Need a good reason to come see Viktor Plotnikov’s fiery “Carmen” at FBP November 1-10? We’ll give you 5!
The music. “Carmen” boasts one of the most iconic and powerful scores in the history of music. If you think that sounds dramatic, try listening to the classic “Habanera” without swaying your shoulders and humming along!
The passion. From the scorned love of Micaela and Don Jose to Carmen’s fiery seduction, this ballet is not lacking in sensuality. Love, lust, and desire converge- and we’ve saved you front row seats!
The choreography. FBP’s “Carmen” was the first full-length ballet choreographed by Viktor Plotnikov, now the Company’s Resident Choreographer. “Carmen” gave rise to the distinct and captivating vision of this prophetic dance maker, with a breathtaking style you’ll want to get lost in.
The drama. We won’t give too much away here- but with epic fight scenes and frisky factory girls, this ballet will have you on the edge of your seat the whole way through.
The intimate setting. FBP’s “Carmen” was originally created for the main stage, but this adaptation for the Black Box Theater at Up Close On Hope brings the action even closer, immersing the audience in every emotional step.
There you have it! Five fantastic reasons not to miss FBP’s “Carmen” in the Black Box Theater this November. But hurry! Get your tickets here.
FBP’s “Carmen” opens this weekend at Up Close On Hope, so we sat down with dancers Eugenia Zinovieva and Alex Lantz (who will be dancing the roles of Carmen and Don Jose), for a coffee and a snack at Seven Stars Bakery to hear all the tea…
Drink order: Eugenia & Alex both- small hot coffee half-caff
Treat of choice: Eugenia- Vegetarian sandwich, Alex- Yogurt Parfait
You two premiered together in this ballet three years ago. How does it feel to revisit these characters and this ballet? What has changed?
Alex: I can tell that I’ve improved as a dancer. There were things last time that really scared me, and those things don’t make me so nervous anymore.
Eugenia: The steps that needed a lot of work last time feel much easier this time, which opens up space to work on more detailed things. It just kind of flew back together and felt very smooth and easy.
Alex: Because we work together so much, there’s a natural rhythm to it.
What do you find challenging about dancing these roles?
Eugenia: Character-wise for Carmen, she is so different from me as a person. Portraying her personality takes a lot of digging in and finding a part of me that I would never enact in real life. I want to react to things on stage the way I would, but I have to hold that back and react how Carmen would instead.
Alex: Don Jose’s character progresses so much throughout the ballet, I have to try and stay with him on that journey. Maintaining the character arch as he becomes more emotionally vulnerable is challenging.
What do you enjoy the most about this ballet?
Eugenia: The music! It’s iconic.
Alex: Viktor’s specific language with this ballet has such a good style to it, you can get really engrossed in it.
What makes this version of Carmen special?
Eugenia:In a lot of the versions of Carmen that I’ve seen, Carmen is just a one-dimensional sexual being, but in this version she has some really tender moments. There are more sides to her. She’s gritty and bold, she’s an animal. I like that Viktor really differentiated her character that way.
Alex: I think it’s also interesting how Micaela really drives the plot in this version. Don Jose’s story is really effected by his relationship with Micaela and how he ruins that. This begins his decline, and it’s great how FBP’s version of this story really highlights that.
For more information and tickets to see Viktor Plotnikov’s “Carmen” November 1-10, click here.
FBP’s chatterBOXtheatre does not shy away from a little noise. We encourage our young audiences to laugh out loud, applaud enthusiastically, jeer the villains, hum the music, and well, create chatter!
Saturdays and Sundays October 12-20, Hansel & Gretelaudiences will have another layer to listen to; Composer David Ikard created an original soundscape just for this show! It’s textured with recurring melodies and haunting sound effects that transport listeners into the dark world of this familiar fairytale. Today, we hear from David about how this intricate composition came together…
Hi David! Tell us, how did your partnership with Ilya Kozadayav to create the soundscape for Festival Ballet Providence’s Hansel & Gretel come about?
My collaboration with Ilya started after he had seen some of my work performed at the University of Oklahoma. I was working with another faculty member in the dance department, at the time. Ilya saw the piece and thought that my particular style might lend itself well to this project. So, he contacted me and we started bouncing ideas around.
