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Archive for the ‘ASSEMBLÉ’ Category

Famous Partnership: Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Image via our friends at thewinger.com

By Marlys Norman, Ballet Austin Trainee

In such a passionate and difficult art form like ballet, forming strong bonds with the people you dance with is almost inevitable. Just like the friends you have made since starting ballet, professional dancers do the same thing with their fellow company members and dancing partners. The connection between Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine began as any other partnership may have, but quickly developed into something bigger; something that we now consider one of the ‘great’ partnerships in dance history.

Suzanne Farrell was born in 1945 and moved to New York City when she was 15 to pursue a career in ballet. She was given a full scholarship to the School of American Ballet (George Balanchine’s ballet academy that feeds directly into his adjoining company, the New York City Ballet, or NYCB). George Balanchine himself handpicked Suzanne Farrell for NYCB when she was only 16, after one year at SAB. Her unique combination of musical, physical, and dramatic qualities is said to be what caught his eye, and of course her balletic frame and ethereal beauty. All of these characteristics inspired something in Balanchine’s choreographic imagination.

When using Suzanne in choreography, Balanchine was blown away by what she could do with her body and with ballet. She was not limited by classical ballet technique, but instead, used her strength and knowledge to interpret Balanchine’s ideas into physical form. He invented countless ballets for Suzanne that introduced completely new movements never before seen in the world of ballet. Suzanne was said to be his muse, inspiring him to push the limits of classical technique. Some of these works include Diamonds, Mozartiana, Apollo, and her most famous role of ‘Kitri’ in Balanchine’s version of Don Quixote.

After a long and successful career with NYCB, Farrell left the company, leaving her great partnership with Balanchine behind. She went on to dance for another nearly two decades while Balanchine lived out the rest of his days in New York City. After his death, she was made a repititeur for the George Balanchine Trust, an organization that nominates heirs to his ballets in order to ensure they are maintained the way Balanchine intended.

In this way, the great partnership of Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine still lives on through his ballets, the way it all began.

February Quiz: Who Am I?

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010


JANUARY QUIZ EXTENDED FOR AN ADDITIONAL MONTH!

Grab this chance to win a pair of autographed technique/pointe shoes from the Ballet Austin dancer featured in the quiz. This quiz’s deadline has been extended to March 10th, but don’t wait – post your answer without delay… today!

The Quiz:

Originally from Seattle, Washington, I have performed with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ballet Pacifica, Redlands Festival Ballet, Ballet Austin, and as a guest artist with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet. I have danced principal roles such as Hamlet in Hamlet, Romeo in Romeo & Juliet, Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, Prince Ivan in The Firebird, Prince Charming in Cinderella, and Cavalier in The Nutcracker. I have been awarded the Austin Critics Table Award twice. Who Am I?

Click here and post your answer below! The deadline for submissions is March 10. Be sure to include your first and last name. A winning answer will selected at random from all of the correct answers. The winner will receive an autographed pointe or technique shoe from the dancer featured in the quiz.*

*You must be a current Ballet Austin Academy Student in good standing in order to be eligible to win. The winner will be contacted for further details on attaining the prize. Terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.

ASSEMBLÉ – January Quiz: Who Am I?

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Originally from Seattle, Washington, I have performed with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ballet Pacifica, Redlands Festival Ballet, Ballet Austin, and as a guest artist with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet. I have danced principal roles such as Hamlet in Hamlet, Romeo in Romeo & Juliet, Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, Prince Ivan in The Firebird, Prince Charming in Cinderella, and Cavalier in The Nutcracker. I have been awarded the Austin Critics Table Award twice. Who Am I?

Click here and post your answer below! The deadline for submissions is Feb. 10. Be sure to include your first and last name. A winning answer will selected at random from all of the correct answers. The winner will receive an autographed pointe or technique shoe from the dancer featured in the quiz.*

*You must be a current Ballet Austin Academy Student in good standing in order to be eligible to win. The winner will be contacted for further details on attaining the prize. Terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.

ASSEMBLÉ – December Quiz Winner

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

The winner of the December Quiz is? (drumroll, please)? Academy Level 4A Student Layne Smith! Layne, congratulations. You correctly identified the subject of last month’s quiz as MICHELLE THOMPSON. You will be contacted to arrange a time when you can claim your prize: Ms. Thompson’s autographed pointe shoes!

Grab the chance to win your own pair of prized ballet shoes by posting a response to this month’s quiz!

ASSEMBLÉ – December Quiz: Who Am I?

