We are fortunate today to be joined by the Music Director for The Joffrey Ballet, Scott Speck. We asked him some questions about the music for Joffrey’s upcoming performance of Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. He shares some fascinating insights about the composer, the score, and the musicality of the choreographer.
“If you will patiently dance in our round
And see our moonlight revels, go with us.”
In 1962, New York City Ballet premiered George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, based on Shakespeare’s comedy of love and magic. I remember thinking how ingenious this ballet was the first time I saw it.
I first became involved with the classic love story while training with Boston Ballet. At age 16, I performed as a hound dog, a member of the court, and an epilogue fairy. Needless to say, it was an exciting and eye-opening experience. Also, it was my first time working with Boston Ballet.
Now, 10 years later, I am revisiting A Midsummer Night’s Dream in my professional career. This time, I have been given the opportunity to learn a variety of roles, including Hermia, Act II Divertissement, and Fairies.
The ballet was set in June 2015 by Sandra Jennings. Since then, we have been coached on various sections of the production. As the performances approached, Sandra put the final touches on the show before it opened in March.
Along with revisiting the ballet, I am also revisiting working with Sandra Jennings. When I first performed the production with Boston Ballet, Sandra was staging it. At the time, I was training with Sandra’s mom, Jacqueline Cronsberg, and continued to work with her for many years. It has been a rare opportunity to work with both of them in my career.
“The course of true love never did run smooth.”
– Lysander to Hermia
During the staging process, I spent time reading Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream so I understood the characters on a deeper level. Most importantly, I learned that Shakespearian comedy is different from modern-day comedy. Shakespeare’s comedies are stories with happy endings–their main purpose isn’t to make the audience laugh, although they often contain many incidents of humor.
Once rehearsals started, I was able to shape the characters by what I read, especially Hermia. MCB Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez, who danced the role of Hermia’s rival Helena during her career, coached Hermia, Helena, Demetrius, and Lysander along with other characters in the ballet.
Lourdes also brought in playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney to help us act out conversations and misunderstandings between characters. Our narrative is visual, so learning how to lay out a conversation without words for the audience can be tricky. But challenges like these are among the many things that make this art form so rewarding and exciting. I look forward to continuing my journey in A Midsummer Night’s Dream during our final weekend of performances.
Nor spell nor charm
Come our lovely lady night.
So good night, with lullaby.
– Fairies’ song
Miami City Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale from April 9-10, 2016.
I’ve known Peter Quanz since our ballet training years at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet Professional Division. I have always admired Peter for his courage as a choreographer in taking on supreme artistic challenges and creating inventive, thought-provoking art. It has been a joy to see Peter succeed in what is an incredibly demanding and difficult career path.
I was thrilled that Peter agreed to share with 4dancers readers a bit about his life-changing adventures; his passion and drive for creating cutting edge choreography; and of course, his lovely humanity in connecting with artists across vastly different disciplines and languages. We spoke for about an hour over Skype while he was on a break from rehearsals. – Karen Musey
KM You have had an illustrious career and have explored many different avenues of work as a choreographer. What has prompted you to branch out?
PQ I’m very excited that I’ve been working as a choreographer now for over 20 years. And that has given me an incredible life, with experiences that I’d never expected I would encounter. I’m looking forward to more.
I’ve really tried to choose projects that scare me. If I don’t face a project in sheer terror with the feeling of “I’m not skilled enough for this”, then there’s an excitement that’s going to be missing.
KM You make bold choices and continually seek out opportunities to collaborate – how have these different experiences informed your perspective as a choreographer?
PQ I am currently collaborating with Montréal Danse for the creation of a new piece. To spark the creative genesis of the piece, Artistic Director, Kathy Casey proposed a question to me – “How would you make a dance if you didn’t consider the audience?”. That flummoxed me, because for me, one of my hang ups is trying to gauge what an audience is going to relate to. But if you always try to make something an audience will like, soon you will end up only sitting in the audience with them.
We started out with an initial two week rehearsal period. We spent the better part of it figuring out different ways of connecting as a group of people, when I suddenly realized that what was most interesting about this collaboration was the bond that we had as a team. The idea became how to find a way to create a social connection with the audience: essentially, a “social experiment”.
We are now building a durational production where the whole audience is animated the whole time through technology. They will be using their phone and their signals will be turned on. We are playing with people’s connection to their phones. We are seeing the phone as an extension of their bodies, as an extension of themselves. We are playing with the idea of how we can be drawn together through this immediate technology while not getting so disconnected from ourselves physically that it ceases to be dance.
