Bringing “The Seasons” To Life

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By Ruth Davis

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.

William Kinloch

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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.

Amanda Emby

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.

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Amanda Emby

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!

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Petipaw and FBP Ballet Master Mindaugas Bauzys

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! 

You can see Amanda and William and all of the FBP School students performing in Culmination 2019 at Sapinsley Hall (Rhode Island College), June 1, 2019 at 1:30pm and 6:00pm. Click here for more information and tickets.

Ruth Davis manages Public Relations and Communications for Festival Ballet Providence. Photos by Jim Turner and Dylan Giles.

The Next Generation of Swan Lake

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Ty Parmenter as the Jester in Swan Lake, photo by Thomas Nola-Rian

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.

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FBP Students rehearsing Swan Lake, photo by Dylan Giles

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.

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Cullen Gamache rehearsing Swan Lake, photo by Dylan Giles
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.

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FBP Students rehearsing Swan Lake, photo by Dylan Giles
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.

Eugenia Zinovieva on Dancing a Dream Role

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…

 

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Eugenia Zinovieva in rehearsal for Swan Lake.

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!

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Zinovieva and Mindaugas Bauzys in Act I of Swan Lake. Photo by Thomas Nola-Rion.

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.

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Vinovieva and João Sampaio in rehearsal for Swan Lake.

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.

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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?’

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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.

Rehearsal photos by Dylan Giles. 

11 Reasons You NEED To See FBP’s “Swan Lake”

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FBP dancers in Swan Lake, photo by Gene Schiavone.

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…

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Leticia Guerrero in Swan Lake, photo by Gene Schiavone.
  1. 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!

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    Lauren Kennedy and Jennifer Ricci in Swan Lake, photo by Gene Schiavone.
  2. 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…

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    Vilia Putrius and Mindaugas Bauzys in Swan Lake, photo by Thomas Nola-Rian.
  3. 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

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    Leticia Guerrero, Davide Vittorino, Swan Lake, photo by Gene Schiavone, DSC5172
  4. 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!

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    Vilia Putius as Odette, Alexander Akulov as Prince Siegried, photo by Gene Schiavone.
  5. Swan Lake is CLASSICAL BALLET AT ITS FINEST. Rhode Island’s premiere ballet company is EN POINTE! See what we did there?_Q7G9022
  6. 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!Eivar Martinez in Swan Lake, photo by Gene Schiavone, DSC6103
  7. Let the precision of the CORPS DE BALLET mesmerize you, as 16 swans move together like one body._Q7G9076
  8. 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!

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    Swan Lake, photo by Gene Schiavone.
  9. Tchaikovsky’s DRAMATIC MUSICAL SCORE will enrapture you with its expressive melodies and aching strings.Vilia Putius as Odile, Alexander Akulov as Prince Siegried, photo by Gene Schiavone_DSC5703
  10. 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!

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    Courtney Fraga, Lauren Menger, Lauren Kennedy, Swan Lake, photo by Gene Schiavone.
  11. 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!

Coffee and Cookies With The Four Little Wolf Pups

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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]

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Are you excited for the ChatterBOX Ball?

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!

Thank you so much, dancers and Seven Stars Bakery! To meet all of your favorite characters at the ChatterBOX Ball, this Sunday March 24, at 5:30 pm, click here for tickets! 

A New “Three Little Pigs” Full of Surprises

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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…

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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.”

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João Sampaio and Eugenia Zinovieva as the Rooster and the Chicken in “The Three Little Pigs” photo by Dylan Giles

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.

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Kathryn Bickford as Mother Wolf in “The Three Little Pigs” photo by Dylan Giles

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…

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Kailee Felix and Melissa Wong as the Wolf Pups in “The Three Little Pigs” photo by Dylan Giles

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!

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Charlotte Nash (as Mother Wolf) and FBP dancers in “The Three Little Pigs” photo by Dylan Giles

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.

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Louisa Mejeur in rehearsal for “The Three Little Pigs” photo by Dylan Giles

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.

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Louisa Mejeur and Charlotte Nash rehearsing Mother Wolf in “The Three Little Pigs” photo by Dylan Giles

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!”

Thank you, Louisa! To see The Three Little Pigs, click here.

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Emily Lovdahl as Lucy the Pig in “The Three Little Pigs” photo by Dylan Giles

photos by Dylan Giles.

