Category Archives: Uncategorized

Swan Lake: Then and Now

We’re all familiar with some version of Swan Lake. But there is so much more to this timeless ballet than the inner angst portrayed in the most recent pop-culture rendition, Black Swan. The Swan Lake that we all know and love, choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, initially had a rough start. Let’s take a look at where it began how we arrived to the acclaimed ballet of today.

The World Premiere in 1877

The first premiere of Swan Lake was actually choreographed by Julius Reisinger, ballet master at the Ballet of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatre (now the Bolshoi Ballet.) “When the premiere of Swan Lake took place, it was a disappointment to everybody, especially its composer [Tchaikovsky].” famed choreographer George Balanchine comments. “The choreographer was a hack ballet master who possessed neither the talent nor the taste to choreograph a work to the music of a major composer.”

Anna Sobeshchanskaya

Anna Sobeshchanskaya

The Russian ballerina intended for the role of Odette, Anna Sobeshchanskaya, was replaced by Pauline Karpakova. “Karpakova was a run-of-the-mill dancer past her bloom, who insisted upon interpolating sure-fire ‘numbers’ from other ballets in her repertoire to replace some of Tchaikovsky’s music which she could not appreciate, understand or even count,” Balanchine continues.

It wasn’t until 18 years later when the famed choreography of today was pieced together.

The 1895 World Premiere

In November 1894 Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov agreed to work together to revive Swan Lake. Petipa choreographed the acts that took place in the castle and castle garden, and Ivanov choreographed the lakeside acts, including the corps de ballet of swans.

Ivanov was the first to base his choreography on the structure and emotional content of the music, rather than displaying how technically brilliant his lead dancers were. Ivanov also was one of the first to use the corps de ballet to its fullest potential and to help tell the story of the ballet. He excelled in making patterns and shapes on the stage with the corps as shown in the lakeside acts in Swan Lake, as well as the snowflakes’ dance in The Nutcracker.

The premiere of this new work took place at the Mariinksy Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia on January 17, 1895. Unlike the Moscow premiere in 1877, it was a huge success.

Pierina Legnani

Pierina Legnani

The occasion was also a testimonial gala for Pierina Legnani, who danced the double role of Odette/Odile and could not restrain herself from injecting her 32 fouettes from Cinderella, this time as the coda of her black swan pas de deux in the ballroom scene.

Swan Lake of Today

Since then, over 155 versions of Swan Lake have been performed by at least 115 companies based in 25 countries. Few other ballets from the 19th-century have had such lasting and widespread popularity.

The Petipa-Ivanov production has formed the basis of most subsequent stagings around the world. Most current versions of Swan Lake retain the core of what is considered the original Petipa-Ivanov choreography, though with some new choreography added.

Ballet Austin prepares to perform the famed ballet once again Mother’s Day Weekend, with the Austin Symphony Orchestra with live accompaniment. Join them as they close the 2014/15 season. Now is the time to check off that box on your “ballet bucket-list.”

Reference: Balanchine, George, and Francis Mason. 101 Stories of the Great Ballets. New York, NY: Doubleday, 1989. Print.

 

BA Leadership Extend Contracts Until 2021

Yesterday evening at 5 p.m., Ballet Austin staff, Board members and supporters gathered in the board room upstairs to celebrate the ten-year contract renewal of Cookie Ruiz and Stephen Mills, Ballet Austin’s Executive and Artistic Directors, respectively.


In addition to signing their contracts, the Ballet Austin Board also made a surprise announcement about their decision to dedicate the newest dance studio to Cookie and Stephen. The studio will aptly be named the “Mills/Ruiz Legacy Studio”.  You can see a mockup of the plaque that will hang outside the studio below.


Cookie and Stephen have held their leadership posts here at BA for a successful 13 and 10 years, respectively, and here at Ballet Austin, we personally cannot wait for another 10 more. Congratulations to the both of you!

