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’sreturn to the stage in Festival’s upcoming Mirrorsprogram 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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
Dance is a visual art form, passed down from one generation to the next through shared experiences. We asked our favorite dance educator, FBPS Director and former FBP Company Dancer, Vilia Putrius, for her take on Festival Ballet’s upcoming program, Mirrors, at The Vets. Here she sheds some light on why seeing dance is such an integral part of a young dancer’s success…
“I have been looking forward to FBP’s Mirrors program all season. As a lover of dance and dance educator, it’s such a treat to see these three powerful works on one program.
‘I had never seen a choreographer work like this before.’
I’m especially thrilled for the return of Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma, one of the most beloved ballets in FBP’s repertory and a particularly special memory from my career as a dancer. Coma could be described as a “drama,” but it’s so much more than that. I remember working with Viktor while creating this ballet in 2007, watching his imagination pour out into the movement. I had known Viktor from our time together at Boston Ballet, but I had never seen a choreographer work like this before. The ballet is both technically challenging and emotionally powerful.
The rest of the “Mirrors” program is so diverse, with the Rhode Island premiere of George Balanchine’s Serenade, which I have danced elsewhere and just adore. I especially love the corps de ballet, which shows you how important teamwork can be and what it can produce. The word “corps” comes from the Latin for “body,” and in Serenade you can really see that the corps is a moving body of strong women working together.
I’m also excited to see Yury Yanowsky’s Smoke & Mirrors for the first time. I have known Yury for years and his work is unique and bold. It is going to be a provocative statement piece with some really cool movement and ideas.
‘[I remember] sitting in the audience wishing I could dance in the spotlight one day.’
As a young aspiring dancer in Lithuania, I would frequently see shows at the National Opera & Ballet Theater, sitting in the audience wishing I could dance in the spotlight one day. I remember leaving the theater feeling just…full. Full of inspiration, full of questions and ideas about what I had seen, full of passion for this art form.
I know watching dance had a profound impact on my education and where my dreams would take me. I truly hope that all of the young dancers in the audience will take away that the same sense of inspiration that I remember.”
Ms. Putrius serves as the Festival Ballet Providence School Director. Festival Ballet presents “Mirrors” at The Vets Feb. 15-17, 2019. Click here for more information.
Company dancers Azamat Asangul and João Sampaio work well together inside the studio and out! These two are roommates, coworkers, and friends, sharing an infectious happy energy and overflow of talent. We sat down with Aza and João to hear a bit more about their experience working on Viktor Plotnikov’s epic Coma, transitioning into Providence from their homes abroad, and what life is like at home…
Aza’s drink order: iced green with a lemon João’s drink order: iced vanilla chai latte Aza’s snack of choice: potato and leek quiche João’s snack of choice: cheddar biscuit Aza’s home country: Kyrgyzstan João’s home country: Brazil Both currently rehearsing: Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma
On living with another dancer…
João: “I like living with Aza because he’s so calm and we have so much fun together. Plus he cooks for me sometimes (laughs), and he cleans the house!”
Aza: “Our energy is so different, it feels complete. The best roommate I’ve ever had! We don’t talk about ballet at home. We listen to music and just have fun.”
On working with world-renowned choreographer Viktor Plotnikov on his Coma…
Aza: “It’s super cool working with Viktor. He’s really smart about his movement. Everything makes sense. I like his philosophy.”
João: “Being cast as a person who is in a coma, it forces you to think of how that might feel, which is so difficult, but artistically fulfilling. It’s such a beautiful piece.”
Aza: “Rehearsing a ballet like this really makes you appreciate being healthy. It also challenges our acting skills, because we have never actually experienced anything like this before.”
On new cultures and leaving home to dance…
Aza: “I’m from Central Asia and the US is a completely different culture. In my country, people are so open and friendly. Even if you don’t know someone, you can talk to them like you’ve known them forever. Then I lived in Russia, where people are a bit more reserved. I am so happy to be in Rhode Island. I love the history of Providence. It s a beautiful city. “
João: “Moving from Brazil to the US changed my life completely. There, I lived with my parents and had help with everything. Here, I have learned to do things on my own and live independently. For Providence specifically, I don’t even have words to describe it…in a beautiful way. It’s a stunning city. But I miss Brazilian food a lot!”
On what’s to come…
João: “I’m really looking forward to dancing [George Balanchine’s] “Serenade”. I have learned it before, but never performed it, so I am very excited to revisit it.”
Aza: “I’m also excited for Yury [Yanowsky]’s piece, “Smoke and Mirrors”. I really enjoyed his previous piece, “Reverso”, so I can’t wait to start this next one.
“I love that we work with so many talented choreographers here in Providence. They are all different, which makes it an amazing opportunity.”
João: “The diversity of the pieces in the February show, MIRRORS, is also really beautiful.”
On teaching ballet to students…
João: “I like teaching because it’s good to step out of our comfort zone. We are taught all day at work, but to transition out of that and be the teachers ourselves is really nice. Teaching adults is fun because they just want to move their bodies and be free.”
Aza: “I like the experience of teaching at a few different schools. When I’m teaching it helps my own dancing, because I am reminding myself of the correct way to do everything.”
On finding a home at FBP…
João: “I feel so blessed that my path brought me here. I couldn’t be happier to be in Providence. The dancers here are all so beautiful.”
Aza: “It’s a good environment here. Everyone is healthy and inspiring from one dancer to another.”
