Live Music Brings New Dimensions To Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale”


Next weekend’s “Director’s Choice” program is packed with all kinds of excitement- an iconic classic, a Tony Award-winning choreographer, a world premiere- but there’s one thing everyone is buzzing about: LIVE MUSIC.

FBP’s brand new adaptation of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale will feature inventive choreography by Viktor Plotnikov, spoken word narration by local actor Nigel Gore, and live music on stage, played by a septet of musicians from the Rhode Island Philharmonic under the expert direction of Alexey Shabalin.

The Russian-born musical genius has received a number of impressive accolades celebrating his talent, from distinguished awards in Moscow to special performance opportunities here in the United States. Shabalin is currently a violinist with the Rhode Island Philharmonic and Artist-Director of the RI Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. Shabalin has also devoted much of his time to working with aspiring musicians at prestigious universities including Brown University, MIT, Providence College, and Rhode Island College. We caught up with the accomplished conductor to get the inside scoop on this exclusive collaboration…



Hello Alexey! We are so honored to have you on our “Director’s Choice” artistic team. How did you get involved in this collaboration with Festival Ballet Providence (FBP) and The Soldier’s Tale?


The community of musicians and artists here in RI have a tight connection, so I got to know Mihailo Djuric a long time ago. It’s a great pleasure and a privilege for me to celebrate this special occasion – the 40th anniversary of Festival Ballet.


Thank you for helping us celebrate! Now, I have heard multiple versions of the Soldier’s Tale score using different combinations of instruments. Will the “Director’s Choice” audience be hearing the original version of the score? 


Yes. There are many versions of The Soldier’s Tale- the play, suite, trio- but there is not a ballet version. In 1918, [Igor] Stravinsky wrote the score for the play The Soldier’s Tale and revised some of the movements several times. In 1924,  J.& W.Chester  published the final version of the score. Later on, Stravinsky recorded his composition 3 different times using the 1924 version of the piece. We will also be using the original 1924 version of the score.


And what about the changing instrumentations? It seems the arrangements evolved with the piece over the years. How is it decided which instruments will play?


As Stravinsky said: “The discovery of the American Jazz has affected my life to the greatest degree. My piece [The Soldier’s Tale] uses the same instruments as they did in jazz of early 20th century, with the exception of saxophone, which was replaced by bassoon”.




How much of the score has been modified to accommodate Viktor’s vision for this new adaption?


“The involvement of this new component, the art of ballet, gives this composition a new dimension.” 




It’s such a special treat for the dancers of FBP to perform to live music. Have you worked on this sort of collaboration or conducted for a ballet before? 


I am symphony orchestra conductor, so this is a totally new experience for me. Now I am dealing with the syntheses of expression of human body and art of sound. I enjoy it very much!


What are you most excited about for this production?


 We are very excited to present to the audience the different vision of  The Soldier’s Tale as a world premiere ballet. I think for all artists, it’s essential to present something that the audience has never seen, heard, or read before.


That is so true. But Stravinksy’s scores are notoriously challenging to perform. How are you working to make sure everything goes smoothly with the dancers and musicians?


All of the musicians are great professionals from the RI Philharmonic, and I believe that we will be able to overcome the many difficulties of the score. Without exaggeration, I can say that the score of The Soldier’s Tale is a concert for seven solo instruments- violin, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, double bass and percussion- as well as a narrator.


Stravinsky himself said: “My musical ideas of the ’20s were directed towards the style of instrumental solos. The sound characteristic of the The Soldier’s Tale is the fiddling of the violin and the rhythmic patterns of the drums, the violin is the soldier’s soul, and the drums are delivery”.




Thank you, Alexey!


To see Alexey and the dancers in action, and hear the magnificent musicians performing Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale live on stage, 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.


8 Reasons You Need To See “Director’s Choice”

1. Everything is beautiful at the ballet! From the glowing gems of George Balanchine’s sparkling Rubies to the hypnotic choreography of Christopher Wheeldon’s The American to the exquisite characterization of Viktor Plotnikov’s The Soldier’s Tale, got lost in the beauty of the ballet this February.

FBP Company Dancers rehearsing Christopher Wheeldon’s The American.

2. Plan the perfect pre-Valentine’s date night! With drama and passion galore, it doesn’t get more romantic than a night at the ballet.

Eugenia Zinovieva and Alan Alberto rehearsing Christopher Wheeldon’s The American

3. Celebrate an anniversary or two…or three! FBP marks its 40th “Ruby” Anniversary Season with this packed performance including George Balanchine’s Rubies– which turned 50 last year- and an all new adaptation of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale which celebrates its centennial birthday this year! Plus this will be the first time choreography by Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon (The American) will be seen in Rhode Island!