6 MORE Reasons to see “MIRRORS”

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Miami City Ballet in “Serenade”, photo by Gene Schiavone, choreography by George Balanchine. © The George Balanchine Trust

In case you need some convincing to give your Netflix/chill plans the night off this Valentine’s Day, here are just a few good reasons to come see Festival Ballet Providence’s MIRRORS this February 15-17 at The Vets…

  1. A unique night out in Downcity. Providence’s downtown is known for it’s historic architecture and diverse nightlife. Take a spin around the Creative Capital at night! Our theater, The Vets, is housed in a stunning building right across from the gorgeous Rhode Island State House. (PS- both are on the National Register of Historic Buildings- and they’re right in your backyard!)

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    Rhode Island Statehouse, photo by Ian McConnell Photography
  2. While you’re at it, why not check out one of the many award-winning restaurants Providence has to offer! Downtown is ripe with culinary confections to suit every palate, from the famous authentic Italian of Federal Hill to the nationally recognized modern American offerings scattered about Downcity. Time to snag those reservations! (We recommend booking in for about 1.5-2 hours before the show.)

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    Oberlin, downtown Providence
  3. All dressed up and no where to go? Head to the ballet! What’s more fun than getting all dressed up for a night at the theater? Give those new shoes a chance to dance.

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    Olivia Sullivan for Free People Providence, photo by Kelly Louise Photography
  4. Drama, drama, drama. Looking for a dose of drama but craving a break from the soap opera you’ve been binge-watching? Don’t worry we won’t tell…grab yourself a ticket to “MIRRORS” and let Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma quench your fix.

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    Vitkor Plotnikov’s Coma
  5. Everyone needs some good old fashion romance once in a while. Kick hallmark cards to the curb and give your honey what they really want this Valentine’s Day! Plus there’s a beautiful, historic hotel right next door to the theater…hint, hint.

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    Hotel Renaissance, Downtown Providence
  6. “Everything is beautiful at the ballet!” The famous “A Chorus Line” lyric said it best, ballet is just pure beauty in all its forms, from the sweepingly effortless Serenade to the intricately physical Smoke & Mirrors.

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    Miami City Ballet in “Serenade”, photo by Gene Schiavone, choreography by George Balanchine. © The George Balanchine Trust

Need we say more? What are you waiting for?! Snag your tickets here or call (401) 421-ARTS.

Tea for Two Dark Angels

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Katie and Charlotte having tea at Seven Stars Bakery.

Emotion, romance, and passion take the stage this Valentine’s Day weekend (February 15-17) in “Mirrors”. Featuring three ballets in one evening, this varied program offers something for everyone. We sat down for a coffee break with Dancer’s Katie Bickford and Charlotte Nash to hear a bit more what it’s been like working on this epic show. 

Both George Balanchine’s iconic Serenade and Viktor Plotnikov’s dramatic Coma feature a character called “Dark Angel”. Coincidentally, both Katie and Charlotte have been cast to learn these two dynamic roles for the upcoming “Mirrors” program. Read on to get a sneak peek…

Katie’s order: Cloud 9 tea

Charlotte’s order: London Fog & butter croissant

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On tackling Coma…

Katie: In Coma, the Dark Angel is not a man or a woman, but some sort of nonhuman presence. She is this creature who is aware of everyone’s emotions, which seem to be projected onto her.

Charlotte: Yeah, and the emotions change from one movement to another. In the first movement, I feel a sense of intensity as Dark Angel. Then the third movement feels like you have been set free.

Katie: For me, the entire ballet, Coma, feels like one moment, but from different perspectives. The first movement represents the torment of the dancers visiting their loved ones, while the third movement shows the light, optimistic perspective of the dancers portraying coma patients. The Dark Angel is still manipulating the dancers, but it feels more childlike and playful. She is very dynamic.

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Katie Bickford as Dark Angel in Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma. Photo by Dylan Giles.

On Dark Angel differences…

Katie: In Serenade, we are very feminine. We are women. In both ballets, The Dark Angel has a sense of knowledge of what is going to happen.

Charlotte: In both Serenade and Coma, the Dark Angel also has that ability to guide people through the ballet. Both ballets are really challenging in different ways. Technically Serenade is very difficult, there is a lot of extreme bending and unusual steps that you might not typically do in a classical ballet.

In Coma, the style of movement can make you feel a bit out of control all the time, which can be tough to manage, but also exciting. 

Katie: In Coma, the music does not support us the same way it does in Serenade. The music is inspiring the feeling behind the movement, but not dictating the steps the way it does in Serenade. I feel a sense of freedom in Coma.

Charlotte: Yes, the specific musical counts in Serenade can be difficult to perfect. It can be hard to keep it looking fresh and natural, while still being on time with specific counts, but that’s the beauty of the challenge.

Sometimes when I go into Serenade, I’m thinking about my character in Coma, bringing something supernatural to the role. I like how Dark Angel feels more grounded than the other principals. There is something different about her.