João: “It allows you to be free. I feel like I can put myself into the work and be happy while I’m dancing.”
Aza: “Some days you come in in the morning and you’re so sore and tired, but you see other dancers working hard…it’s inspiring.”
Thank you Aza and João! To see these two in action, grab your tickets to MIRRORS here.
Special thanks to Seven Stars Bakery for sponsoring this post.
Nutcracker season is a very special time of year at the ballet. The dancers are all working hard together to bring this spectacular story to life, and there is certainly a feeling of magic in the air. For two dancers, teamwork and friendship doesn’t just follow their Nutcracker season, it fuels it.
FBPS student Samantha (Sami) Shorr and Adaptive Dance student Gabriella (Gabby) Sluter met four years ago at a party. Well, a Victorian-era holiday party set to Tchaikovsky’s famous “Nutcracker Suite” and rehearsed in the FBP studios on Hope Street, to be more specific. The two girls became fast friends in rehearsal for their roles in the Party Scene of FBP’s Nutcracker, helping each other bring joy and rhythm to their dancing. Now Gabby and Sami look forward to performing in the classic holiday production on one of Providence’s most beautiful stages every year. We sat down with them to hear a little more about how they help each other overcome backstage jitters and what it’s like to dance with one of your best friends…
So girls, I think the whole audience must be wondering: What does the energy backstage at PPAC before a performance of The Nutcracker feel like?
Sami: I get very excited but try to stay calm so I don’t mess up on stage. When I am with Gabby, I feel better because she makes me so happy and less jittery.
Gabby: It is a happy feeling backstage. I like being with Sami backstage because she is my friend. She is my special friend. We stretch together. Sami helped me with my makeup. Sami helps me on stage. We take fun pictures together in our costumes.
Do you have any special rituals or things that you like to do together before you go on stage?
Gabby: I like to eat my snack with Sami. We read books. I like to hug Sami. She helps me pay attention. We do thumbs up.
Sami: We either give each other a thumbs up or a high-five. I say to Gabby, “You got this!”
What makes performing The Nutcracker alongside your friend so special to you?
Gabby: She is my friend. I like to be silly with Sami.
Sami: It is very cool that Gabby is accepted in the dance world because she is super sweet and deserves to shine like the rest of us. Having her on stage is just so much fun.
This year, Sami, you are dancing the role of Clara! How exciting!Have the two of you done anything special to prepare for this new role?
Sami: I still cannot believe that I am Clara this year. I’ve looked up to all of the Clara’s since my first Nutcracker over 7 years ago. To learn more about the role and find more ways to express Clara’s emotions, I’ve enjoyed watching Live Streams of The Royal Ballet rehearsing their Nutcracker. I also communicated with a former Clara, Olivia Luciano, for additional insights and moral support.
Gabby: I love Sami. Clara is my favorite in the Nutcracker. I was Clara for Halloween last year.
Gabriella’s mom, Tabitha: Gabriella said “ I have good news, Sami is Clara!” This was one day after a rehearsal. She truly is so thrilled that Sami is Clara. All I have to say if Gabriella is having a tough time transitioning to rehearsal is, “Gabriella, you are going to see Sami and Gabi (Sami’s sister) today at dance!” Gabriella gets right up and is motivated and focused to go to rehearsal. She can’t wait to be with them. I love to watch Sami dance.
How has your friendship helped shape the way you dance?
Gabby: I can’t wait to go to dance to see Sami. Sami helps me. Sami is my friend. Sami help me to do my Nutcracker moves.
Sami: When I am dancing and I need to express happiness, I think about Gabby and it instantly makes my dancing more cheery!
Festival Ballet runs on…Seven Stars Bakery, of course! We’re kicking off a new series to help you get to know the FBP dancers- join us for a quick coffee break between rehearsals!
First up, we caught up with Company Dancer, Beth Mochizuki, and her sweet, silly son Stefen for a chat and and afternoon pick-me-up.
Beth’s drink order: Hot decaf coffee
Stefan’s drink order: Apple juice
Treat of choice: Soppressata sandwich
When we last checked in with Beth, she was preparing to dance Maid Marian in Mary Ellen Beadreau’s “Robin Hood”, a role the whole family was looking forward to seeing her portray.
“Stefen’s very excited to see the show! We checked out the picture book of Robin Hood from the library and we’ve been making our way through the story at home, so he’ll be fully prepared when he comes to the ballet.”
Born in California, Beth came to New England to study at Tufts University in Boston. While earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies, Beth managed to also begin her professional dancing career with an Apprenticeship at Festival Ballet. Talk about multitasking!
Stay tuned on our Instagram for more coffee chats with the dancers of FBP and Seven Stars Bakery!
Our Summer Dance Intensive 2018 Senior and Junior Programs are packed with a wide range of talented, diverse faculty bringing unique perspectives and styles to this one of a kind program! We’re thrilled to announce this season’s lineup of faculty! Below, bios and headshots for each of the members of the team!
Ballet, Pas de deux, Men’s Classes
Ivaylo Alexiev was born in Varna, Bulgaria. He started his ballet training with the Vaganova Method at the National Ballet School in Sofia. Mr. Alexiev than earned a scholarship from “UNESCO” to join the prestigious Academy of Ballet in Monte Carlo directed by Madame Marika Besobrasova where he graduated with a Diploma for a professional ballet dancer.
