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NAT/D: Dancer Preview #3

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

For our third dancer preview, we asked Orlando Julius Canova to discuss what it’s like to perform in an all-male piece.

The rumor the day Bradley Shelver arrived to cast the dancers was that Bradley was going to do a ballet only using men. Since the inception of New American Talent/Dance, no choreographer has chosen to only use men. The rumors were finally put to rest when he excused all the ladies and auditioned the ten men of Ballet Austin. In the audition that ensued we were asked to yell, tumble, and push our bodies to their physical limit. I knew that when Bradley returned to choreograph on his cast of men, it would mean one thing… PAIN.

The first day Bradley returned to choreograph, he began like a racehorse out of the starting gate. His stride was swift, and his steps were confident. From day one, Bradley was incredibly organized and sure of what he wanted. Some choreographers begin to piece work together after getting to know their dancers, but Bradley had no time for that – his brain was bursting at the seams with the ballet that danced in his mind. Bradley began to set his work immediately, and within the first day, four minutes and twenty two seconds of the ballet were choreographed.

Bradley’s entire residency continued in this pace. Bradley had a schedule and no matter how grueling and difficult, he stuck to it. Every day, I went home battered and bruised both mentally and physically. After a week of floor burn, swollen knees, and bruised thighs the ballet was finished. Let me reiterate: Bradley Shelver finished his ballet in only a WEEK.

Though done in only a week,   with six sections, two solos, and even a pas de deux, the ballet does not lack for anything. I believe that the bonds of camaraderie between the men of Ballet Austin have grown stronger. The work that took place in AustinVentures StudioTheater was focused and dedicated, and because of this Bradley’s piece is filled with anxiety, tension, beauty, athleticism, grace, and strength. This piece makes me proud to be a man of Ballet Austin.

Today is the last day of Bradley Shelver’s residency. As I write this blog I am well aware of the crick in my neck, the scabs on my feet, and the pain in my muscles. I am also well aware of the satisfaction that all these ailments give me. Bradley pushed and coached the men of Ballet Austin to the brink of insanity. When we had nothing left to give, he wanted more. When the curtain goes up on Feb, the men of Ballet Austin will give the audience more than they ever knew they could.

Tickets on sale now for New American Talent/Dance.

NAT/D Dancer Preview #2

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Improvisation, “ugly” movements and commands. James Fuller discusses Loni Landon’s choreography style.

Loni Landon started her choreographic residency at Ballet Austin by asking me and the other dancers in her piece to close our eyes and explore our feet. I turned my feet out and in, rolled my weight onto my heels and then onto to the tops of my arches and crossed my feet so far that I could barely move. In ballet class, all of these positions would have been horribly wrong, but Loni wanted us to find ways of moving that would normally feel awkward or ugly. She explained that movements that feel awkward and ugly can be fresh, interesting and beautiful in ways that traditional steps can’t.

From our feet, we moved up gradually into our knees, hips, torso, head and finally arms. After giving each part of our body its due, we started to work with each other, first in pairs and then as a group. One of us would call out a command like “freeze”, “collapse” or “rescue”, and the other dancers would respond. We soon discovered that much of Loni’s choreography was like these commands: very specific but also open to many interpretations.

The last exercise Loni gave was to perform a short solo about ourselves. She encouraged us to both speak and dance. Everyone was nervous, but the results were magical. We danced and talked about our childhoods, our years of training, our relationships and our quirks. In just a few minutes, I learned things about my coworkers that I would never have dreamed. Loni gave us this assignment because she wanted to get to know us. She wanted our personalities to be part of her piece.

For the next few days, we learned phrases and created short group dances. I found this part of the process difficult both because of the volume of material and because Loni’s approach to movement is very different from ours. Loni approaches movement holistically, and wanted us to grasp her material’s shape, dynamic and intent simultaneously. At Ballet Austin, we usually approach movement more analytically. We break down the mechanics of each step, figure out when each step happens, and after all that work is done, we think about intent. I found it very hard to break myself out of this pattern. Loni would ask me to perform her movement with full dynamic and intent before I had had a chance to break it down and assimilate it.

Fortunately, as the piece gradually came together, I started to feel more comfortable in Loni’s movement. The piece is dark and smooth, but I can see glimpses of our jagged improvisations and cheerful solos in it. It’s fascinating to see two weeks of improvisation, tension and sharing woven into a piece.