Katie: Deborah [Wingert, of the George Balanchine Trust] was saying Dark Angel in Serenade shouldn’t be cold, but she’s slightly closed off and less emotional than the other women. I think this really helps the character feel more “other”. It relates to Coma because in that ballet we are more creature than human.

Charlotte: In the famous pose during the final Elegy section of Serenade, Dark Angel is hovering above the Waltz Girl, acting as the wings, rather than a full human body.

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Charlotte Nash as Dark Angel in George Balanchine’s Serenade. Photo by Dylan Giles.

On working on these iconic ballets with Balanchine Trust Repetiteur and former NYCB dancer Deborah Wingert and FBP Resident Choreographer Viktor Plotnikov…

Charlotte: I feel so grateful to be doing both of these beautiful ballets. Just being a part of them is something special. I am in awe when I watch them.

Katie: I feel grateful too, I just want to give as much as I can to them. I hadn’t seen either of these ballets before, so my interpretation feels very much my own.

Charlotte: Woking with Deb [of the Balanchine Trust] was amazing. Hearing all of her stories from working with Balanchine was really special.

Katie: Deborah is a very positive person. Everything she said really made sense, which made learning the ballet very fun.

Charlotte: It was interesting to work with Viktor on Coma, because he seems very attached to this ballet. It seems like Coma is his baby, so he has a lot of input about the emotions.

Katie: There are so many little details in Coma, and every movement means something to him. It’s rewarding to interpret that intricacy.

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On emotions…

Charlotte: Balanchine is always romantic, even without a literally story.

Katie: There is a lot of emotion in both ballets. They are so different.

They will touch you in different ways. They are full of human emotions that anyone can relate to. 

Charlotte: They are both so beautiful. Everyone should see them! In Coma, there are miniature love stories happening throughout. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful.

Thank you, ladies! To see Coma and Serenade on stage, click here for tickets.

Inside “Coma”

Deeply emotional, dark, but touching, Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma immediately captivated audiences when it premiered in Providence in 2007. A stunning work of contemporary dance created on Festival Ballet’s dancers by our resident choreographer, Coma has become a hometown favorite among Rhode Island dance fans and an anxiously anticipated event whenever it reappears in FBP’s repertoire. Likewise, our dancers relish the chance to devour Plotnikov’s rich movement and dive into the emotional depths of this ballet each time it makes a reprise.

In honor of Coma’s return to the stage in Festival’s upcoming Mirrors program we are resurfacing this interview by local arts and culture writer Johnette Rodriguez, published after FBP’s most recent run of Coma in 2014. Peek into Plotnikov’s creative process as he describes his sources of inspiration for this epic ballet.

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“Initially inspired by the image of suspended bodies in the ’78 film Coma, Plotnikov gets inside the minds and hearts of those who are keeping a vigil next to someone who is comatose, those who must make a decision to let go of someone they love and those who are in the comas themselves. Thus, its three movements are “Our Dreams,” “Reality” and “Their Dreams.”

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“The first movement has all the suffering and bad dreams of those outside the coma,” Plotnikov explains, in a conversation about this work. “We think they can hear us and we try to comfort them; we spend time sitting with them. Plus our work makes us so busy, gives us such overload. These are the dreams that make us unhappy.”

Accordingly, one group of dancers in this first section expresses their anguish as they twist their bodies from side to side, writhing in their sorrow. During a recent rehearsal, Plotnikov told the dancers, “It’s like Rodin’s ‘Gates of Hell.’ You want to show that you are in pain but not just with your eyebrows.”

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“I give them pictures—I give them food to digest,” he notes, after the rehearsal. “This element of looking through the day sky to see the stars—-the movement won’t necessarily say that, but there is layer and meaning in every single motion that they do. I try to draw out the dancers’ passion and emotion that has to be described by limbs, torso, and heads.”

“Every single element has to be done with a certain energy,” Plotnikov continues. “The most important thing is how will it read from beginning to end.”

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The second section of Coma deals directly with two people coming to terms with their loss, as the woman visits her male companion for the last time. The choreographer knows deeply and precisely what he wants to convey in the intricate partnering of the two dancers: the female initially inconsolable, the male trying to comfort her. At one point the male dancer holds her slumped across one knee while she circles her feet along the floor, wrung-out but resigned to what she must do.  

“This second movement is the most extremely difficult physically,” Plotnikov remarks. “The music and the accents are hard. Sometimes they swim through it and find their own punctuations.”