From 2001-2004 Ivaylo was a member of Le Ballet de L’Opera National de Bordeaux, France where he danced for three seasons participating in every production and world tours with the company. In 2004 Mr. Alexiev moved to Germany and worked with several contemporary companies. For two seasons under the direction of James Sutherland, Ivaylo was a soloist with Pforzheim Ballett where he danced in several modern productions such as- Carmen, Pink Floyd, Swan Lake and others. Mr. Alexiev took part in many Dance Galas in Europe and has been invited as a guest artist in France, Germany, Russia, Malta, Japan, USA and others. His repertory includes ballets such as Raymonda, Divertimento #15, Symphony in D, The Prodigal Son, Suite en Blanc, Sleeping Beaty, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Cinderella and others. Ivaylo has worked with some of the biggest names in European ballet including Elisabeth Platel, Charles Jude, Irek Mukhamedov, Roland Vogel, Attilo Labis, Eva Evdokimova.
Ivaylo Alexiev speaks five languages and obtained a diploma in dance pedagogy and history of ballet from L’Academie de danse classique Princesse Grace de Monte Carlo. In 2010 Mr. Alexiev moved to US joining Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre as a principal dancer. In 2012 Ivaylo was invited to be a member of the faculty of Ballet Theatre of Boston. Part time faculty member at Boston Ballet School since 2014. North Atlantic Dance Theatre company coach since 2015. Ballet Master for Festival Ballet Providence from 2015-2017.
Faculty at Greater Boston School of Dance.
Ballet, Pas de deux, Variations
Assaf Benchetrit began his dance and music studies at the Rubin Academy for Music and Dance in Jerusalem, Israel. Upon graduation, he danced with the Jerusalem Dance Theater, the Panov Ballet, and later with The Israeli National Ballet Company. During his military service, Assaf received the “Remarkable Dancer” prize from the Israeli government which allowed him to continue dancing while serving. After completing his military service, he arrived to United States to dance with companies such as The Joffrey, Metropolitan Classical Ballet, Alabama Ballet, and Gelsey Kirkland Ballet.
Throughout his career, Assaf toured through England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and numerous other countries. He performed lead roles in the majority of renowned ballet productions such as Swan Lake as Siegfried, Don Quixote as Basilio, La Corsaire as Ali, La Bayadere as Solar, Coppelia as Franz, Sleeping Beauty as the Prince, the title-role in Petrushka, and a number of George Balanchine works including Apolloin the title-role, Donizetti Variations and the Nutcracker as Cavalier. Assaf holds a joint B.S in computer science and B.F.A in dance degrees with academic honors from Montclair State University, and an M.F.A degree with academic honors in dance from Hollins/ADF/Frankfurt. He was a faculty member at Columbia University (Barnard College), Rutgers University, Montclair State University, and Raritan Valley Community College, where he taught ballet, mens’ class, pas de deux, variations, and modern dance. He is currently Assistant Professor of Dance at UNH.
Jennifer has been practicing outpatient physical therapy on the East Side of Providence since 2004, she joined University Orthopedics at the Butler campus in the spring of 2016. A former professional ballet dancer, Jennifer specializes in Dance Injury Rehabilitation and prevention. Jennifer enjoyed 18 years of performing dance all over the United States, Europe and China before retiring as a soloist from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 1996, she went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Dance from Empire State College, S.U.N.Y and a Master’s of Science in Physical Therapy from The University of Rhode Island in 2001.
Jennifer developed and implemented an Injury Prevention program for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre school and company where she worked closely with Physicians and Physical Therapists at the University of Pittsburgh Sports Medicine. Jennifer has treated the cast of “A Chorus Line” and “Hairspray” backstage at the Providence Performing Arts Center and has worked with countless student and professional dancers from local studios including Festival Ballet Providence. She has been certified in Pilates exercise training and utilizes Pilates equipment and principals in conjunction with manual therapy for physical therapy assessment and treatment. Currently Jennifer is involved in a certification program with North American Institute for Manual Orthopedic Therapy and has most recently been trained as an instructor in Pilates Suspension exercise with Pilates Academy International in New York City. She is a longtime member of International Association for Dance Medicine and Science and serves on the board of the Dance Alliance of Rhode Island. She is most proud of her daughter Olivia and loves to swim, dance and sail during her free time. In 2016 Jennifer became Festival Ballet Providence’s resident physical therapist.
Senior Program Modern (Limón)
Kurt Douglas joined the Boston Conservatory faculty in 2015 and is an instructor of technique, repertory, and pedagogy for modern dance. Kurt also serves as artistic director for the Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s Summer Dance Intensive.
A graduate of New York’s LaGuardia High School of Music art and the performing Arts and originally from Guyana, Douglas earned a B.F.A. in dance from Boston Conservatory and an M.F.A. in dance from Hollins University.
After graduating from the Conservatory in 2001, he joined the Limón Dance Company, where he performed in many of Limón’s most influential works. He received a 2002 Princess Grace Award and was honored by an invitation to perform for the royal family of Monaco. In 2007, Douglas became the first African American to portray Iago in The Moor’s Pavane, José Limón’s most famous work. Douglas was named one of Dance Magazine’s “Top 25 to Watch” in the January 2006 issue. He danced from 2002 to 2007 in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and joined Ballet Hispanico from 2005 to 2006 under the direction of Tina Ramirez. In 2009 he joined the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company during their 40th anniversary season, touring throughout the United States and Asia. In 2011 he began touring with the Tony Award-winning musical “A Chorus Line” throughout the United States, Japan, Singapore, and Australia. In 2017 Kurt was invited to perform for the Boston Conservatory’s 150 anniversary gala at Symphony Hall hosted by Alan Cummings. Some guest artist credits include Aszure Barton & Artists, Prometheus Dance Company, Thang Dao Dance Company, Buglisi Dance Theatre, Dzul Dance, and the Sean Curran Dance Company.