So you had composed music for dance before, then?
I had worked with choreographers on a few other projects, but never one of this scale. Typically, the pieces I had completed ranged from eight to twelve minutes… never a whole ballet.
Very cool. This score has quite a spooky sound to it, which feels very appropriate for autumn, with Halloween right around the corner. Did you have any outside inspiration while creating it, or were you focused completely on the story of Hansel & Gretel?
When Ilya and I began the process, he showed me some images to relay a sort of visual representation of how he wanted the whole work to feel. There was definitely an underlying level of creepiness that we were trying to create. However, most of the sonic material of the piece comes directly from objects or scenes within the story.
It sounds like you must have had a pretty detailed idea of each scene. How closely did you work with choreographer Ilya Kozadayev throughout the process?
I worked very closely with Ilya throughout the process. We discussed what would be happening in each scene ahead of time. We would talk about the actual physical location of the scene, which characters would be present and what they would be doing. Then I would try to paint the scene in sound, almost like creating a “sonic set,” in a way.
One frequent adjustment that needed to be addressed was rhythm. I come out of a background of experimental electronic music. For the most part, rhythm is somewhat frowned upon, within this circle. I know, this is a rather strange problem for someone who has written for dance almost exclusively for the past four years, but it was an issue that I had to remedy. So I would think of ways to put cues in for the dancers and areas of rhythm that would help them with timing issues, etc.
That is so interesting and unexpected! Listening to the finished product, much of the ballet does have a very danceable rhythm. It certainly helps us dancers tell the story. How do you approach composing when the ultimate goal of a work is narrative storytelling?
No matter what type of music I’m writing, the ultimate goals are to make it interesting (both to me, and to others) and to make it emotionally affective. Is this sound interesting to me and does it relay the appropriate emotional content? Driving the narrative with sound is a little tricky. It’s kind of like making all of the sounds of a movie before the film has been shot.
The intent of the ChatterBOXtheatre is to inspire the imagination of children through music and dance. What elements of this soundscape should our audience listen for? Were any of these sound effects particularly fun to create?
I really enjoyed making the scene where Hansel and Gretel get lost in the woods. On a whole, I would recommend that they listen closely to each sound.
Try to see where it’s coming from, how it develops, and where it goes. Also, they might want to think about how they would tell a story in sound, themselves.
For example, in the forest scene, I set the characters in the woods and have various sorts of insects and scary birds drive the drama. At the end of the scene, Hansel and Gretel come upon a creepy house in the woods. So, I needed to paint the image of a scary cabin in the audience’s mind’s eye. Well, what does a cabin in the woods sound like? This can be a complicated thing to portray in sound. I came up with wind chimes and the distant sound of shutters hitting the side of a house. Then I added a harmonica tune, in order to let the audience know that it wasn’t an empty house. It would be interesting to see how the children would set this scene in sound.
Fall is officially here, and with the shift in the wind comes a spooky family production at Festival Ballet Providence’s chatterBOXtheatre! The classic Grimm’s Brothers tale, Hansel & Gretel, comes to the Black Box on Hope Street, Saturdays and Sunday October 12-20, 2019. We sat down with Hansel & Gretel choreographer Ilya Kozadayev to get the inside scoop on how he created this fun fan-favorite…
So Ilya, what is your approach when choreographing a children’s ballet? Do you think being a father yourself helped you see the ballet through the eyes of a child?
Being a dad, I have learned that kids are very intuitive when it comes to following a visual story. I tried to focus on clearly developing characters in the beginning, making their later journeys easier to follow. In this case, the plot of Hansel & Gretel is written for a young audience, so there is no need to simplify the story. My goal was to lay out the scenes and transitions clearly.
Even though Hansel & Gretel was written for a young audience, this is quite a grim (Grimm, heh) story. How do you get into the minds of dark characters like the Stepmother and the Witch? What goes into developing these characters?
