbows. Your palms rest on top of each other.
Move your top arm forward in the direction of your fingers passed the lower hand and then back to your starting place, remembering to keep the top arm straight. Notice the shape of your back changing and your head rolling toward the floor in front of you. Rest on your side.
Now move your top shoulder backwards in the direction of the floor behind you. Your top hand will glide toward the elbow of your lower arm. Your top shoulder blade moves behind you toward the floor. Turn your head toward the ceiling as you roll backward. Rest on your side.
Combine both movements, so that your top hand is moving forward and back. Feel the movement go through your spine. Your head will also be rolling toward the floor in front of you and toward the ceiling. Rest on your back and notice the contact of the working side.
Return to your preferred side. Move your top knee further forward, so that it passes the lower knee. You should feel the top ribs articulating. It’s a small movement. Make sure to move the knee directly forward in the direction it is already pointing. Think of your knee as a headlight so keep the light going the same direction as you glide the knee forward in space. Rest.
Now move the knee backwards so that the top hip moves toward the floor behind you. Put both of these movements together so that the knee moves forward and backward in space. Rest on your back. Notice how the contact of the working side.
Return to your side. Move the hand and hip forward and backward. Notice the movement of your head. Make the movement as fluid as possible. Rest on your back and notice the difference between your sides.
Repeat the entire lesson on the other side.
Rest on your back and notice your contact. Come to standing and notice your posture.
Remember you can do these lessons any time, whether you’ve taken a tumble or just want to come back to a calm place. Enjoy the lesson and stay tuned for Flash Feldenkrais Part III.
Nancy Wozny is editor in chief of Arts + Culture Texas, reviews editor at Dance Source Houston and a contributor to Pointe Magazine, Dance Teacher and Dance Magazine, where she is also an contributing editor. She has taught and written about Feldenkrais and somatics in dance for two decades.
by Karen Musey
There is always one thing I’d love to tell dancers while watching competition pieces:
Pauses are powerful. Could you find more in your piece?
Judges watch 2 + minutes of choreography that is often packed to the brim. Feeling the crunch to “fit everything in” and their adrenaline pushing them forward, the dancer is only able to half-finish a movement in order to get to the next in time.
I know dancers want to demonstrate as much as they can and choreographers want to give their dancers challenges they can grow into. I absolutely support you in wanting to grow and be your best self.
But how do pauses affect a piece of choreography’s impact on an audience?
Pauses in choreography allow for the dancer’s expression in a piece to change and evolve. If there are no changes in energy, the choreography can become indecipherable like a run-on sentence: the dancer and audience hold their breath and everyone wonders why they are exhausted after.
Audiences notice the dancer’s interpretation of the peaks and the valleys of the choreography. They feel the inhales and the exhales. They react to the energy dynamic of a go or a stop. The emotional quality and thoughts behind a comma, the excitement of an exclamation mark! The stillness of a period.
To hold space onstage with stillness requires vulnerability. It feels very powerful and creates anticipation. Being onstage with “nothing to do” can feel overly revealing. I will tell you though –
Every piece I’ve watched that won top awards had the dancer(s) commanding powerful pauses in their choreography.
What can you do to find and craft the pauses?
Understand The Intention Behind Your Choreography.
This is an important step whether you are in the process of picking your music, are in the midst of creation, or while perfecting the choreography.
Why was this particular piece of music or theme chosen? Is there an intention to explore a topic, a way of moving, a way of expression? How do you personally relate to the song/theme and how can you grow from it?
What if it is a foreign way of moving, expression or style that you do not yet relate to?
Will taking extra classes help you acquire a clearer competency of the style? Could watching current events or movies that relate to your subject matter give you a better comprehension of the idea? Could you discuss with your teacher/choreographer and peers how you can interpret a more truthful and revealing expression of the piece?
When you relate to and understand the intention behind your choreography, you will be able to break it down and find dynamic through pauses.
Get Comfortable With Stillness.
Improv is a great way to experiment with pauses. If you improv and can find places to be still, discovering and owning the pauses in your own choreography will be easy and fun!
Choose different pieces of music to improv to that have varied types of pauses. Some may be static and sharp; others might be subtle or lengthy. Having your teacher create artificial pauses by hitting pause while playing the music can also accomplish this (similar to freeze dance, but for improv!). Allow yourself to relax and breathe in whatever shape you have created – feel the architecture of the shape and be open and curious to what thought or expression that shape could be endowed with.
The more you explore different types of pauses, the more you will become creatively curious in how you shape them in your choreography.
Nervous Tension vs Powerfully Creating Space.