Douglas remains invested in his teaching practices, conducting Limón Dance workshops in Boston, South Dakota, New York, Oregon,Texas, Pennsylvania, Haiti, France, England, Australia, and at prestigious institutions such as Harvard University, Southern Methodist University, the Juilliard School, SUNY Purchase, SUNY Brockport, Skidmore College, Festival Ballet Providence and Boston Conservatory. Kurt is currently a reconstructor with the Limón Foundation. In 2017 Kurt re-stage Jose Limón’s “A Choreographic Offering” for the Limón Company’s 71st Anniversary season. Douglas continues to serve as faculty with the Limón for Kids Program and the Limón Institute in New York City, the official school of the Limón Dance Foundation.
Originally from Massachusetts, Ms. Evans began training in the FBP School at age 11. She performed as a member of FBP’s Junior Company for 5 years before joining the main company as a trainee in 2010. Ms. Evans has attended summer intensives with Bolshoi Ballet Academy, The Nutmeg Conservatory, and was a member of the Jacob’s Pillow Summer Dance Festival in 2009. Ms. Evans was a two-time finalist in the Youth American Grand Prix Ballet Competition in New York City, where she was awarded several scholarships as well as a traineeship with Ballet West in Utah. Previous roles with FBP include Wendy in Jorden Morris’ Peter Pan, the title role in Winthrop Corey’s Cinderella, Pas de Trois, Big Swans, and Cygnets in Swan Lake, Princess Tsarevna in Mihailo Djuric’s The Firebird, the roles of Sugarplum Fairy, Dew Drop Fairy, Clara, Spanish, and Marzipan in The Nutcracker, and principal in Etudes, as well as principal roles in George Balanchine’s Apollo, Allegro Brilliante, Agon, and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. Kirsten has also been featured in contemporary works by Viktor Plotnikov, Dominic Walsh, Ilya Kozadayev, Joseph Morrissey, and others. Kirsten works as the PR and Communications Assistant for FBP and is also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts/Journalism at Providence College. This is Ms. Evans’ eighth season with the company.
Lindsay Guarino is an educator, scholar and choreographer. In her current role at Salve Regina University, she is the director of the dance program and artistic director and founder of Extensions Dance Company. A native of Buffalo, NY, Lindsay has taught master classes and choreographed in a wide range of jazz styles at colleges, dance studios and festivals across the country. Her jazz research has been presented at conferences throughout the New England region and also in Chicago, Arizona, New York, and Texas. Lindsay reaches dance educators around the globe as a professor for the National Dance Education Organization’s nationally regarded Online Professional Development Institute, where she teaches Jazz Dance Theory and Practice. Her passion for preserving and elevating jazz dance led her to publish Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches in 2014; the textbook inspired a national conference in the summer of 2016 which Lindsay planned and hosted at Salve Regina. Her greatest professional accomplishment to date is the growth of the dance program at Salve Regina University and her work with Extensions Dance Company. Lindsay holds a BFA in dance from the University at Buffalo (SUNY) and an MFA in dance from the University of Arizona.
A native of Venezuela, Ms. Guerrero received her early training at the Keyla Ermecheo Ballet School in Caracas. She has performed with numerous companies including Ballet Nuevo Mundo de Caracas, Metropolitan Ballet of Caracas, Minnesota Dance Theatre, Michigan Ballet, Charleston Ballet Theatre, Jose Mateo’s Ballet Theatre and Cadence Dance Project. She has created leading roles in ballets in Gianni Dimarco’s El Amor Brujo, Schéhérazade and Azucar, Plotnikov’s Carmen, The Widow’s Broom, Loofand Let Dime and Coma, De Bouteiller’s Romeo and Juliet and FBP’s 2006 premiere of Don Quixote. Other leading roles include Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, Rubies, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Tarantella, Who Cares?, Pelzig’s The Princess and the Pea, Swan Lake and Eldar Aliev’s A Thousand and One Nights. Ms. Guerrero also participated in the 2004 Venezuela Del Mundo Gala and was recognized for representing Venezuela internationally with high standards and “projection, dignity and beauty.” In addition Providence Mayor David Cicilline awarded a Citizens Citation for her “exceptional and wholehearted devotion for the art of dance.”
After her retirement from the stage in May 2012, she transitioned into her new role as Ballet Mistress with the Company, and as a faculty member with FBP School where she continues to pass on her knowledge to a new generation of dancers.
JEREMY RUTH HOWES
Jeremy Ruth is a professional dancer, choreographer and educator in the Boston area. She graduated from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Dance with a BFA in Dance Performance. While at Hartt she performed soloist roles in La Bayadere, Guernsey Fields, Martha Graham’s Steps in the Street and numerous other classical and contemporary works. She has danced professionally with Northern Ballet Theatre and Virginia Ballet Theatre dancing soloist roles in The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and George Balanchine’s Serenade. Currently she is a principal dancer with Anna Myer and Dancers creating roles in Myer’s original choreography. Jeremy Ruth is on faculty at Dean College teaching ballet and dance composition. She also has choreographed for the Dean College Dance Company for the past five years. She has created ten original works for the company. Jeremy Ruth teaches at Walker’s Dance in Lowell and this is her tenth year with Northeast School of Ballet. Jeremy Ruth is also currently pursuing her MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College.