I read the book as a child, so I already had a preconceived notion of the dark characters built up in my head. However, I wanted to refresh these old childhood images. To do this, I researched some cases of neglected parenting, living in isolation and even serial killers and cannibalism. I watched a few scary shows, refreshing these dark characters to create ‘still images’ in my head, which I then I animated.
Kirsten Evans as the Stepmother, photo by Dylan Giles
Alex Lantz as the Witch, photo by Dylan Giles
That’s sounds like a cool- and creepy- process. Are the evil characters connected in any way in your mind?
I am sure on some level the two evil characters are connected. Perhaps it is the stepmother who walks her (hungry) kids into the woods on purpose, to later lure them with food and eat the children as a witch? It is interesting that in the story the stepmother dies as does the witch…
Hmmm, we’ll have to leave it up to the audience to decide! How important is it to you that this young audience walks away from the ballet with something that makes them think?
It is important to me that young audience walks away with an experience! We cannot dictate anyone what to think as creators, and the story itself is written with many lessons without choreography. In my opinion, performing art, and dance in particular, being a physical, visual form communicates to those observing it in a different way, on a different level. Hopefully it reaches young minds and their experience leads to ‘a lesson’.
Why do you think it is important to make ballets specifically geared toward children like we do with chatterBOXtheatre at FBP?
I think its important to expose children to art in general. This is live art that is so close you can “reach” the characters with your hands, see, hear and “feel” their movement. At ChatterBOX, observers are so close to live action. In an age where communication is isolated with a screen this kind of live, raw experience is important.
Thank you, Ilya! Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with David Ickard, the composer who created an original soundscape for FBP’s Hansel & Gretel, coming soon to the blog!
On Saturday, June 1, 2019, students from the Festival Ballet Providence School will showcase their talents in Culmination 2019 at Sapinsley Hall at Rhode Island College. This year’s production features an original one-act ballet, The Seasons, conceived and choreographed by FBP’s school director, Vilia Putrius and set to music by Alexander Glazunov. This monumental work features children in vibrant costumes portraying characters from frigid Winter Frost and icy Snow Crystals to fluttering Butterflies and Birds. The production also includes multimedia art and projection, and even a few surprises.
For eleven years, Vilia was a leading dancer in FBP’s company until her retirement from the company in 2017. In the fall of 2018, Vilia returned as Director of the FBP School, leading the teachers and classes of more than 150 students from pre-ballet to adult. Asked about the end of her first year as director and about this culminating event, Vilia said, “Working on Seasons has awakened so many memories for me, of being a student myself in Lithuania and the excitement of dancing with the other students in front of all of our parents and friends. It will be wonderful seeing all of these young dancers in costume, proud of their achievements and sharing their gifts, just as I remember.”
We thought you might like to hear some of the thoughts of two FBP school students who each offer their own perspectives:
First up is William Kinloch, a 10 year-old who at this young age, is already a veteran of the FBP school (he began taking classes when he was only three years old). He looks ahead at opportunities and the inspiration he finds in ballet and in his own studies.
I was inspired to come to ballet class after I saw The Nutcracker at the San Francisco Opera House in December of 2011. The show sparked my passion for dance, which gets stronger every passing day.
Overall, I enjoy how expressive and meaningful ballet is. In terms of technique, I love the movement of ballet – how you can make it flowy or rigid or any other form that suits the moment of expression. One of my favorite moves to practice is the grand battement. I love this move because the action of it is to throw your leg as high as you can into the air. It feels reaching as high as I can to the heavens.
Culmination is most definitely my favorite show of the year because the show is based on kids and we all have a role that is alike, something in common to share with each other. It’s really fun putting it all together and taking the stage together. This year we have something special to offer called The Seasons. It is a ballet that collects all four seasons of the year, and every kid dances a role in one of the seasons. For example, my ballet level, BB3, is dancing in spring; I am a bird, and the girls are playing greenery. It has been so fun to collaborate to with other ballet levels. I love dancing with Maddie, the spring fairy.
I think about being a professional dancer every day. I always dream about myself as a dancer at professional companies. My biggest dream is to be a professional dancer. I am moonstruck by João Sampiao at Festival Ballet, and I hope some day to be like him. I love how clean his movements are and how intentional everything he does looks. I love how pointed his feet are and I love how kind he is.
