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Behind Ballet Austin

Archive for the ‘At the Ballet’ Category

Setting the Ballet: La Sylphide

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Associate Artistic Director Michelle Martin directing rehearsal for La Sylphide

Choreographed 1836 by August Bournonville, La Sylphide has been a staple of the repertoire of the Royal Danish Ballet for 170 years, and is generally considered to be the most important ballet created during the Romantic period. Though I have been looking forward to staging and coaching this ballet since Stephen announced this season’s programming last winter, I also found myself with some trepidation as he and I prepared to teach the dancers in early January.

When I work in the rehearsal studio with choreographers as they are creating new work, one of my primary responsibilities is to listen and observe, taking both written and mental note of the process and the product. Particularly crucial is that I have a clear understanding of the choreographer’s intentions so that I can help the dancers fully realize the choreographer’s expectations. Trying to apply that same process and sense of accountability to choreography that is nearly two centuries old is intriguing but also very daunting, and requires a lot of advance preparation and research.

Dancers rehearsing the sylph scene

Romantic ballets, in general, have unique aspects of shape and movement, but Bournonville’s work has a very specific aesthetic and theatricality. In setting La Sylphide, and working to fully capture the essence of this ballet, Stephen and I relied on our past experiences as dancers in Bournonville’s work, as well as notes and video recordings. We also had extensive conversations between ourselves and with the dancers about how to best interpret the narrative and tell this wonderful story.

Michelle Martin and dancers rehearsing the fortune-teller scene

Beyond my usual directorial responsibilities, La Sylphide has also given me the rare opportunity to participate onstage in the role of Madge, the Witch. As a dancer I was usually cast in the ingénue roles, so I’m enjoying the chance to portray a darker character. Bournonville’s emphasis on the development of the characters and their interaction makes this role particularly interesting for me and more complex than I’d originally anticipated.

While the responsibility inherent in staging a ballet like La Sylphide definitely offers some challenges, for both the dancers and our artistic team, the simple elegance of the storytelling and brilliant craftsmanship of the choreography have also made it incredibly fulfilling. All of us are looking forward to transitioning from studio rehearsals into the theater this week, anticipating the added energy and theatrical “edge” as we work with the Austin Symphony and the breathtaking scenery and costumes from the Boston Ballet. This marks the first time that Ballet Austin has presented La Sylphide and I’m certain it won’t be the last…

For Tickets and more information about La Sylphide, click here.

La Sylphide – Video Blog: A Romantic Masterpiece

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

In our last installment of the La Sylphide video blog series before the performances this weekend, Artistic Director Stephen Mills and Associate Artistic Director Michelle Martin talked to us about August Bournonville’s penchant for lavish storytelling in his ballets. And La Sylphide is one of his shining examples, one of the greatest and oldest surviving Romantic classical ballets. See you at the theater this weekend!

For Tickets and more information about La Sylphide, click here.

Austin American-Statesman: Dance, dance mania

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

“In recent years, women’s collections have included lightweight wrap cotton sweaters, leather ballet flats, skirts made from shredded fabric, feathered skirts and gowns with jeweled bodices — all of which are fashion staples for professional ballet dancers,” says fashion writer Marques Harper. His feature in today’s Austin American-Statesman Life & Arts section centers on the influence of ballet in current women’s and children’s fashion, due in part, he says, to the popularity of the Oscar-nominated Black Swan.

Marques explored this connection by visiting with Ballet Austin Company dancer Aara Krumpe and Wardrobe Assistant Emily Cavasar (both pictured in the gorgeous photo above that ran with the article). He dropped in and photographed a fitting for Aara’s costume for her principal role as the sylph in our upcoming production of La Sylphide. Click here to read the complete article.

La Sylphide Interactive

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Learn more about our production of La Sylphide through our interactive micro-site, including the history of the ballet, artist profiles, rehearsal video and more.

Click here to explore the interactive!

Choreographing Symphony of Clouds

Friday, January 28th, 2011

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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.

La Sylphide – Video Blog: An Austin Premiere

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

For the first installment of our La Sylphide video blog series, I sat down with Artistic Director Stephen Mills and Associate Artistic Director Michelle Martin. We discussed the great significance of La Sylphide and the beautiful choreographic style of August Bournonville. And they expressed their excitement about bringing this centuries-old masterpiece to the stage for the first time ever in Austin. Check out the video!

For Tickets and more information about La Sylphide, click here.

Symphony of Clouds featured in Alaska Airlines Magazine

Friday, January 21st, 2011

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This Month’s Alaska Airlines Magazine includes a column featuring our upcoming show Symphony of Clouds. This ballet, a collaboration with Pollyanna Theatre Company featuring the Ballet Austin trainees, is a fun dance-theatre retelling of the story of Mozart’s childhood.

Click the image above for a larger version. For more information about Symphony of Clouds, or to purchase tickets, click here.

The Nutcracker: Record Single Ticket Sales and Attendance for 2010 Production

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

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We are proud to announce that our 2010 production of The Nutcracker set an all-time record for single ticket sales and attendance. Thank you to the over 26,000 who joined us for Austin’s Holiday Tradition this year! Many performances of the 2010 production sold out, so mark your calendars for July 2011, when tickets for the 2011 production will go on sale.

Click here to read the complete press release.

What does The Nutcracker mean to you?

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

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We all have one, our very first memory of The Nutcracker ballet. We remember it as magically today as when we first sat in the audience, amazed by what was happening on stage.

I was five years old. I’d been taking dance classes for about a year and a half when my mom, who also grew up dancing, told me we were going on a mother-daughter date to see The Nutcracker. The what? We had quite a collection of real nutcrackers around our house so I didn’t know why we had to go see more…they weren’t that exciting. But despite the confusion, I put on my fancy red satin dress, black patent leather “heels”, enormous hair bow and hopped in the car as we headed to the Wortham Theatre in downtown Houston.

I fidgeted in my seat, still completely puzzled, as we waited for the curtain to open. And when it did…I sat perfectly still with my eyes glued to the magic and dancing that was happening before me. The production was breathtaking.

I’m now twenty-two and for the past seventeen Christmases, my mom and I haven’t missed a Nutcracker season. For me The Nutcracker represents everything I love about the holiday season: family, tradition, joy, excitement, and wonder. It was not only my first ballet, but it is still my most treasured.

So what’s your most memorable Nutcracker experience? Share with us what makes this one-of-a-kind production a treasure in your eyes! Post your story in the Comments section below and see all the different memories The Nutcracker has inspired!

The Nutcracker: From Angel to Sugar Plum Fairy

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

From the children who perform as Angels to the professionals who dance the principal role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, The Nutcracker is as much a part of ballet as tendus and pliés. It is a yearly tradition for so many dancers because it stands as a holiday tradition for so many families.

Like many others, including Company dancers Aara Krumpe and Ashley Lynn Gilfix (who are interviewed in the video above), it was the first ballet I saw as a child. So many children watch this production and dream of dancing onstage, maybe someday dancing as the Sugar Plum Fairy. And as Ashley explains, the delight of seeing The Nutcracker as a young child became one of her main inspirations for pursuing ballet.

For the Ballet Austin Academy it is a dream come true. And for the Company dancers who will perform as the Sugar Plum Fairy, it is a childhood dream realized. Check out the video above to see why, from Angel to Sugar Plum Fairy, Ballet Austin’s annual production of The Nutcracker holds a special place for everyone involved.

Click here for tickets or more information about The Nutcracker.

 
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