What is the difference between tensely holding a pose or feeling the shape of it and breathing into the space around you?
Sometimes tension in poses is beneficial and creates a certain feeling in the piece; other times it stops breath, creates anxiety and uproots the dancer from their connection with the floor. If a dancer tensely holds a pose without breathing and with nervous energy, they often have difficulty easing into the next part of the choreography and have to play catch up.
Knowing exactly how many counts your pause is and how you can continually fill and shape it with energy and breath will keep you grounded, focused and in command of your choreography.
What if you are already working on a set piece and it is choreographically dense without discernible pauses? Yay! What a great challenge for you.
First, slow your music down to a speed that you can easily complete the steps with. The slower, the better. You can use Garageband or other music programs to quickly adapt the speed of your music. If you articulate your movement at a more workable pace, you will start to notice all the different types of little pauses that can be found in between each phrase of movement.
Then – when you are able to fully commit to and finish your movement with the phrasing in place, you can gradually start to quicken the tempo. You will have developed the coordination and clarity you need for a more defined, polished piece of choreography. The pauses, phrasing and artistry of the piece will be intact, leaving you feeling powerful about the interpretation you want to showcase.
By taking the time to investigate your choreography early on, you will create the possibility for fantastic performing opportunities down the road. Enjoy the journey
Contributor Karen Musey is a dynamic Canadian born, New York based performer,teacher and dance adjudicator. Her training includes study at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet Professional Division, The Banff Centre, EDGE PAC (LA), Upright Citizen’s Brigade, The Barrow Group, Kimball Studio, Canada’s National Voice Intensive, Comic Strip Live and more.
Karen Musey judges national and regional dance competitions and festivals across the United States and Canada. She was a Director/Choreographer Observership Candidate during the 2011/12 season with Stage Directors and Choreographers Union and has served as a rehearsal director and dance captain for KOBA Family Entertainment. Karen Musey is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 5 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. She is a U.S. Member of the International Dance Council CID, recognized by UNESCO.
Performing highlights – PHISH at Madison Square Garden; World Premiere of the Canadian Opera Company’s Das Rheingold (Wagner Ring Cycle); National Artist Program Gala for the 2003 Canada Winter Games; for HRH Queen Elizabeth II during the Golden Jubliee Tour; Chicago (Rainbow Stage); comedy short Foreign Exchange (72 Hour Asian American Film Shootout); music videos for The Guards and Malynda Hale; international tours and performances with The Young Americans, J.A.R. Productions and KOBA Family Entertainment; stand up and sketch comedy around New York; Bravo! documentaries, films and more. She is currently co-writing a play. www.karenmusey.com0
by Sharon Wehner
“What does it mean to you to be celebrating your 20th season with the Colorado Ballet?”
This is a question I have been asked over and over again since our season started this past July—a question asked by my colleagues, by board members, by our marketing department, and by numerous members of the media. I have spent hours pondering it, and each time I am asked, it seems I have a different answer.
It is a big question, and quite honestly, I dread it, because it sends me spinning into a myriad of memories and growth periods—both beautiful ones, and those that were, well, more challenging. My first response is to say that it feels like any milestone birthday. On the one hand, it’s could be viewed as just another number. From a pessimistic perspective, it could be seen as the inevitable passing of time—one year closer to the end. Dancers love to bemoan how old they are getting and how old their bodies feel, a tendency that starts about the age of puberty. But from another perspective, a milestone birthday could be an opportunity to feel blessed—one more year to be able to be and do what I love.
What does it mean to dance for twenty years in the same company? As every dancer knows, choosing this as one’s profession means accepting some unique parameters:
- Dancing is a career with a limited lifespan—retirement does not mean turning 65.5 and collecting a pension. Longevity in one company may earn a small amount of seniority, but nothing like the retirement benefits of a company in the corporate world.
- Being a professional dancer requires a particular lifestyle commitment. Because our body is our bread and butter, what we do outside the “office” affects our ability to be at the top of our game. Simple things like food, sleep, rest, exercise, and play are all intimately connected to our performance. And as the years pass, maintenance on the body becomes an increasingly refined and conscientious balance of these elements.
- Dancing can be a very transient kind of lifestyle. Those who freelance must weave together a patchwork of gigs, supplemented by other kinds of work to pay the bills. They must be able to adapt quickly to new bosses, colleagues, an environments. Even those dancers who want the stability of a company, will often switch companies several times during the span of their careers, for a number of reasons.