Next is Amanda Emby, age 17, who started classes in 2011 and looks back on this past year and on the many rewards dancing at FBP has provided.
This past year at Festival Ballet Providence School has truly been such a challenging, yet amazing experience for me. I feel very lucky to be coached and mentored by the outstanding faculty here at the School. They encourage and inspire me to grow as an artist every day.
I have had the privilege of performing this year alongside the company in productions such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.
Being able to not only perform with the company, but to see firsthand the hard work and dedication they pour into their productions is a unique experience for myself and all of Festival’s students. They show us that our aspirations are attainable with dedication, determination, persistence, and a lot of sweat!
Observing them, pushes us to work hard despite any obstacles that may occur.
There will be many little ones taking the stage this year for the very first time… even a furry friend! Yes, Petipaw will be making his debut on stage this Culmination. He’s going to be the star of the show, if I don’t say so myself!
In The Seasons I will be featured as Summer Fairy. She embodies elegance, grace, and radiates as if she’s the sun. Not only is it amazing to dance a principal role, but to dance alongside my best fiends and venture into this journey together… teamwork makes the dream work! Having a second family at FBP School provides a great sense of community and camaraderie!
FBP’s 41st Season is nearing its grand finale! We are bringing together students and professionals to celebrate the end of another fantastic season with a full production of the iconic Swan Lake. We spoke with a few members of the children’s cast, Hannah Yelnosky, Isobel Lewis, and Cullen Gamache, to find out how they are preparing for this exciting opportunity.
Hello, dancers! So first tell us, what role do you dance in Swan Lake, and what is the best part about your role?
Hannah: I dance the role of Neopolitan Corps [in the third act of the ballet]. The best part about this role is that we get to dance with a tambourine. We are allowed to be a little sassy and using the tambourine lets us do that! Ballet class is all about technique, but this role is exciting because we can let some of that technique go and really try to build a convincing character.
Isobel: I dance as a village girl [in the first act of the ballet], and the best part about my role is that I get to watch and react to everything going on on the stage.
Cullen: I am a Youth villager in Act I. I really like the acting parts we get to do in this scene. We have to look at the jester and act surprised and laugh at him. I really like interacting with the Jester.
Okay then, what is the hardest part of your role?
Hannah: The hardest part about this role is that there are seven other girls in the corps. It can be tricky to make sure that we are all on the same counts and that our spacing is correct. Because we are a corps it is important to talk to each other before and after rehearsal to make sure we are all on the same page.
Isobel: The hardest part of my role is probably the timing of our dance and understanding the timing. It’s hard because you have to be on every count and know exactly what’s coming next and be ready.
Cullen: The dancing is the hardest part. It’s not that long, but when it comes down to it, there’s a lot of traffic. I bumped into a lot of people my first time doing it. When we first started learning, it was only a couple of weeks away from the performance. There’s a lot to learn in a short amount of time.
What is it like dancing alongside the professional company in such an iconic ballet?
Hannah: Swan Lake is my favorite ballet and it is such an honor to be given the chance to perform alongside the professional company. It is so inspiring to watch them in rehearsal because they are what we all are striving to be. After every professional show I’m a part of, I always leave with an extra burst of motivation because being around professional ballerinas gives you that determination to be like them.
Isobel: It’s really cool, especially as a village child, that I get to see everything that’s happening and watch the technique of the company dancers and how much effort they put into their work.
Cullen: You look up to them as somebody you want to be when you grow up. When already training as a student, dancing next to professionals is inspiring. You think, “I can be like that one day.” I really like Alex and Ty’s dancing. I’ve had Alex as a teacher and I really look up to him.
What are you looking forward to most in Swan Lake?
Hannah: I’m most excited about dancing in such a beautiful venue on such a big stage. Being a senior, it is possible that this might be my last professional show ever, so I am just trying to soak in this experience that I may never get again.
Isobel: I’m most excited about watching the dancers perform and dancing in a professional ballet next to professional dancers. I’m preparing by practicing a lot at home and trying my very best at each rehearsal.
