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.

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!

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.

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

The Story On “Serenade”

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

Say the word “serenade” in a group of ballet dancers and immediately you’ve conjured visions of pale blue gossamer tulle floating  midair to Tchaikovsky’s dramatic score. The word “serenade” (that’s, “ser – eh – nahd” darling!) fills a dancer’s ears with a full orchestra of powerful strings and enlivens their muscles to unconsciously float into intricate formations. This is because Serenade is the title of choreographic legend George Balanchine’s most iconic work.

Created in June of 1934 for the School of American Ballet, Serenade was the first piece Balanchine choreographed in America. It has since become one of New York City Ballet’s signature works. When the great choreographer was creating this piece for the students of his school, he originally began as a lesson in stage technique. This is evidenced in the final product, with unique elements that the audience should enjoy searching for. For example, when a student fell during rehearsal, this was added into the official choreography. When another student arrived late one day, this too was incorporated into the ballet.

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

With its large cast of 28 whirling around the stage in delicate blue costumes, Serenade appears almost like a dream. Balanchine’s detailed choreography seems to work not for or against, but perfect with the music, as if the two were never separate. The choreographer had a special relationship with Tchaikovsky’s music. In an interview, the late Balanchine said:

“In everything that I did to Tschaikovsky’s music,” he told the interviewer, “I sensed his help. It wasn’t real conversation. But when I was working and saw that something was coming of it, I felt that it was Tschaikovsky who had helped me.

Balanchine’s affinity connection to the composer is certainly apparent in Serenade, the dancers dictating ever delicate intricacy in the powerful score. Those who knew Balanchine recall that for him, music was paramount. This perhaps explains why Serenade appears to be a plotless ballet, though the emotion expressed and relationships formed onstage call forth a different response from each individual audience member. For its iconic history, its breathtaking movement, and its masterful music, don’t miss Balanchine’s Serenade, coming to The Vets stage this February as part of FBP’s MIRRORS.

For tickets, click here.

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Repertory notes provided courtesy of and adapted from New York City Ballet Online Repertory Index.

Photos of Miami City Ballet by Gene Schiavone.

“Serenade” choreography by George Balanchine. © The George Balanchine Trust



 

This post was written by Kirsten Evans. The author is in her eighth season as a Company Dancer with Festival Ballet Providence. She is also the Company PR & Communications Assistant, as well as the writer of a personal blog, Setting The Barre.

7 Questions with Choreographer Kurt Douglas

The Providence audience met former Límon Dance Company dancer Kurt Douglas last season at FBP’s Spring Up Close On Hope program. In the next Up Close installment – which opens November 9 in the Black Box – the inventive choreographer behind Thrust offers a fresh new piece entitled, Sojourn. We sat down with Douglas to learn a bit more about his latest creation for FBP…

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Kurt, can you tell us about the style of your newest premiere for FBP?

My style of movement has always been rooted in the use of momentum, weight, gravity and risk taking. I am fascinated by crafting and creating patterns that manipulate the space to create different visual textures. I pushed the dancers to explore their use of falling into the floor. This idea is not always utilized in ballet dancing so it was a challenge. I enjoy introducing and trying different ideas that may not always work. I believe trying many different options until I find the one that flows and make sense. My new work is called “Sojourn” and I am truly proud of what the dancers and I have created together.

Tell us about the beautiful music the dancers will be reacting to. Did you find the music before you began working on the movement?

Yes! I have been wanting to work with this piece of music for a while now. The minimalist style of music inspires me and allows my imagination to soar in a multitude of different directions. The music is truly magical.

It really is. So once you have the music, where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration from many different places. I am particularly inspired by the environments I come in contact with and the diversity of different people around me. I love the outdoors and the unpredictability of nature. The dancers bring inspiration to me by just bringing their vulnerability into the rehearsal process.

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I love how you keep mentioning this partnership between you and the dancers in the creation process. What has the experience been like?

The dancers at FBP are truly stellar artists in every way. The community here at FBP is super supportive in and out of the studio. The energy in a room is incredibly important during my creative process. The dancers bring their A game every time we work together, and for that I am truly grateful to them.

“Their commitment to artistic excellence, creativity and courage always invigorates me.”

That’s so inspiring. Hopefully the audience can feel that as well! How do you think the Providence audiences will respond to this piece?

I think the Providence audiences will enjoy watching the beautiful dancers of FBP move in a contemporary way. They will enjoy the opportunity to get lost in the beautiful score and of the intricate visual patterns that the dancers create. The dancers truly make this piece their own and tell their own stories through the movement. I think that anyone who comes to see Up Close on Hope: Program 1 will not be disappointed.

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This is an entire program of premieres! How do you think people will react to seeing Sojourn in the Black Box Theatre?

The audience will accompany the dancers as they journey a from one unknown place to another. I hope that after seeing this work in the Black Box Theatre the audience’s imaginations will be sparked in a new and creative way. Hopefully they will reflect and celebrate their own journey’s after experiencing the work.

Up Close really is a special kind of performance, isn’t it? Does the Black Box present any challenges or unique opportunities choreographically?

One aspect about making a work in the Black Box Theatre is the intimacy of the space. The relationship between the dancers and the audience is special because the audience sits extremely close to the action happening on stage.

“You can hear the dancers breathing, see their sweat, and feel their raw and honest expressions of emotion. It’s truly a rare and memorably special opportunity to watch dance in such a close proximity to the stage. Come out and experience FBP for yourself.”

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Thank you so much, Kurt!

To see Sojourn and the rest of the premieres at Up Close On Hope, click here for tickets.