Choreographing Symphony of Clouds

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I adored performing in Ballet Austin’s Community Education programs when I was a Professional Division Trainee during 2006-2008. If you’ve never swung upside-down as a kangaroo in front of cheering kids, you don’t know what you’re missing. It was always a delight to see kids inspired and engaged by Build-A-Ballet programs featuring Stephen Mills’ Carnival of the Animals, to say nothing of the infectious glee shared by Family Dance Workshop participants and The Nutcracker School Show audiences. So when I was asked by Michelle Martin (Ballet Austin’s Associate Artistic Director) to be the choreographer for a new educational program entitled Symphony of Clouds, I was thrilled… but frankly, my knees knocked together with surprising speed and painful forcefulness. I knew from personal experience how Ballet Austin’s educational programs are both substantive and entertaining, and how they have the capacity to spark creativity and broaden horizons… No pressure, right?

Symphony of Clouds is the latest offering in Ballet Austin’s Arts Blitz program. Every year, the Arts Blitz team (Ballet Austin, Pollyanna Theatre Company, and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum) bring innovative dance-theatre productions to hundreds of area students, and provide classroom educators with associated curricula and Continuing Professional Education credits.

Symphony of Clouds brings the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to life with spoken-word dialogue, dance, and, of course, the masterful music of Mozart. The stars are actors from Pollyanna Theatre Company and dancers from Ballet Austin’s Professional Division Trainee program (my alma mater!). Luckily for me, the production blossomed into being with the direction of Pollyanna Theatre Company’s ever-enthusiastic Judy Matetzschk-Campbell, and with the rehearsal direction of Ballet Austin’s talented and tireless Jaime Lynn Witts.

On January 27, 2011, approximately 300 students at Pleasant Hill Elementary cheered a young “Wolfie” Mozart on as he wowed exuberant European Empresses, encountered a squawking chicken, laughed at the antics of a dancing juggler and his comically clumsy sidekicks, marveled at mustachioed musical maestros, and jiggled and jived with merrily mischievous piano keys… in short, they experienced the production Symphony of Clouds. Hooray!

Not a student or educator in an elementary school? Not to worry! Public shows are offered at Ballet Austin’s AustinVentures StudioTheatre on Feb 5 – 6, 2011 at 2:30pm and 4:00pm, for only $12 per ticket. The production is one hour long. Hope to see you there!

For tickets and more information click here.

New Year’s Resolutions…contrary to popular belief, the secret isn’t willpower!

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Three weeks into 2011. Have you already dropped your new year’s resolution? When people fall behind on keeping up with resolutions, they quit. Done for the year! It may come back up again next January, but for now, it’s over.

Let’s face it…resolutions are hard because we pick something hard to work on. Then we hope we make it, or try to will it to happen.  But it’s not that easy, so when it doesn’t happen, we join the ranks of “quitter”.  No one wants to be a quitter.  So don’t be! Be a resolution-keeper! Resolution-keepers don’t will something to happen; they make specific plans that are possible to keep in order to change something daily; the action of choosing. It’s time to sweat; to work at it. Get up every day and ask, “What can I do today?” Once you choose the action, to quote Nike, “just do it!”

Record numbers of people are taking Butler Community School dance and fitness classes since January 1. In the past few weeks I have spoken with hundreds of people who called or came by to ask about taking a class.  And they’re coming! But will they still be coming in April, in July? I wondered if these increased numbers had something to do with resolutions, so I asked, “What is your New Year’s resolution,” and “why are you here?” The answers went something like this, “I want more energy…to have fun…lose weight…get fit…re-learn an old passion…try something new.”

Those are great, but how will these resolutions happen, and specifically, happen at the BCS? What’s the plan? Following the idea that a resolution will work if there is a daily action to get results, what if the resolution becomes something like this, “I will wake up at 6:00am, put my shoes on, and go to Ballet Austin for the Ultimate Cardio Boot Camp.” Or maybe this, “I am going to buy a Class-Card and drive to Ballet Austin after work on Thursday to take Ballet Fit,” or, “I will call a friend and invite her to take a hip hop class with me on Sunday.” Actions chosen every day that accomplish the goal of having fun, losing weight, learning something new, and so on.