Cullen: Just being in Swan Lake, being in the theater it’s all very exciting. I’m excited to miss school, too. I like performing for people I know, like I had my classmates come to Nutcracker and my friends and family are coming to Swan Lake.
Catch the incredible children’s cast on stage at Swan Lake, Mother’s Day weekend at The Vets! Click here for tickets.
Veteran company dancer Eugenia Zinovieva has danced everything from Sugar Plum to Carmen in her time at FBP, but next week she’ll make one of the most exciting debuts of her career as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake. This coveted role in the classical repertoire is unique in that the ballerina must dance as two different characters: Odette, the ballet’s sympathetic heroine, and Odile, a coy villainess, capable of cruel deceit. We sat down with Eugenia to hear how she’s preparing for this role of a lifetime…
FBP has performed Swan Lake a number of times over the years. It’s a classic that never gets old–our dancers and audiences alike always come back to it. What do you think it is that makes this ballet so iconic and powerful? I think, similar to the Nutcracker, it’s familiar to people. Tchaikovsky’s music is just so memorable, it really sticks in your head. And the image of a flock of white swans also so striking. I think the imagery and the themes in the music–similar to in a work like Phantom of the Opera, where everyone knows certain parts of it–really work to draw people into the story.
How many times have you danced Swan Lake before? What other roles have you danced in the ballet? I’ve only danced Swan Lake once before, but I danced just about everything except Odette/Odile! I did Pas de Trois and the Prince’s friends in Act I, Swans and Big Swans in Act II and IV, and the Hungarian Princess in the third act. I got to do a lot of different roles all in one go!
Since Odette/Odile is such a major role, do you feel that the rehearsal process is more intense this time around? No actually! It’s so nice just to focus on one role. Even though it’s kind of two roles, it’s so much more cohesive and I have a bit more time offstage. In this part, when I’m onstage I can focus less on just getting through it, and more on the actual dancing!
What have been the biggest challenges and rewarding aspects in preparing for your debut as Odette/Odile? One challenge has been finding the different ways to separate the characters of Odette and Odile. Sometimes I may think that I’m differentiating them in my head, but the way my movements come across I’m told, ‘Oh, you’re doing that too much like Odette, you need to be more like Odile.’ It’s really about finding the different head movements, Odile’s sharpness versus Odette’s control, which takes a lot of practice and focus.
What’s been really rewarding to me, though, having seen so many ballerinas perform this before me, between watching it on youtube and seeing it live, is finally getting to do those same movements onstage. Getting to create the same characters and go through the same process as all these other crazy-talented ballerinas is just amazing to me.
Having watched countless other ballerinas dance Odette/Odile, is this a role that you’ve dreamt of getting to dance yourself? I honestly never thought that this would be something I get to do! I mean, I think it’s every girl’s dream to do Swan Lake, but I never imagined that I’d actually be dancing Odette. That’s crazy!
Congrats! We’re all so excited to see you make your debut in this role! What parts of the ballet are you most excited to perform onstage? I really enjoy Act III where I dance as Odile. There’s still a lot that I’m working, on but I really enjoy the acting in that section. I love just getting to be this sassy, kind of evil character, with a dark side to her. She’s toying with the prince the whole time, and that whole section has just been really fun to work on.
Of the two characters it sounds like enjoy dancing Odile more, but what are some of the things you like about each character? I definitely feel more comfortable with Odile’s choreography. Physically, I feel more comfortable doing faster movements onstage. She’s got turns and jumps, whereas Odette is more about control and balance, which is more difficult for me as a dancer. But Odette also has all these really gorgeous upper body movements, with the way that she expresses through her arms and head. When I find a moment like that, where I can open up my upper body more, that feels really nice. So I am enjoying finding that part of this role as well. Still, Odile is more fun physically with jumping and turning!
Where have you found inspiration throughout this rehearsal process? I have watched a ton of videos online, pretty much every video I could get my hands on of other professional ballerinas doing this role. I’m trying to take a little bit of inspiration from each of those. I also get inspiration from Milica Bijelic, our rehearsal director for Swan Lake. She’s done this role so many times, and she has a lot of wisdom to share. I get inspiration from my partner, João Sampaio, too. We always draw off each other’s energy and ask each other, ‘How can we make this better? How can we work together to make this look really good?’