Photos by Dylan Giles.

“Ballet in the Library” Goes Under The Sea

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Here in the Creative Capital, art is constantly being imagined, created, and shared. One of the greatest gifts an artist can give is to inspire and educate developing young minds to dream up the next masterpiece. At FBP, we are dedicated to helping raise the next generation of artists in Providence with our extensive outreach program.

This season, FBP has brought enchanting dance experiences to hundreds of children in Rhode Island through our “Ballet in the Library” series, sparking the fire of passion in the hearts of countless youth along the way. In preparation for one of the most whimsical ballets the Company has ever taken on, Little Mermaid, a team of dancers led by Outreach Director Valerie Cookson-Botto will be popping up in libraries in Providence, Cranston, Jamestown, North Kingstown, and Peach Dale to perform an interactive reading of Little Mermaid. These fun events are the perfect way to get your littles excited for the ballet, while engaging in your community arts scene and exposing your children to art in a unique, approachable way.

Cinderella Festival Ballet Providence Story Time

Of course, community engagement is all about sharing the experience of dance with those around you, and dance is all about moving your body- so it wouldn’t be a proper FBP Outreach event without some dancing! FBP dancers will teach the children to move like they are underwater, practicing the movements of a variety of sea creatures to create an original ocean dance.

Festival Ballet Providence Cinderella

What’s a little pop-up party without a craft, right? Children will be invited to make their very own fish to take home with them- and then bring along to the theater to see FBP’s Little Mermaid live on stage April 27-29! Fin-tastic fun for the whole family!

For a schedule of FBP’s “Ballet in the Library” series, see below:

North Kingstown Free Library- Tuesday, 4/17; 10am

Peach Dale Library- Wednesday, 4/18; 10:30am

Jamestown Library- Wednesday, 4/18; 2pm

Cranston Central Library- Thursday, 4/19; 10:30am

Rochambeau Library-Tuesday, 4/24; 10:30am

Washington Park Library- Tuesday, 4/24; 1pm

Mount Pleasant Library- Wednesday, 4/25; 10am

Olney Library- Thursday 4/26; 10am

Wanskuck Library- Thursday, 4/16; 1pm

For tickets to FBP’s Little Mermaid, click here.


This post was written by Kirsten Evans. The author is in her eighth season as a Company Dancer with Festival Ballet Providence. She is also the Company PR & Communications Assistant, as well as the writer of a personal blog, Setting The Barre.

5 Questions for “Little Mermaid” Choreographer Mark Diamond

Christopher Record Dance Photography - Charlotte Ballet Little Mermaid

In just a few short weeks, FBP will make a splash at The Vets, bringing Mark Diamond’s bubbly adaptation of Little Mermaid to the stage for the first time in New England. Before taking on his current role as the director of Charlotte Ballet II, Mark Diamond danced with several professional ballet companies in Europe and the US, including Hamburg Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, andPittsburgh Ballet Theater. Today we are sitting down with the choreographer to learn a bit about his version of the classic fairytale…

Hello, Mark! Let’s dive in (ha). What inspired you to create a ballet version of Little Mermaid?

When Charlotte Ballet asked me to create a family ballet, I felt that the Little Mermaid was a great story because of the juxtaposition of two worlds, the land and the sea. And also, because it is a love story.

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That beautiful opposition between land and sea must have posed some unique challenges in terms of choreography. How did you go about creating an underwater world? 

The idea of the sea (and under the sea) is that everything is constantly moving with natural beauty; which is what dance is about. The dancer playing the little mermaid can never stand or walk while under the sea; so I have men carriers, which I call the Undertow run and carry her about the stage. Costumes are flowy and representative of different sea elements and creatures. And of course the lighting and projections emphasize the exaggerated colors of the water, and of the constant movement.

Christopher Record Dance Photography - Charlotte Ballet Little Mermaid

Sounds lovely! Can you describe the high-tech elements that were recently incorporated in the show?

The use of projections on top of the scenery really helps with the constant flux of visuals that are under water.

*Pro Tip: For an inside look at the making of the Little Mermaid costumes which include one-of-a-kind 3D printed elements, click here!*

Christopher Record Dance Photography - Charlotte Ballet Little Mermaid

There seems to be a shift in technique used from the dancers under the sea versus those on land. What can the audience expect to see in terms of style? 

In general, the movement under the sea is natural or, in the style of contemporary dance; especially for the Undertow men. The dance styles utilized in the land scenes are all classical or “character” dance.

Christopher Record Dance Photography - Charlotte Ballet Little Mermaid

Little Mermaid is such a classic story. What elements of the original story did you incorporate and what did you make your own? Did the popular Disney adaptation inspire you in any way?

I have followed the story from Hans Christian Anderson (whose works are always a bit dark and depressing) as closely as possible but not always in the details. In dance we always have to take some artistic license to make the translation work.

“I have made the interpretation more colorful and joyful and have incorporated elements of joy, yearning, humor and hope.”

I have choreographed a few storybook ballets and I always try to totally avoid any adaptations used by Disney. I also felt it would be very irresponsible to ask families to bring their children and serve them the ancient, dismal and depressing ending that Hans Christian Anderson used.

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Both creativity and balance are so key when it comes to making something exciting and original for children. The Company has been looking forward to bringing this ballet to life! Thanks, Mark!

To see Little Mermaid make a splash on stage, click here for tickets.

Photos via Charlotte Ballet.


This post was written by Kirsten Evans. The author is in her eighth season as a Company Dancer with Festival Ballet Providence. She is also the Company PR & Communications Assistant, as well as the writer of a personal blog, Setting The Barre.