Senior & Junior Programs
Character, Men’s Class, Pas de Deux
Alex Lantz began his dance training at age seven at the Rockford Dance Company in his home town of Rockford, Illinois and was accepted into the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Professional Division in 2006 at age 17. Mr. Lantz joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet company as an apprentice in 2010. He performed with the company in The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Moulin Rouge – The Ballet, Dracula, Wonderland, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, Svengali and Giselle. Mr. Lantz also joined the company in 2010 on a three-city tour of Israel part of the RWB’s 70th Anniversary tour. Lantz joined Festival Ballet Providence in 2012. He has performed the roles of Spanish, Snow King and Sugarplum Cavalier in The Nutcraker, has been featured in Dominic Walsh’s Afternoon of the Faun, Ilya Kozadayev’s Moonlight Pas De Deux, and has also performed leading roles in Victor Plotnikov’s Orchis and Coma as well as principal roles in George Balanchine’s Agon and Tchaikovky Pas de Deux. Mr. Lantz also has performed a number of character roles including Von Rothbart in Swan Lake, The Witch in Hansel & Gretel, Kastchai in The Firebird, Smee in Jordan Morris’ Peter Pan and Herr Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker.
Marissa Masson is a New England based dancer and choreographer. As a student at Salve Regina University, she is minoring in dance and is currently a member of Extensions Dance Company, where she has had the opportunity to perform in pieces by artists such as Kat Pantos, Joe Celej, Joshua Blake Carter, John Lehrer, Rich Ashworth, Melanie George, Spencer Gavin Hering, and Kirsten Harvey. She has performed at the American College Dance Association’s adjudicated concert in Potsdam, NY (2017) and presented her piece, “Weight of the World” in their adjudicated concert in Boston, MA (2018). This piece was also chosen to perform at the Boston Contemporary Dance Festival (2017). This summer, it will perform again at The Southern Vermont Dance Festival. Marissa has performed in other events throughout the New England region, including Urbanity Dance’s Liberty Hotel New Year’s Eve Party. She has completed intensives with Pantos Project (2014, 2016, 2017) and the National Dance Education Organization’s Jazz Dance: Roots and Branches in Practice Conference in Newport, RI (2016), where she performed and was a student host. She has also had the honor of being the rehearsal assistant for Jessica Pearson and Melanie George. In the summer and winter of 2017, she was the business operations and company intern for Urbanity Dance in Boston. She is currently the Operations Manager Intern for Pantos Project Dance.
Ms. Mayer has been affiliated with Festival Ballet Providence since 1976. As a founding member of Festival Ballet Providence, Ms. Mayer performed in many company productions while earning a BA from the University of Rhode Island. Following her performing career, she worked as stage manager for the company for several seasons before turning her focus to teaching and training young dancers. She attended several teaching programs at the National Ballet School of Canada, and in New York and Philadelphia with David Howard and Jurgen Schneider. From 1991 to 1996 she served as teacher, choreographer and Acting Director of Dance at the Performing Arts School of Worcester; returning to Festival Ballet Providence as a teacher in 1998.
In 2004, Ms. Mayer became Festival Ballet Providence’s School Director. Over the past several years the school has continued to grow under the guidance of Ms. Mayer and the artistic vision of Misha Djuric. Together they have taken the school to a place that boasts a distinguished international faculty, an outstanding young children’s program, a trainee program for the serious advanced level student, an extensive financial aid program, engaging summer programs, and an open enrollment feature that provides the community access to this art form through a variety of classes and workshops. Ms. Mayer’s students have gone on to dance with professional companies and to study at prestigious schools and universities throughout the country.
FBP School Faculty
Dina Ternullo Melley received a BFA in dance from the Boston Conservatory and received additional training from the Joffrey School in San Antonio and Gus Giordano in Chicago. Dina has performed master works by José Limón, Paul Taylor, Martha Graham and Donald McKayle and has toured and conducted workshops nationally and internationally with the Boston Liturgical Dance Ensemble. Dina has had the pleasure of both choreographing works for and performing with the Baton Rouge Ballet Theater, Of Moving Colors, the Louisiana State University College of Music and Dramatic Arts, the Arizona State University Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Desert Dance Theatre, andUniversity of Louisiana at Lafayette’s State of LA Danse.Mrs. Melley was the choreographer for LSU Opera’s production of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice and has choreographed and performed for ASU’s season-opening Gala Concert. She has also performed withBaton Rouge Ballet Theatre’s Ballet for Children, AZDance Group, and Cadence Dance Project. Dina has been on faculty at Boston College, Regis College, Louisiana State University, and University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she was also the Artistic Director of the Dance Guild at UL Lafayette. She has also had the pleasure of working with our next generation of young dancers at numerous schools throughout the eastern, southern and southwestern United States. Mrs. Melley is excited to be living back in the Northeast with her husband and son and being apart of the Festival Ballet School faculty.