Tickets on sale now for New American Talent/Dance.

NAT/D Video Blog #1: Gregory Dolbashian

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

The first installment in a three-part series on our New American Talent/Dance choreographers.

New American Talent/Dance opens Feb 17. Don’t miss it!

NAT/D: Dancer Preview #1

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

New American Talent/Dance benefits choreographers and dancers alike. See how company dancer Beth Terwilleger learned to speak a new language.

A dance career is often too short, therefore the work that goes into it must be intense and full of passion in order to squeeze as much out of it as possible. Any chance to work with a new artist or choreographer is a gift that promises the opportunity to grow in many ways. I am lucky enough to dance for a company that not only has a director who challenges and allows his dancers to grow with his work, but one that also brings in artists to add to the richness of the company’s dancers and repertoire.

New American Talent/Dance allows for choreographers with a variety of voices and interpretations of movement to come into the world of Ballet Austin and help us grow. I feel very lucky to be a part of this project and constantly try to embrace the opportunity. With every choreographer, it is like turning into a sponge and soaking up as much as I can from the experience. Every choreographer I have worked with for NAT/D has spoken a new and different language. Some you will learn to speak better than others and some you may feel like you actually speak a little of already, but there is always a great amount of opportunity for growth.

This year I was chosen by Greg Dolbashian to be a part of his creative process and dance in his piece for NAT/D 2012. The experience of working with Greg was one that was truly unique to my dance career. Never, while growing up in a classical dance training environment, did I ever imagine I would be asked to explore the movement possibilities of dancing improvisational work, eyes closed, onstage during a performance. And this, exactly, is what Gregory asked me to do.  The improvisational work in Greg’s piece is heavily inspired by his own choreographic voice and movement style.  Greg’s language is unique and inspiring, but  it was also exceptionally challenging ; attempting to speak his language was no easy task.  Watching him move and hearing his deep understanding of movement and the emotion and the art that goes behind it allowed for me to fearlessly dive into his rehearsals. While I still feel I have a lot of work do to before I could even scrape the surface of what he is trying to pull from me as an artist, I know I have already really grown from the experience.

The beauty of a project like NAT/D is the opportunity for growth for all involved.  Not only do the dancers gain from it, but the choreographers are given a group of artists willing to explore with them and, ultimately, help them develop as well. The dancers grow, the choreographers grow, and Ballet Austin as an organization grows and benefits greatly as well. This type of support in the art world is imperative for growth, and the more we all support each other, the stronger the art world will be.

 

Tickets on sale now for New American Talent/Dance.

Dancer Holiday Wishlist

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Recently we asked our Company Dancers to name one thing or two… or three… they would like for the holidays. Their answers may surprise you. Take a look to see what’s on the wish list of YOUR favorite dancer.

James Fuller:
Pyke’s Philosophers

Jordan Moser:
A flock of silly looking chickens

Preston Andrew Patterson:
A pair of custom-made Air Jordans size 11… oh yeah and peace and goodwill towards men, and all that jazz

Beth Terwilleger:
A composting system

Aara Krumpe:
Snow in Vermont so I can take my boys sledding!

Paul Michael Bloodgood:
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 for Xbox 360

Anne Marie Melendez:
Cookbooks related to my new hobby… “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day” and “Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day” written by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. (The followups to “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”)

Ian J. Bethany:
Terry Pratchett novels, Wii games and juggling rings!

Ed Carr:
A few extra windows in my living room

Oren Porterfield:
To be free of debt

Kirby Wallis:
Warm clothes for my trip with my husband to Portland & Seattle!

Chelsea Renner:
A house. (We got it! We start moving in the day after Christmas.)

Christopher Swaim:
Another Pomeranian

Becky Johnson:
A trip to Disneyland

Michael Burfield:
A Wii and a peacoat

Orlando Julius Canova:
A red bike helmet (but a good one)

Ashley Lynn Gilfix:
A new digital camera to take photos on our African Safari Trip over the holiday break

Michelle Thompson:
Time, wine, massages and diamonds

Jaime Lynn Witts and Frank Shott:
To sleep in

Brittany Strickland:
Leg warmers

Elise Pekarek:
Cowboy boots

 
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