4. Delight your senses with live music ON STAGE! Viktor Plotnikov’s brand new version of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale will feature a select ensemble of musicians from the Rhode Island Philharmonic, performing the dramatic arrangement on stage right beside the dancers!                              4318737_01.jpg

5. Come in from the cold and warm up with Balanchine’s red hot Rubies! This jazzy piece is all about flirtatious flair- perfect for a night out with your sweetheart!

Kirsten Evans and Alan Alberto in George Balanchine's Rubies_Choreography © George Balanchine Trust_Photo by Zaire Kacz Photography
Kirsten Evans and Alan Alberto in George Balanchine’s Rubies, photo by Zaire Kacz Photography.


6. Embrace the local talent and the beauty of collaboration! Rhode Island actor Nigel Gore narrates The Soldier’s Tale live on stage, accompanied by local musicians and of course, RI’s favorite ballet company!

Viktor Plotnikov rehearsing The Soldier’s Tale

7. Witness up-and-coming artists in action. Young designer Sylvie Mayer is creating breathtaking costumes for FBP’s reimagining of The Soldier’s Tale. You don’t want to miss her cutting edge vision!

8. Take advantage of the opportunity to see world renowned choreography in your backyard! FBP is one of the only ballets in New England to receive the honor of performing George Balanchine ballets, and Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon’s work is currently sought after by major dance companies across the globe.

Balanchine repetiteur Sandra Jennings working with the dancers of FBP on George Balanchine’s Rubies.


So what are you waiting for? For tickets to this steamy show, 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.

How To Stage a Tony Award Winner’s Choreography

Brenna DiFrancesco and Ty Parmenter rehearsing Christopher Wheeldon’s The American.

It’s a new year andFestival Ballet Providence (FBP) is hard at work preparing for February’s ambitiousDirector’s Choice program. The evening will include three different ballets, one of which- entitled The American– is a company premiere. In fact, this performance will mark the first time a full-length work by world famous Tony Award-winning choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon, has ever been performed in Rhode Island.

To stage the ballet, former New York City Ballet dancer Michele Gifford has traveled to Providence several times over the course of FBP’s 40th Anniversary Season.  The American will surely bring FBP to new heights, with stunning choreography by Christopher Wheeldon and music by Antonin Dvorák. This technical piece will challenge the Company’s musicality and teamwork like never before. We sat down with Michele to find out about her ballet career, Christopher Wheeldon’s creation process, and what FBP will bring to this special ballet…

Michelle Gifford. photo by Edwin Watson Photography.

What is your first dance-related memory?

My first memory was as a young girl. I was very upset that my bunny ears wouldn’t stand up straight…we were doing Alice in Wonderland.

You performed with New York City Ballet (NYCB) for twelve years. What was your time with the company like? 

My time at NYCB was amazing, but of course it wasn’t all candy-coated. It was hard work all day, every day (and night!). There was no down time unless you were on a layoff period and even then most of us performed as guest artists in other places.

I was with NYCB at a very special time, because Balanchine dancers [dancers who worked directly with George Balanchine] were still there and dancing a lot. I got to see these people in rehearsals and live onstage- not just in a video. Such an amazing and special time.

Gwynn Wolford and David Dubois rehearsing Christopher Wheeldon’s The American.

You’ve mentioned being cast as the “jumping and turning girl” quite a bit at NYCB. Did you enjoy that type of movement, or did you crave more languid roles? Did you have a favorite role to perform?

I only wanted that shift as I got older. While I was in NYCB I knew that these were my roles and really enjoyed those parts. I also enjoyed when guest choreographers came in and chose me to do different things.

Extending your style challenges another facet of you as a dancer and as a person.

You have been staging works by renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon for some time now. When did you two first meet?

I met Chris when he was a dancer with The Royal Ballet and I came in to take company class there.

Beth Mochizuki and Cameron Morgan rehearsing Christopher Wheeldon’s The American.

What is Mr. Wheeldon’s creation process like?

He is very fun in the studio and always wants the best for the dancers as well as the piece. He is also extremely musical.

How would you describe the ballet being performed by FBP, The American

I always feel like the pas de deux is like spun sugar: delicate but light with a sense of breath. It’s really elegant. It also reminds me of a lazy summer day.

I think the music drives the ballet and if you just sit and listen to the music, the choreography just makes sense in so many ways.

This piece is rarely performed by professional companies. What do you think FBP will bring to the piece? 

Olivia Kaczmarcyk, Ty Parmenter, Tegan Rich, and Jordan Nelson rehearsing Christopher Wheeldon’s The American.

I think FBP will bring an excitement to the ballet simply because they do not have the opportunity to perform this kind of work often, so it’s fresh and new. Doing The American will make the FBP dancers better because it’s a challenge and one only continues to grow as an artist and person by doing ballets that challenge them. 


In what ways will The American challenge the dancers of Festival Ballet Providence?