Director, Summer Dance Intensive
Senior & Junior Programs
Marissa Parmenter danced at Festival Ballet Providence from 2002-2006 and 2014-2017. Her most memorable FBP roles were Pingril, the witch in The Widow’s Broom, the Nurse and Lady Capulet in Romeo & Juliet, Bernarda in House of Bernarda Alba and Saskia in For Saskia. In addition to FBP, she danced for Les Grands Ballet Canadiens de Montreal, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater and BalletMet Columbus. In 2008, Ms. Parmenter was honored to participate in Paris’s prestigious L’Ete de la Danse with Les Grands Ballet. She has performed as a guest artist with many companies in the US including Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance, and Boston Ballet. Ms. Parmenter has been fortunate enough to create works with leading choreographers, Ohad Naharin, James Kudelka, Mauro Bigonzetti, Edwaard Liang, Dominic Walsh and Viktor Plotnikov. She has also had the pleasure of performing works by icons such as Christopher Wheeldon, Jiri Kylian, Balanchine, Sir Frederick Ashton, Jean-Christophe Maillot, Gustavo Ramirez Sansano and Alejandro Cerrudo.
Ms. Parmenter was on faculty at BalletMet Academy and Passe Dance Center. She has been a guest teacher for Rice University, Sam Houston University, University of Houston, and Wheaton College. Ms. Parmenter has been awarded the Sono Osato and the Caroline H. Newhouse grants for dancer higher education. Her choreography has been performed at Hollins University and Wheaton College.
Ms.Parmenter received her MFA from Hollins University in collaboration with the Forsythe Company in 2014. She is an Associate Professor at Boston Conservatory at Berkeley College. She is on faculty at FBP School as well as Company Manager, Director of FBP School’s Summer Dance Intensive and Development Director.
Ballet, Pointe, Improv
Ty Parmenter returned to Festival Ballet Providence in 2014 after having been with the company from 2003-2006. His most memorable FBP roles were the Eunuch in Scherezade, Romeo in Romeo & Juliet, Faun in Afternoon of a Faun, andPrincipal Male in Rubies. He returned to FBP after having danced with Hubbard Street 2, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater and BalletMet Columbus. He has performed as a guest artist with many companies in the US including Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, New Choreographers Initiative, and Les Grands Ballet Canadiens. In 2006, he performed in the Mozart Sommer Festival in Wurzberg, Germany. Mr. Parmenter has been fortunate enough to create works with leading choreographers such as James Kudelka, Edwaard Liang, Dominic Walsh, Andrea Miller, Christian Spuck, Gabrielle Lamb and Viktor Plotnikov. He has also had the pleasure of performing works by Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, Mauro Bigonzetti, Matthew Bourne, Gustavo Ramirez Sansano and Alejandro Cerrudo.
In 2012, Mr. Parmenter was awarded the Columbus Dances Fellowship from the Greater Columbus Arts Council for his piece There is Silence. He was on faculty at Passe Dance Center and has been a guest teacher at Rice University, Sam Houston University and the University of Houston. He is currently on faculty at FBP School as well as Digital Media Coordinator. Ty has choreographed four new works on the FBP company and seven new works for the FBP school.
Ruka Hatua-Saar was born in Aviano, Italy and raised in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He received his training as a scholarship student with Miami City Ballet and was a a dancer in the training company. Upon graduating from the Dillard School of the Arts, he obtained a B.F.A and an M.F.A in Dance from Florida State University and Holllins University; respectively. He is an acclaimed national/ international dancer , having performed with companies such as: Dayton Contemporary; Philadanco; Armitage GONE!; and the Límon Dance Company. He has served as adjunct professor of dance at Wright State University; University of Dayton; Boston Conservatory; Tufts University and University of the Arts.
Stay tuned for all kinds of exciting behind-the-scenes action as Rhode Island’s premiere ballet company takes a dive under the sea with the Little Mermaid! This splashy adventure becomes a part of your world April 27-29 at The Vets! Click here for tickets!
Danielle Davidson, one of the area’s most respected local contemporary dancers and one-half of the groundbreaking duo “Doppelgänger Dance Collective” joins the faculty of FBP’s Summer Dance Intensive 2017, which starts next week. The four-week training program is the perfect venue for Davidson’s unique choreographic style, based in classical ballet but with a contemporary flare all her own. We asked FBP School student Mizuki Samuelson to sit down with Danielle and learn about her backstory and what inspires her choreography and teaching.
Hi Danielle! To start, how did you get involved in dance?
I started dancing really late compared to most. I was 12, when I discovered dance. My parents had me try out many sports: soccer, bowling, baseball. I hated it! And I was afraid of the ball. I would be spinning and swirling out in the field. One day, a friend at school told me about this dance class she was taking–a jazz class. I was interested so I begged my mother to sign me up. On my first day, the teacher was like “Oh you have a lot of potential. We’re gonna put you in ballet and in the performance group, tomorrow.” And I fell in love. Immediately, yeah.
So once you started taking classes, did you go straight to a professional school to train?
The training I was doing age 12 – 14, was at an amateur after-school program. It was Cecchetti ballet, jazz, modern. I went many nights a week because I was crazy about it. But I realized right away I wanted to do this professionally. So I auditioned for L’École Supérieure de Danse du Québec because I speak French and because the program offered full scholarships. I was 15 when I moved away from home and, yeah, living in an apartment with a couple other dancers…that was my teenage life.
When did you first start working with contemporary dance?
When I was about 21, 22. The transition was difficult. I didn’t know anything about floor work. [Laughs] I was so bad. Just dropping my bones into the floor. There is a professional series in Montréal programming at Circuit-Est. I basically taught myself by attending class daily for 2 or 3 years, Monday through Friday, every morning I’d show up to those classes, and mangle my way through. It’s a really elevated program and I just learned through practicing. I found that there was a lot more acceptance about your depth of physicality, not that I don’t have a lot of it, hahha, but it just felt more…honest. And human, authentic, and accepting.