The third section, in contrast, is, “peaceful, happy, like little kids,” he stresses. Indeed, the dancers march doll-like, arms swinging along their sides; they surprise each other with playful swipes; they treat each other as jungle gyms, sliding over and under torsos and legs; two dancers even hang monkey-like, one from each shoulder of a third dancer. The dancers also strike poses that evoke the long coma hours that stretch into infinity: pendulum arms, rocking bodies, ticking limbs.

Coma“The presence of time passing is always there when I choreograph,” Plotnikov observes. “It helps me to stretch my mind.”

“Comatose persons are not necessarily suffering,” he adds. “They are in a beautiful place already. Everything’s a little bit more intense in their dreams, because they are basically in heaven.”

Connecting the three movements of Coma is a female figure in black, taken to be the “Death Angel/Doctor/Dark Matter/what we call God,” in Plotnikov’s words. At the end of the third section, even after the Angel switches off the light, he wants to show the perpetuity. The  movement stops, but the energy does not. Life keeps going on around and beyond the dying or the dead.

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“How much can we grasp or understand of the whole universe?” Plotnikov asks. “If more humans thought about eliminating the presence of ‘you’ in the universe—if we would feel that connection all the time, much more would go our way.”

But even if the profundity of what this choreographer has put into his dance doesn’t strike audience members right away, the feelings and emotions, so startlingly beautiful and powerful in the dancers’ movements, will tug at heartstrings and move minds.”

Written by Johnette Rodriguez. Originally published March 2014 in The Providence Phoenix.
Don’t miss Coma in “Mirrors” Feb 15-17 at The Vets. For details and tickets, click here.

Performance photos by Thomas Nola-Rion. Rehearsal Photos by Dylan Giles.

6 Reasons to See “MIRRORS”

Here are just a few of the reasons FBP’s upcoming “Mirrors” is not to be missed this Valentine’s Day weekend at The Vets:

  1. Romance. February in Rhode Island is cold and dark- let the ballet light up your love life with an unexpectedly hot date night this year! George Balanchine’s sumptuous Serenade is sure to sweep you off your feet. Let us catch you.
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    Miami City Ballet in “Serenade”, photo by Gene Schiavone, choreography by George Balanchine. © The George Balanchine Trust
  2. Unplug and join the conversation. New Year’s Resolution to decrease your screen-time? A company premiere by renowned Yury Yanowksy, Smoke and Mirrors offers social commentary on our increasingly digital world. The concept is expertly expressed by Yanowsky’s use of, yes, smoke and mirrors, but also an interesting costume element; The women are dressed in corsets with handles that allow their partners to lift and manipulate them in entirely new ways. “It’s all smoke and mirrors,” Yanowsky said in an interview, adding, “The story is reflected in the corsets and how we are puppets of the system and how we try to get out.” Make your voice heard.
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  3. Witness genius choreography. This program marks the long-awaited return of Viktor Plotnikov’s popular dance-drama, Coma. The contemporary ballet was created by FBP Resident choreographer Plotnikov and debuted with immediate critical acclaim, being touted as “original, haunting and chilling, surreal and sad, and just plain mesmerizing” by the Providence Journal in 2007. The emotional work has earned Plotnikov international recognition from Dance Magazine as a choreographer who “revere[s] tradition, while forging a new language, and still command[ing] the attention of an everyday family audience.” Come see for yourself._S9Q9213.jpg
  4. Expand your playlist. From Tchaikovsky’s stirring Serenade for Strings, to “Fast & Furious 6” Composer Lucas Vidal’s futuristic soundscape for Smoke and Mirrors, to Arvö Part’s iconic musical works driving the emotional Coma, the music of “Mirrors” will transport you from one world to another. Each composition exudes the spirit of the ballet it reflects- the stirring spirit of romance, the apocalyptic disconnect of our changing society, and the raw, tender beauty of an unknown limbo. Listen up.viktor plotnikov's coma, photo by thomas nola-rion
  5.  Respect your roots. The first work the New York City Ballet founder and legendary choreographer created in the United States, George Balanchine’s Serenade is an icon and testament to the brilliance of its maker. The ballet evolved over time, with nuances that have since become quintessential quirks. Check out our post here for more on the fascinating history of Serenade…and study up!

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    Miami City Ballet in “Serenade”, photo by Gene Schiavone, choreography by George Balanchine. © The George Balanchine Trust
  6. Support progress. “Mirrors” features two Company premieres in one night. That’s two masterpieces that have been celebrated by art-lovers across the globe, coming right to your backyard in Rhode Island for the first time ever! Don’t miss the chance to participate in progress in your Creative Capital. Hope to see you there!Boston Ballet_Photo by Gene Schiavone.jpg

So there you have it! Don’t miss this epic show. For tickets to “Mirrors” February 15-17 at The Vets, click here