Already slacking? Don’t wait until 2012 to begin working on your resolution again. Reset your 2011 resolution! Instead of relying on willpower, learn the art of choosing today.

Ballet Austin’s Pilates Center: Winner of ‘Best Pilates’

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Congratulations to the Pilates team here at Ballet Austin’s Butler Dance Education Center, recent winners of ‘Best Pilates’ in Austin Fit Magazine’s 2011 Best of Health & Fitness. Austinites cast their votes, and gave Ballet Austin’s Pilates Center a narrow edge, awarding us as the favorite! To read the complete article, click here.

If you haven’t tried Pilates or are interested in why we won ‘Best Pilates,’ this Sunday our Pilates Open House is your chance to try all of the different types of Pilates we offer for FREE! The Pilates Open House is this Sunday, January 9 from 3pm to 5:30pm, and will feature a circuit of mini classes ranging from Pilates machines to Pilates Cardio, Thera-band® Stretch & Tone to Pilates Mat. Hope to see you this Sunday!

For more information on the Pilates Open House, click here.
For more information on Ballet Austin’s Pilates Center, click here.

The Nutcracker in the News

We’re right in the heart of our run of The Nutcracker, and the sugarplums have danced out of our heads and onto the stage. While it might not be snowing outside, it will be snowing in The Long Center through December 23.

View the clip above from KXAN, featuring Executive Director Cookie Ruiz and the Austin’s Mother Ginger Contest winner, Jeanne Goka, Principal of the Ann Richards School. And below, check out a smattering of some of the other press we’ve received so far around our 48th annual production of The Nutcracker:

Austinist:
Right on Schedule, Ballet Austin Presents The Nutcracker

Austin American Statesman:
Review: Ballet Austin’s ‘The Nutcracker’

Austin American Statesman:
Mother and daughter about to celebrate 25 years of Nutcrackering

Austin American Statesman:
Ballet Austin director assesses ‘Black Swan’

News 8 Austin:
Arts Minute: Holiday hits continue

Looking For A Little Holiday Magic?

It starts after Thanksgiving. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, scrubbing pots from oversized meals, decorating for the holidays, entertaining family guests, and guessing the BCS rankings. It might be easy to lose any thought of ‘joy to the world’. The true holiday spirit can be all around us, yet somehow elusive as we see only what has to be bought, what has to be done.  What we have and what we don’t have.

magic267The holiday season began for me in September. I watched with fascination as over 50 performers from the Butler Community School’s Musical Theatre Workshop, written and directed by Danny Herman and Rocker Verastique, built an original holiday musical, Magic in Manhattan. It put the holiday season in perspective for me. I can’t wait to see it on stage December 11-13!

Magic in Manhattan takes place in New York City on Christmas Eve. While a dad spends Christmas in Afghanistan, a mom finds a way to bring a little joy to her three girls. The story follows them through the streets of Manhattan, where they witness the contrast between the buying and selling of luxuries at Macy’s and Saks, and the stark reality of poverty in this land of plenty. Yet, New York City becomes a place filled with the magic and the spirit of the holiday season. They only have to look for it.

Don’t get caught up in the business of this holiday season without taking the time to let the sounds of the season make your holiday a little more magical!

Click here for tickets or more information about Magic in Manhattan.

176 costumes, 1 beautiful display of talent

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There are so many elements about The Nutcracker that simply take peoples breaths away. All sit marveled by the dancing, some swoon over the set and then there are many who, like myself, gawk at the elegant and magnificent display of costumes. With a new one making its way on stage every couple of minutes throughout the show, each with such beautiful detail, I began to wonder… how do you undertake costuming a production like The Nutcracker?

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Since beginning my internship here at Ballet Austin in August, I had yet to visit the wardrobe shop. And wanting to inundate myself with all things costumes, I decided to go straight to the sources: Ballet Austin’s Wardrobe Master Alexey Korygin and his assistant Emily Cavasar. As I made my way to the costume world, I half expected to stumble upon a room covered in fabric and thread, hear sewing machines flying and see two people stitching on sequins at a mile a minute. What I discovered was an unbelievably neat work space complete with two of the nicest and most welcoming individuals!