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

I trained at San Francisco Ballet for nine years. This year (my seventh year at Ballet Austin!), I am performing a certain lead role in The Nutcracker for the first time. I loved performing the role of the spunky Kitri in Don Quixote, and dancing in works by Stephen Mills (Silence within Silence, Kai, Red Roses, Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project), and Gina Patterson (Free to Fly, Red Line, Liquid Eyes). Who am I?

Click here and post your answer below! The deadline for submissions is Jan. 15. Be sure to include your first and last name. A winning answer will selected at random from all of the correct answers. The winner will receive an autographed pointe or technique shoe from the dancer featured in the quiz.*

*You must be a current Ballet Austin Academy Student in good standing in order to be eligible to win. The winner will be contacted for further details on attaining the prize. Terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.

ASSEMBLÉ – November Quiz Winner

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

The winner of the November Quiz is? (drumroll, please)? Academy Level 6 Student Emily Hardick! Emily, congratulations. You correctly identified the subject of last month?s quiz as AARA KRUMPE. You will be contacted to arrange a time when you can claim your prize: Ms. Krumpe?’s autographed pointe shoes from her performance on the opening night of Stephen Mills? World Premiere, The Firebird!

Grab the chance to win your own pair of prized pointe shoes by posting a response to this month?’s quiz!

The Nutcracker Prep: A Rehearsal Day with Jaime Lynn Witts

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

By Maryls Norman, Ballet Austin Trainee

Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood

Ballet Austin dancers spend two months preparing for The Nutcracker performances. What does a day during The Nutcracker rehearsal season look like for a dancer in Ballet Austin? I interviewed dancer Jamie Lynn Witts to find out.

A normal day for Jaime begins at 9 a.m. with a technique class to warm up her body and prepare her for her day. It is important for her to use this class not only as a warm up, but also to work on steps like pirouettes and jumps that she will use later in choreography. After class, Jaime is called to a private rehearsal for the Snow King and Snow Queen where she and her partner will practice the Snow Pas de Deux. While the Snow Corps girls are running through their part in a separate room, Jaime and her partner have the chance to practice their material without distraction. The rehearsal director is also able to give undivided attention to the couple rather than trying to watch everyone at once.

Next, Jaime heads to a rehearsal for the entrance and finale of Act II in The Nutcracker. It is helpful to break apart a large ballet like The Nutcracker into more manageable pieces to rehearse, rather than running through the entire ballet each rehearsal. This saves time and allows the rehearsal director to work on specific problems without the entire company having to wait for their turn. When it gets closer to the show however, it is useful to run The Nutcracker from start to finish in order to work out transitions between divertissements (short dances in Act II).

To finish her day, Jaime rehearses her second role in The Nutcracker: the Waltz of the Flowers soloist. Just like in the morning, the Flowers Corps girls are separated from her so that she can get the most out of the rehearsal.

When you see the dancers in The Nutcracker performing seemingly effortless movements, remember that it takes hours of hard work to put on the show!

ASSEMBLÉ – Bon-Bons Across the Nation

Monday, November 30th, 2009

By Marlys Norman, Ballet Austin Trainee

So you’re in The Nutcracker this year – congratulations! Now that the initial excitement is over, it’s time to worry about costumes, choreography, and of course always pointing those feet. But where do you fit into the story of The Nutcracker? Well, it depends on your part. If you’ve been cast as a Bon-Bon, I am here to help!

In Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker, the second act opens with Clara’s journey into a magical land. A beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy greets her and introduces her to a cast of mystical characters who dance and entertain her. The Bon-Bons enter second to last, right before the Waltz of the Flowers and the dance the Sugar Plum Fairy performs with her cavalier, or king. After a series of ethnic dances from Spain, China, and France, the Bon-Bons serve to put a little fun back into the show!

As you may have discovered, Ballet Austin is not the only company to put on a show of The Nutcracker and there are countless versions found across the country. For instance, Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) in Seattle, Washington puts on a world-renowned show that is famous for its elaborate costumes and more modern twists on the story. If you are cast as a Bon-Bon at PNB, your part is called the Commedia and the Toy Theatre. In their story, Clara’s old uncle accompanies Clara to the magical land of the Sugar Plum fairy. During this scene, he opens his long cloak to expose a toy theatre where little dolls are dancing around. Now, when you perform this part, you don’t actually have to dance inside a cloak, but the old uncle will flourish his coat and all of you will seem to magically appear!