KM An interesting paradox.
PQ Oh it’s been fantastic! We are finding ways of using the phones to show us our bodies and our movement in ways you can’t see in a normal performance. We are using video that is taken live, utilizing different perspectives to see parts of an image; using the settings on the phone to both create light or diminish what you see in an image. This is how we build “community” in this performance; and we risk in being brought close together with an audience in an artistic relationship, which is very exciting.
No one on our team has ever done a project like this. We are learning how to define what is happening without over defining things, because this choreography is not about steps. One of our dancers coined the phrase “aesthetic of the situation”.
I’m interested in revealing how artists think in spontaneous ways, how they make choices based on their knowledge of movement and performance; I’m curious about dancers themselves being the vulnerable material from which our experience emerges.”
The work with dancers I have in Montréal requires a sensitivity to an ever shifting relational dynamic – between the artist, their relationships to technology and the structure we have all defined as a group. In contrast with that process, I’ve gone off to work with very classical ballet companies setting choreography that is highly determinate of the music and relates closely to architectural structures in movement, which of course has to be very precise.
KM What are you currently creating with your company, Q Dance? [Read more…]
by Jessika Anspach McEliece
Her deafening scream reverberated through the studio.
Remembering it and my stomach still curdles. One moment she was doing petit allegro, the next writhing on the Marley floor in animalistic agony.
There are just some moments you never forget.
Moments you wish you could.
And yet these terrifying incidents are ones rarely thought of, let alone mentioned. It must be human nature to sweep the scary under the rug. Like those cheesy ceramic monkeys I often see in vintage shops, we choose to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” superstitiously (and aren’t we dancers the worst?) believing that if we don’t speak it, acknowledge it, then it doesn’t exist. Injury won’t happen to us. We keep the lights on and those monsters “safely” under the bed.
But sometimes, no matter our diligence – how often we ice, how much we stretch or see the P.T., no matter how many “Zzz’s” we get, the monsters rear their frightening faces. And sometimes we end up on the Marley floor.
My “Marley moment” came May 15th, 2015. And I actually was on the floor. [Read more…]
How many years have you been doing ballet?
I began training when I was two and half, so I’ve been dancing almost nineteen years.
What are some roles you’ve danced with Alabama Ballet?
My favorite role with Alabama Ballet was the Cowgirl in Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo. I also loved performing Lead Marzipan in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker and as a Blue Girl in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs.
What’s your favorite thing about ballet?
My favorite part about dancing is working hard and seeing the results. It’s so gratifying and there’s always something to work on and perfect even further. And there will always be another goal ahead of me to tackle. I also love the feeling when I’m onstage. We spend so much time in the studio for maybe three minutes on the stage, but when I’m up there I feel so alive.
What’s in your dance bag?
Bloch Heritage pointe shoes, jumper, cover-ups, leg warmers, Tiger Balm – a dancer’s best friend for achy muscles, sewing materials and new pointe shoes – to sew on breaks, Abigail Mentzer and Bulletpointe skirts, bobby pins, hair elastics, hairbrush, supportive athletic tape, and Kenesio Tape – I had a Deltiod sprain last season, so it supports my arches on long days, and, for snacks, I usually keep an apple and some seasoned almonds in my bag for sustainable energy, and, of course, H2O to keep hydrated!
Tricia Bianco began dancing when she was two and a half years old at Alabama Dance Academy under the direction of Pamela Merkel, Michael Vernon, Jamie Hinton, and Tammi Carr. She has received and accepted scholarships to summer programs with Boston Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Alabama Ballet. In 2011, Tricia competed in Youth American Grand Prix and was Top Twelve in the Southeast region. Tricia was offered an apprenticeship when she was seventeen with the Alabama Ballet in 2012, and is excited to be returning for her fourth season and first year as a Company Member.
Since joining Alabama Ballet, her favorite roles have included Showgirl in Roger Van Fleteren’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Juliet’s Friend in Van Fleteren’s Romeo and Juliet, the title role in Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo as Cowgirl, Lead Marzipan in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, and Blue Girl in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs. She also teaches at Alabama Ballet, and is a teacher for the Ballet’s outreach program, City Dance. Tricia also teaches at Westwood Ballet. Tricia feels very blessed to be a member with the Alabama Ballet, and is looking forward to her first season as a company member.