I think I can speak for you and all the members of this company in saying that Swan Lake is a very special ballet. What do you think our audiences will take away from this treasured classic? Swan Lake really takes you away. It’s human, because you have all this emotion. I was watching the scene with the prince the other day, where he realizes he’s been tricked. You can just see the heartbreak, and I think that’s an emotion that everyone can connect with. Yet at the same time it’s magical. I mean, we’ve got all these swans onstage and it’s just beautiful. You get the chance to take yourself out of reality… but you can still connect with it.
See Eugenia take the stage as the Swan Queen next weekend, May 10-12, at The Vets! Click for tickets!
Please Note: Eugenia Zinovieva dances Odette/Odile May 10 and 12. Kirsten Evans dances Odette/Odile May 11. Casting is subject to change without notice.
If blossoming trees and longer days are making you feel more creative, well here are 11 MORE reasons to feed your inner-artiste at Festival Ballet Providence’s “Swan Lake” May 10-12 at The Vets…
We dropped our first hint in the introduction- it’s MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND! Skip the generic flowers and thank your mom for all of the wonderful things she does with something that will really wow her: tickets to the ballet!
You and your mom (or you know, whoever else you decide to bring along) will get lost in the BELOVED STORY. Swan Lake is such a classic tale, but FBP’s version may surprise you! You’ll have come to the theater to find out…
Natalie Portman may have made her famous, but that BLACK SWAN is more breathtakingly beautiful and devious than ever on stage. Come see the infamous Black Swan IRL, and choose a side. #TeamOdile
For the first time ever, FBP is presenting ALL NEW SETS! Witness the stunning new backdrop that will transform The Vets into an ominous lake full of enchanted princesses, an opulent royal court, and more!
Swan Lake is CLASSICAL BALLET AT ITS FINEST. Rhode Island’s premiere ballet company is EN POINTE! See what we did there?
Get inspired by the COMMANDING ATHLETICISM displayed by the dancers as they navigate through some of classical ballet’s most challenging choreography to date. You may even feel moved to try mixing dance into your work out routine!
Let the precision of the CORPS DE BALLET mesmerize you, as 16 swans move together like one body.
See dozens of dancers make their DEBUTS! Many of the principal and soloist roles will be premiere performances for the dancers- an exciting event to witness!
Tchaikovsky’s DRAMATIC MUSICAL SCORE will enrapture you with its expressive melodies and aching strings.
This ICONIC BALLET has been performed and interpreted by ballet companies the world over for nearly 150 years. Come see what all the fuss is about and join the conversation!
Did we mention it’s MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND?!?!? For real, your mom will be smiling a little wider this year. You can thank us later.
For tickets to FBP’s “Swan Lake”, click here. Also, join us as we toast the 41st Season at our special Gala event, Monday May 13- tickets and more information here!
A brand new adaptation of the classic tale of “The Three Little Pigs” hits the ChatterBOX Theatre TOMORROW! Choreographer Louisa Mejeur has reimagined this story with a few fun twists- including a Mother Wolf and two Wolf Pups in place of the traditional “Big Bad” villain. Today, we sat down with the Wolf Pups- Melissa, Kailee, Brenna, and Olivia- to get the inside scoop on these playful puppies! And to have some delicious Seven Stars Bakery snacks, of course…
Treat of choice… Melissa: iced coffee & a ginger star cookie Kailee: hot coffee and an oatmeal raisin cookie Brenna: hot coffee and a coconut macaroon Olivia: London Fog and a cheese scone
So ladies, how do you get into character when you’re playing a baby animal instead of a human child?
Brenna: I try think about some of the puppies that I’ve been around lately, and channel them. Melissa: It’s really fun because there’s a good balance between showing that you’re a mischievous little kid and also a puppy. Kailee: There’s that nice balance and it’s also a challenge, because you have to still let the character read to the audience and tell the story. Olivia: It actually feels like a cartoon character. These pups have a lot of energy.
What is the relationship between the pups and the Mother Wolf?