What other companies did you work with?
I worked with an opera company in Hamilton, Ontario with Renaud Doucet who’s a brilliant choreographer. There were six dancers. They paid to move me to Hamilton, they paid for my apartment, it was a luxurious position. We toured all over. It was my first real commercial [job]. We were treated like royalty. It was lovely. Big change from a ballet company where you, you know, you have to kind of fend for yourself.
Then I moved to Toronto and worked with a company called Ballet Espressivo, mostly neoclassical ballet. Lines were still appreciated but there was less of the old romantic ballet stories and more present day conflicts. Like some of the work that Festival Ballet Providence is doing now, like Viktor Plotnikov’s work.
In my 20s, I changed companies almost every other year. I was still trying to figure out where I belonged, who I was, what made sense for me. I started to realize that the prestige mattered less than the creative process itself. I realized that, the rehearsal process, the creation of new work was more important to me than the prestige of touring or dancing with a well-known company. And actually, to be honest, touring kinda sucks. When you’re living out of a suitcase, it sounds glamorous, but it sucks. You miss your cat, your friends, grocery stores.. etc.. I was happy to stop, after all my early 20s, traveling all the time. I wanted to settle down.
I went back to Montréal in 2006. I started working with Lina Cruz, with a company called Productions Fila 13. Lina makes dance-theater, so it was this whole new experience for me. I was actually a part of the creative process. Her work tours internationally, so it’s really well supported and the company– what I loved about that job, was that the members of the company were like friends, family, people that I cared about. We were a solid team.
So do you feel like when you returned to Montreal in 2006, that was the first time you found a company that was right for you?
Yeah, it was the first time I found a company that nurtured my spirit, that felt like home, and that the work was really weird [laughs] but in a really exciting way, it made sense for my personality. I performed in this one piece where we were on all fours, licking a mirror reflection of ourselves. A small company of about six dancers– three men, three women. We were all really featured, always a soloist, you weren’t just a number. I really love that company. Dance-Theater makes so much sense to me.
As a dancer, what was the transition like to becoming a teacher and a choreographer?
Well, right before my husband and I moved to Providence, my professional ballet school contacted me and said that they’d really love for me to come and teach. I was like [surprised look]. When I attended the orientation day it was so weird to be sitting on the side with the faculty, with people who had been my teachers. It changed everything about how I understand the dynamics between teaching and being a student. Like what it means to share your life experience and your life’s passion with people, especially younger than yourself, who perhaps don’t quite yet know themselves.
It became a practice, every class I taught I learned more about how to share the essence behind why we do a dégagé. What does it mean that your lower half is going out into the world? You know, like the conceptual and philosophical reasons to move our bodies in space. Where the joy is and where the pain is. All that stuff helped me better understand why I dance.
When they asked me if I would set a piece on the dancers, I thought , Wow. I mean I don’t know. Do you really think I’m capable?.. It was that they believed in me, when I didn’t believe in myself. They trusted that I could do it, so I had to prove to myself and them that I could. It seemed that I had a gift for choreography.
I always thought I was a dancer. And I can see that in my future, I’m going to be more of a choreographer. I’m already headed down that path. But for right now it’s important that I dance, that I teach and that I choreograph because all three, they communicate with each other. My dance experience teaches me about teaching. And the teaching teaches me about choreography. And the choreography teaches me—they all speak to one another in this really cohesive way that reminds me how everything is connected. In the universe. We’re all connected. And it’s just a beautiful, spiritual experience to have, to have so many outlets to come together. I’m sorry, is this really esoteric? [Laughs]
How would you describe your choreography? What is your process like?
Well, it’s all over the place. I’ve made some pieces that are very movement vocabulary-based, that are almost like feats of technique and virtuosity. I’ve also made quiet works that are sparse and take their time in horizontal space. But the vocabulary itself is somewhere between contemporary release technique and neoclassical ballet. I’ll give my dancers a conceptual task and they will generate some material that I will then completely take apart [laughs] and re-frame, but there is still an essence of them left. I’ll give little hints about what I want their performative state to be, but I hope for them to want and to find the journey within the piece for themselves. As for conceptually what types of work I make… A lot of it is about identity, transformation, struggle, community, definitely community, anonymity. All the works I’ve done have in some way been about those concepts.
What’s it like to be a female choreographer in the male-dominated field?
I find that in order to not let that fact of life get me down, I use the knowledge of this inequality to empower me. That we as a society have men still being paid more than women in all jobs, that men are still being valued as more successful…. it’s a travesty. But, instead of seeing it like I’m a victim and I’m defeated by being a woman, I see it as a challenge for myself to be the best that I can be. Regardless of how society or the systems that are in place right now are set up, I feel it is my duty to continue striving to do my absolute best and to share that with the world in the best way that I can. I see that horrible inequality as an opportunity for me to grow, to speak my truth and to fight the systems in place.
Do you think being a woman has any influence on your own choreography?
Absolutely. I’m very interested in the ideologies of third wave feminism, and for example, the writings of Judith Butler. I think what’s important to me is equality, and justice, and the attempt to get as close to it as possible, in every climate and environment. Whether you’re a transgender individual or a straight white female, how you identify is what matters I think, that as humans we navigate life trying to remain true to ourselves and foster relationships of equality with everyone we encounter.. that’s what is important to me. So, I would say because I do identify as a woman, it’s glorious to know who I am and to be able to remain true to that. I wish that for everyone..That’s going to be a concept explored in our piece at Festival, definitely. (Editor’s Note: This new commissioned choreography for FBP’s Summer Dance Intensive will be performed at WaterFire on July 22 and at the FBP Black Box Theatre on July 29).