Another company whose version of The Nutcracker is world-famous is the New York City Ballet (NYCB). You may have heard of a choreographer and director named George Balanchine. This is his arrangement of the beloved Christmas story. To begin with, if you have been cast in NYCB’s The Nutcracker, congratulations; only about twenty kids from their school are chosen each year to perform with the company! Here, the Bon-Bons are called Pollichinelles, which is a fancy name for clowns. Like The Nutcracker at Ballet Austin, this part is supposed to be funny! The little Pollichinelles, or “Pollys,” as the company calls them, surprise their mother (Mother Ginger) by running out of her big skirt and beginning to dance. Four girls and four boys dance in pairs until Mother Ginger calls them back under her skirt. In Mr. Balanchine’s choreography, however, Mother Ginger has already started to move off-stage while her children are doing emboités to catch up to her. In all, the kids have to do a total of 32 emboités to get back under the skirt, and that’s at the end of the dance!


To learn more about different productions of The Nutcracker, explore these resources:

Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker Interactive Dance Resource

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s The Nutcracker Video:
Nutcracker,The Motion Picture (VHS 1984).

New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker Video:
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (DVD 1997).

ASSEMBLÉ – A Famous Dancer Born In November: Maya Plisetskaya

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Image via ballerinagallery.com

By Alexa Capareda and Kara Quinn Bologna, Ballet Austin Trainees

If your birthday is in November, you can be proud to say that you were born the same month as one of the most famous ballerinas in history.

Name: Maya Plisetskaya (Pronounced Pleh-set-sky-ya)

Born: November 20, 1925

Nationality: Russian

Most Famous For: The Dying Swan, which Michel Fokine originally created for Anna Pavlova and was later associated as Maya Plisetskaya’s signature role, showcasing her supple back and graceful arms. Her long arms had a fluidity that to this day remains unmatched. Her most acclaimed roles during her time as a principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet include Odette and Odile in Swan Lake, Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, and Kitri in Don Quixote. She was known for the height of her jumps, the technical strength of her dancing, and her charisma. Her bright red hair and striking looks made her a glamorous figure on and off the stage. She expressed great musicality in her dancing, and her presence guaranteed excitement.

Fun Facts:

  • Maya Plisetskaya retired from the Bolshoi Ballet at the age of sixty-five.
  • At age seventy, Maya received rave reviews for her remarkable performance of her signature The Dying Swan at New York City Hall.
  • Maya was also a talented choreographer. Her ballets Anna Karenina, The Seagull, and Lady with a Lapdog are all based on Russian literature with music especially composed by her husband, Rodion Shchedrin.
  • Once when Maya was very young, she was expelled for violating the disciplinary demands of her ballet class. Unabashed, she told her teacher that she didn’t care and would “go and sell apples.” In less than two weeks she was back in class again.

Three Degrees of Separation From Ballet Austin:

Believe it or not, someone who knows someone who knows Maya Plisetskaya is right in our midst! Preston Patterson, an apprentice in his second season with Ballet Austin, grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. At his first ballet studio, he had a teacher named Ramazon Bapov. Mr. Bapov was a retired ballet dancer from Moscow—in fact, he was once a principal dancer at the Bolshoi Ballet during the time that Maya was performing!

To learn more about Maya Plisetskaya, explore these resources:

  • Vosnesensky, Andrei. Maya Plisetskaya. Progress Publishers: 1976.
    With 175 pages and more than 100 photographs, this book is an enduring testimony to Maya’s exceptional beauty and artistic talent.
  • Maya Plisetskaya—Diva of Dance. Feat. Maya Plisetskaya, Nikolai Fadeyechev, Yuri Zhdanov. Naxos, 2006. DVD.
    This DVD contains a dozen excerpts from ballet danced by Maya and her partners, including Spartacus, Isadora, and Bolero, three ballets never before seen on DVD.
  • Maya: Portrait of Maya Plisetskaya. Dir. Dominique Delouche. Feat. Maya Plisetskaya, Maurice Bejart. VAI, 1999. DVD.
    This documentary paints a complete picture of who Maya Plisetskaya was as a dancer, a woman, and a person, paying due tribute to all the aspects of her life that made her who she is today.

ASSEMBLÉ – Quiz: Who Am I?

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Photo by Amitava SarkarPhoto by Amitava Sarkar

I am originally from Texas. I was an apprentice with Ballet Austin II before joining the main company in 2001. I received a 2007 Austin Critic’s Table Award for Outstanding Dancer for my performance in George Balanchine’s Serenade and Twyla Tharp’s The Golden Section. In 2009, I performed a lead role in a world premiere choreographed by Stephen Mills (Ballet Austin’s Artistic Director). Who am I?

Click the article title or click here and post your answer in the comment box below! Be sure to include your first and last name. A winning answer will selected at random from all of the correct answers. The winner will receive an autographed pointe or technique shoe from the dancer featured in the quiz.*

Deadline for submissions is December 10!

*You must be a current Ballet Austin Academy Student in good standing in order to be eligible to win. The winner will be contacted for further details on attaining the prize. Terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.

 
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