Given all of these tendencies, why would someone commit the bulk of their dance career to one ballet company for 20-plus years? When I ask myself this question, there are a multitude of answers, which brings up the question “What are the advantages of such a commitment?”3
This year marks my 16th Nutcracker season. I have had the privilege of performing seven of those seasons in George Balanchine’s version of the Nutcracker, which premiered in 1954 in New York City.
It is common for The Nutcracker to be the first performing opportunity dancers have in their pre-professional career. Once training intensifies, the requirements for Nutcracker can become more demanding. My first Nutcracker experience was with the Northeast Youth Ballet under the direction of Denise Cecere. With the Northeast Youth Ballet, I spent six seasons performing most of the roles in the ballet including Clara and the Dew Drop Fairy. The last couple years of my training were spent performing in Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker under the direction of Mikko Nissinen. Performances with the Northeast Youth Ballet and Boston Ballet were crucial to my understanding of future professional life.
In 2009, I was first exposed to George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker with Alabama Ballet. During my five seasons with the company, I was given opportunities to perform many roles including the Sugar Plum Fairy, Arabian, and Lead Marzipan. One particular role I fell in love with was Coffee, also known as Arabian. I was chosen to perform Coffee for all five seasons. This repetition gave me time to refine this specific role while also exploring the other personalities that make the ballet unique.
At Miami City Ballet, rehearsals for George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker begin in September. It is a special time of year in which you hope to gain new experiences and bring something different to your audience. Performances span from the beginning of December until New Year’s Eve. This will be my fourth season performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy and my second with Miami City Ballet. Along with performing the Sugar Plum Fairy, I will performing the roles of Lead Spanish, Demi-Soloist Flower, Marzipan, Flower, Snow, and Party Parent.
As a little girl I had always dreamed of dancing as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Last season, when I saw my name on the casting list to dance the iconic role, I couldn’t wait to get to work. It was a new opportunity to perform a very rewarding and challenging role in a new home. On top of that, I was paired with a partner, Ariel Rose, who I had spent time dancing with in Balanchine’s Who Cares? at Boston Ballet. It has been really special to work with Lourdes Lopez on this principal role. The time Ariel and I have spent with Lourdes and Arnold and Joan Quintane this season has allowed us to bring our own interpretation to the dance.
In George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, the Sugar Plum Fairy holds a large amount of responsibility. She is the first and last Sweet to perform in Act II and is responsible for showing Marie and the Prince their way. When I revisit classic roles like the Sugar Plum Fairy I hope to show audiences what I’ve been working during the rest of the season.
Personal and professional lives are usually combined during Nutcracker season. It can be difficult to spend time with family and friends because of performances and rehearsals. We perform five to six times a week while also preparing for our second repertory program. Fortunately, my family usually comes to visit and see some of the performances. During my time off I like to read, write, or watch old TV shows like Friends on Netflix. Having an outlet allows me to reset and rest my brain from ballet.
Miami City Ballet will be performing George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker December 5-7 in Naples, FL, December 11-13 in Fort Lauderdale, December 17-24 in Miami, and December 27-29 in West Palm Beach.
Contributor Samantha Hope Galler, a Bedford, Mass. native, spent 13 years training with The Ballet Academy, Inc., under the direction of Frances Kotelly in the Cecchetti Method. She performed six seasons with The Northeast Youth Ballet under the direction of Denise Cecere. She continued training, on scholarship, with Boston Ballet School and received the PAO Merit Trainee Scholarship. She received the NFAA Honorable Mention Award in Ballet. Galler spent summers training at Boston Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and Boston Conservatory. She danced with Cincinnati Ballet in their 2008-2009 season under the direction of Victoria Morgan.
Samantha spent five seasons with Alabama Ballet under the direction of Tracey Alvey and Roger Van Fleteren. During her tenure there, she was promoted to principal dancer. She had the honor of performing some of her dream roles including Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, The Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, The Sylph and Effie in La Sylphide, Myrtha and Moyna in Giselle, Dryad Queen and Mercedes in Don Quixote, the Rancher’s Daughter in Agnes De Mille’s Rodeo. Her Balanchine roles included Dark Angel in Serenade; The Sugarplum Fairy, Arabian and Lead Marzipan in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™; and the principal roles in Allegro Brillante and Tarantella. She has also performed in Jiří Kylian’s Sechs Tanze, and Van Fleteren’s Shostakovich and Romancing Rachmaninov, both world premieres.
Samantha joined Miami City Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 2014. Since joining Miami City Ballet, Samantha has performed in various roles including as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Balanchine’s The Nutcracker and as the Harp Soloist in Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations.2