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What I learned from this talented two-some was quite interesting. With a total of 176 company-owned costumes, the biggest challenge deals with maintenance and cleaning. Now, the end-of-production dry cleaning is relatively simple: send all 176 costumes off, they return a week later and are tucked safely away until the following season. The difficulty is keeping the intricate costumes clean between performances, especially the stark-white Snow Queen and King outfits, and removing stage make-up takes a lot more than a Tide To-Go Pen.

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Of course I had to ask, how many brand new costumes make their debut each season? The answer: one, maybe two… seriously? Alexey explained that new ones are made only when the present ones wear completely out, and with the current set about to celebrate its 15th Nutcracker with Ballet Austin, these costumes are obviously build to last and have an ability to stay beautiful!

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Alexey and Emily went on to describe where the real work lies – refurbishing, rebuilding, and fixing all 176 costumes. It’s a meticulous process that begins over the summer; the team spends five to six weeks figuring out how much maintenance each costume will require and the actual fixing begins then as well. About a month and a half before the December opening night, alterations and individual fittings commence and those keep the staff plenty busy!

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After gaining this unique insight into the world of Nutcracker costumes, I can hardly wait to watch as they grace the stage with their presence and stun audiences with their beauty.

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Get Out of Your Rut with Student Rush Sundays!

Sunday afternoon naps, football, jobs, watching a movie, reading a book, doing laundry, studying, Facebook…get out of your rut! Get out of the house, apartment or dorm and have some fun this Sunday…live a little…dance a little! Being stressed or bored on a Sunday is no way to live.  Put your dancing shoes on and head down to Ballet Austin. Whether it’s Ballet Fit, Zumba® Latin Dance Fitness, Modern dance, or Contemporary Jazz, get out and get your body moving. The Butler Community School is a great place for teens and adults of all ages to have fun on a Sunday afternoon. 

University of Texas sophomore Jessica heard about BCS classes and rode her bike downtown to take a class last Sunday. “Totally amazing studio and teacher. Love it!” Students, come down and join Jessica for Student Rush Sunday at the BCS beginning any Sunday. Bring your student ID and take one class for only $10 or two classes for $15. Can’t beat that!

Yesterday I almost died…

Today…every muscle in my body hurts. I’m active, I run, but my first Pilates class was a workout like I have never experienced before.

Let’s start at the beginning… I work at Ballet Austin, manage the Butler Community School’s programming. I see what Pilates does to people every day. And I see that they keep coming back. In fact, I see some people, like Ann Daly, in the Pilates Studio three times a week. But I had never tried it…

Well, the challenge was on. I decided to take on those machines myself. What is it about Pilates that everyone raves about? And so… my first Pilates class.

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I was a bit intimidated by the machines, but had full confidence in Vlada, Pilates Program Director at Ballet Austin. First thing…the reformer (Pilates machine that provides targeted resistance). I could give you a play by play, but there is no way to describe the full experience…doing “hundreds” for the first time; lying on my back, my hands in straps pressed down at my sides, my head and shoulders lifted, my legs extended with my toes reaching.  And the exercise hadn’t even started yet! And when it did, I not only felt muscles I never knew I had, I learned how to breathe, focus, concentrate, stay steady, and listen to my body. My body was definitely talking to me!

Vlada kept it simple, straightforward, and easy to grasp. She lead me through a balanced and challenging workout. There was one point when she said, “now you can come over and sit on the chair.” In my head I thought the workout was over. I would be able to put my feet up, drink some water… you know, the usual at the end of an exercise session. Oh, I sat down all right. But “chair” in Pilates language doesn’t mean the same thing! Then there was the barrel, the tower, balls, magic circles, and more.

By the time the hour was over, I was pretty tired, but I had made it through the workout without humiliating myself! And no joke, I honestly felt like the space between my pelvis and rib cage had lengthened. Today it is obvious that my body has received a big wake-up call; muscles I didn’t know I have are sore.

Will I be back? For sure.