Kailee: Louisa set everything up with a good relationship between the wolf family. There’s a good connection there that we’ve been able to build off of in rehearsals. Brenna: This version tells the story of a bond between a mother and her children and her providing for them. It really gives the audience a way to connect with the wolves, who are usually seen only as the “bad guys.”
Do any of you have a favorite part of the ballet?
Olivia: I love the handshake. Brenna: Louisa asked us to create our own special handshake for one section of the ballet. We found inspiration from all over- movies, ballets, sports. Olivia: it’s one of the most genuine moments because we are actually having so much fun. Melissa: Everyone is really focused and present with their partners, because there are so many parts to the handshake. Kailee: Each of the wolves personalities come out in the handshake a lot.
What makes this version of “The Three Little Pigs” different from the story everyone knows?
Olivia: It’s not a bad guy and a good guy. This version tells two stories, the wolves and the pigs. Melissa: It was a very smart way to do it, I think. The kids can come away with this perspective that people may have reasons for acting out. It teaches a good lesson, which was just so smart of Louisa to weave in. Also, the way Louisa laid out the ballet, every character is important. It’s very smart. Olivia: Each new character that gets introduced, the audience will fall in love with. Kailee: Yes, every character counts. Melissa: And there’s so much to see. You need to see it a few times to catch everything!
Louisa has been a dancer here in the past. How is it now, having Louisa back- and in front of the studio this time?
Olivia: Everything about this ballet is just so cute and fuzzy feeling! Kailee: Sometimes when your colleague turns boss, it can be a struggle, but there were no feelings of animosity. Everything was so respectful and just smooth and lovely. Brenna: Louisa thought of everything. From the choreography, to the costumes, and the sets. She had a plan. Olivia: And a plan B! Kailee: And the pantomime is so good, there’s no need for narration in the ballet! Children will easily be able to follow the story.
I know you all have a special place for ChatterBOX Theatre in your hearts. Why is ChatterBOX so fun for the dancers?
Brenna: Children is the most fulfilling audience. Olivia: When the kids are right there in the Black Box, you can hear every comment from them and it’s so cute. Kailee: They are so honest, and so excited to see us after the show. It makes me so happy. Melissa: If you’re doing ChatterBOX, and you have to do something ridiculous to make kids laugh, it makes dancing something vulnerable in a more sophisticated show a bit easier. Like everything just becomes normal, even if it’s absurd, haha! Kailee: Over time, nothing feels weird anymore. [all laugh]
Brenna: We’re so happy to the generous support from our neighbors at Seven Stars Bakery. Melissa: We’re celebrating 10 years of bringing people together over cookies and conversation! Everyone should come celebrate with us!
Ask anyone at FBP and they’ll tell you: We are a family! That’s why we are so thrilled to welcome one of our favorite FBP family members, Louisa Mejeur back to Providence to create a brand new, updated version of The Three Little Pigs for the ChatterBOX Theatre, running March 23-31.
Louisa originally came to FBP as a dancer in 2012, performing with the Company for three seasons before moving to Virginia with her husband. Louisa returned to Providence for FBP’s 40th Anniversary season last year, before making a big move to Japan in 2018. This month she is back in Rhode Island with her imaginative adaptation of The Three Little Pigs. We sat down with Louisa to find out more…
How does it feel to be back in Providence (all the way from Japan!) working with the Company again?
It feels wonderful be back in Lil’ Rhody with my Festival family. Of the many places I have lived in the US, New England feels the most like home. As for FBP, I have been working on this ballet off and on for a year now, and it is incredible to finally see it come to life with a company I know and love.
What made you want to choreograph a ballet for children?
It has been next on my list for a while now. I have choreographed shorter works and wanted the chance to flesh out an entire story. I also wanted to harness the special joy and energy that comes when you perform for children. When dancing with FBP, the Discover Dance school shows of Nutcracker and the ChatterBOX Theatre performances were some of my favorites, because the kids were so open and appreciative of what they like.
“I wanted to create something that was honest in its storytelling and used kid-logic and simple humor to try to bring them joy.”
My hope is also that the dancers embrace the love in it and experience freedom and joy when they perform it.