So would you say that your experience in theater informs your work as well?
Yeah, absolutely. The other thing is I’m an entrepreneur. Shura and I co-founded a company! And this is the magical transition that happened when I moved to Providence. When I was living in Montréal my husband was doing his B.A. When it was time to do his M.A. he said he wanted to transfer to a better known university. But I wanted to stay in Montréal. I loved the company I was working with, and I was happy. So he stayed for me, he stayed in Montréal for a few more years. But then he wanted to get his Ph.D. at an Ivy League university, so we moved to Providence.
I found a company in Massachusetts called Prometheus and I work with them. I just got lucky, finding a home, a family, a group of dancers that allow me to be part of the creative process, build the vocabulary, and work with guest choreographers. At the time, I didn’t feel that there was the type of dancing I wanted to do consistently here in Providence.
Then I met Shura Baryshnikov in a technique class and we just sensed the ‘doppelgänger-ness’ immediately. We sought out our dream choreographers, began fundraising, built Doppelgänger Dance Collective (DDC) from the ground up and it has been really successful! So, all this to say, I initially moved here thinking that my dance career was over, that I would be gardening and crying into my flowers, but then, this new opportunity came, to be an entrepreneur, to be a woman building a company. We’re doing really well and I would have never ever thought of co-founding or directing a dance company. I would have never wanted to do the administration and the websites and the learning about technical direction and production design and dealing with presenters and the media. All of that stuff, it was never something I wanted, but I’m loving it. I’m learning so much about this other side of dance- arts-administration, things that I would have never learned as just a member of a company. So, Providence, in that respect, has given me this thing that I would have never imagined for myself. A real gift in learning.
I was just going to ask about your company with Shura! So what would you say is the idea behind Doppelgänger Dance Collective?
The day Shura and I met, we just intuitively felt and knew that we’d met our match. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, we were at the same place. We were at the same age, we had a ton of different experiences and wisdom to bring to the table, but we were mirror reflections. We wanted to push ourselves and each other past our own limitations, breaking all boundaries and just being recklessly brave about what was possible for the arts community and for ourselves in Providence. We also wanted to foster the creation and performance of live music for our concerts, and give choreographers the opportunity to have their works presented, without having to self-produce. In a sense we are also curators. We’re doing it all. It’s crazy. I mean we have some help, we have a team of people who help us: a lovely intern, an amazing social media strategist, a technical director, etc.. but yeah… it’s crazy.
What are some of your favorite pieces that you’ve worked on? Either your own choreography or things that you’ve danced.
I was a soloist in a piece choreographed by Thierry Malandain, the artistic director of Ballet Biarritz. He created a work for us called Gnossiènes, set to Erik Satie’s beautiful ‘Gymnopédies & Gnossiennes’ . I danced a trio with two men where I had to do this crazy acrobatic stuff. I was at once, a rabbit coming out of a magician’s hat, and also some sort of gymnast; I had to literally flip off the barre, I had to maneuver my hands on the barre as the guys swirled me around like a helicopter. The barre itself had on, one side the light and, on the other, the dark. I had to repeatedly try to get into the light because I was in the dark. It reflected the state of being or frame of mind, I was in at the time, and it just meant so much to me, emotionally, spiritually, physically… We performed that piece all over Europe, all over North America, that piece I have never stopped loving.
Danielle Davidson will teach a master class and choreographic workshop July 8-9 at Festival Ballet Providence. Click here to learn more.
Interview conducted by FBP School student Mizuki Samuelson. In the Spotlight series edited by Kirsten Evans and Dylan Giles.
On a given day, the Festival Ballet Providence studios would echo with sounds of music and dancing as rehearsals and classes unfold throughout the day. But recently, the sounds of power tools pierce through an eerie silence, as contractors replace old flooring and install new equipment and fixtures while the FBP company and school are mostly on break.
It’s all part of a multi-year renovation project that we are embarking on, to enhance the experience of our Black Box Theatre patrons, FBP School students, and company artists.
Goals for Phase I of the plan (September 2017 completion) include:
Black Box Theater lighting system overhaul
Audio system upgrade
State-of-the-art projection system for multi-media projects
Repairs to main corridor and theater entrance
Cosmetic and structural improvements to exterior
Replacement of dance floor in Studio 2
Subsequent phases are still in the planning process and will include even more expansive improvements to the building and infrastructure.
The Phase I renovations total $120,000 and about half of that is being subsidized by a Cultural Facilities matching grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) which allocates funds specifically for these renovation purposes. The funds originate from a 2014 Creative and Cultural Economy bond referendum, approved by Rhode Island voters. The bond focuses on the preservation of historical sites as well as the improvement and renovation of nonprofit artistic and performance centers throughout the state.
But the grant requires 1:1 matching by the recipient organization, meaning we need the help of our audience and supporters to get us to our goal. Now through June 30, the first $59,552 in donations made to the “Cultural Facilities” capital campaign will be matched dollar-for-dollar.
The FBP studios and Black Box Theatre serve as a destination for artists and arts enthusiasts. This ambitious new undertaking will ensure its future as an artistic landmark for generations to come.