Why do you think it’s important that children be involved in the arts?
I think kids should be involved in the arts so that it gives them a specific outlet for their creativity because they gush it forth like a fountain! Have you ever listened to the babble that comes out of a two year old? Have you seen the pictures kids draw, the dance moves they whip out, or the way they try and solve problems? I believe getting them involved in the arts shows them how to focus their creativity to achieve new things.
Tell us a bit about your version of The Three Little Pigs.
I changed the story line to make it less morbid. No child should see a wolf eat a pig onstage, no bueno. I gave the pigs some backstory by making them apple farmers. After a big storm, the pigs come to a new area of the forest looking for a place to rebuild their home and plant a new orchard. Along the way, they meet other delightful barnyard animals who join their cause to build a home.
I replaced the typical, “Big, Bad MALE Wolf” with a mother wolf and her two pups. Mother Wolf has such depth of character; Though she is fierce and strong, she wrestles with providing nourishment for her pups. I am hoping that the moms in the audience will resonate with her exhaustion and annoyance at her pup’s boundless energy. The pups are inspired by my golden doodle, Olive, and are probably the funniest part of this entire ballet. I won’t give away the end but the apple farming comes in handy…
Those pups are pretty adorable. What else makes this ballet special?
First is the music- I am using Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, the “Pastoral.” As a child, I used to sit in front of our stereo for hours listening to this music, envisioning sheep frolicking in a field and a fearsome storm wracking the forest. I know from experience this is a piece of music children relate to!
Secondly, the updated villain in the piece may be relatable for some audience members. I hope kids are able to see that many times we act out because we are hurting inside or have misplaced desires.
Lastly, the variety of inspirations for the piece including observing my dog, my sister-in-law’s chickens, and YouTube videos of wolves has given me a whole new vocabulary of “animal” movements. I was also inspired by learning about Kali, Filipino stick fighting, wind storms, and the silliest types of dancing you can imagine up to bring this all together!
What has been the biggest challenge in creating this show?
The biggest challenge turned out to be the non-dance-related things: the set design, costume design, lighting design, and music editing, which I don’t have much experience with. I was blessed that my mother is an engineer and volunteered her time to create an incredible set house. Thank you, Mom.
All these challenges were made more difficult by communicating halfway around the world! In Japan, I would wake up early and chat with Misha and my mother while it was evening in the States. It was hard for me to manage up my time and keep all my mental ducks in a row.
Since the first time you choreographed on FBP, you’ve danced with other companies and lived in a few different locations. How has your choreographic style evolved with this?
I am going to give you a long, nerdy answer for this one!
When I teach kids about choreography, I always label learning a new technique, style, or idea about movement as “putting a new tool in their choreographic toolbox.” Every company I have danced with has given me “more tools” to chisel out a piece that communicates what I want.
I danced with a modern company in Virginia for two years, where I learned the Hawkin’s technique, which emphasizes the clarity of gestures and more stark, static movement. It was here I learned that every movement actually said something. From the modern Graham technique, I learned new ways to spiral and contract the torso, especially gaining articulation in your sternum and collarbone.
The biggest “tool shop” for me came when I attended Nederland Dans Theater’s Summer Program. I had the honor of working on a solo by Crystal Pite, a choreographer who is a role model of mine. She changes the traditional soft-shape of the dancing hand and gives it so much energy and weight that you can use it as an initiator. I chose this as a defining characteristic of the wolves in The Three Little Pigs. Most importantly, I learned Gaga Technique, an improvisational style in which dancers are given verbal prompts but every movement that comes out is entirely their own. It helped me find out how MY body likes to move and communicate.
Lastly, moving to Japan gave me the gift of TIME to develop my style. To choreograph, I need the freedom to sit down and listen to a piece of music over and over and over again. Though my career is not what I have expected it to be, this time in Japan has given me the opportunity to do something I have always wanted to do–choreograph this ballet!
We are so happy to have you back in Providence! What is it about FBP that keeps you coming back?
“The people, the repertoire, the heart. Festival Ballet does so much with so little and is filled with incredible artists pouring themselves into their passion. They are also some of my closest friends and I miss them greatly!”