I think that the challenge for the dancers is making the piece a group effort. Everyone has to be 100% involved the whole way through.

FBP Artists rehearsing Christopher Wheeldon’s The American.

What do you hope Providence audiences will take away from seeing this ballet? 
The audience will hopefully walk away not only with fantastic music to hum but also a sense of brightness.

Thank you, Michele! To see The American and the rest of the exciting Director’s Choice evening, click here for tickets.

FBP Company Artists and Artistic Staff with Michele Gifford.


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.

A Lifetime of Nutcracker

Festival Ballet Providence (FBP) has spent 40 Decembers ushering in the holiday season with The Nutcracker at the Providence Performing Arts Center. For many, the annual Christmas ballet has become a staple of the season. For one dancer, it’s a lifelong tradition.

Jennifer Ricci in her dressing room

The name Jennifer Ricci has almost become synonymous with Festival Ballet. The veteran dancer has been involved with the Company for most of her life- 39 years to be exact- delighting audiences with her signature expressiveness. This season marks Ricci’s 35th anniversary performing in FBP’s Nutcracker production, an annual tradition she began at the age of 8 as one of the cast’s youngest roles, a party child.

Jennifer Ricci as the Sugar Plum Fairy in 1998

“I look forward to Nutcracker all year,” Jennifer said of the production, adding, “It stirs up so many great memories from my past and creates new ones each year.”

Ricci has grown up through The Nutcracker, dancing the leading role of Clara for several years before being selected early to join the company when she was only 16. Jennifer has since performed many different roles in the ballet, but there is one role that she has made distinctly her own: Arabian Coffee. We asked Jennifer how she came to dance this exquisite role…

“Arabian was always my dream role as a child.  I would watch the company dancers perform it with my jaw wide open,” Jennifer said. “Tall dancers were always chosen for the role and being petite, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be given the chance to do it. When I was 16, I decided to start learning it myself in the back of the studio, using the barre as a partner.

Jennifer Ricci rehearsing “Arabian” at age 16 with Kevin Milam

One day, Christine [Hennessey, FBP Co-Founder] said to me, ‘I see you, little one, keep up the good work, you keep practicing!’ One of the company men volunteered to learn it with me, and we actually ended up performing in one of the Discover Dance performance!  It went extremely well, and that’s how I became the Arabian dancer.”

Jennifer warming up for her role as “Arabian” in FBP’s The Nutcracker

And we are so very glad she did! Jennifer lends her uniquely sexy style to “Arabian” this December at the Providence Performing Arts Center. Click here or call (401) 421-ARTS for tickets.


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.

Let’s Hear It For The Boys

Think ballet is just for girls? Think again!

For far too long, society has suggested that pursuing a passion for dance is off-limits to boys. It’s all pink tutus and pointe shoes, right? Well, the 17 male ballet students at the FBP School are busting that myth!


Week after week, the growing number of male Festival Ballet Providence (FBP) School students are proving that ballet is for boys at every level. Starting from the youngest dancer to FBP School’s rising senior, these students are working every day on their coordination, strength, musicality, and stamina. With dedication and endurance, they are knocking down stereotypes about male dancers, demonstrating that ballet is for everyone. All you need is inspiration to move.

Leading the way are FBP’s 11 professional company men, who are busy lifting ladies up over their heads to show just how strong male ballet dancers really are:


Also paving the path are these successful FBP School alumni….

Graduate Brandon McGuirk’s experience in the studios at FBP prepared him for his current role as a Company Dancer with Roxey Ballet Company in New Jersey. Brandon reflects fondly on his eight years in the FBP School, where he felt especially influenced by guidance from FBP’s company dancers.

FBP School Graduate Brandon McGuirk

“It was awesome being a part of the school, because a lot of the FBP company dancers did help me and teach me how to do steps the proper way. I always felt that Festival provided such an uplifting environment in which I was able to take class to the best of my abilities.” -Brandon McGuirk

Another FBP alum, Joseph Lynch, has taken what he learned from his seven years at the FBP School to his role as a dancer for Ballet West II in Salt Lake City, Utah. Joe also had some great things to say about his training in Providence.

FBP School Graduate Joseph Lynch

“FBP school opened the door to my future. It introduced me to a new world, that eventually became my life. Getting to work with the Company showed me that I wanted to make this my career, and they helped me get here.” -Joseph Lynch



To get the inside scoop on this growing legacy, we talked to a few of our current students about their time in ballet class.

FBP School Student Cole Previti with teacher/Company Dancer Azamat Asangul

“Ballet makes me happy. I like it because I get to move my body,” one of our youngest dancers, six-year-old Cole Previti, said when asked what dancing means to him. 

But it’s not all about the physicality. Ballet student Jack MacDonald also finds a sense of mental balance through ballet.

FBP School Students with teacher Azamat Asangul (left), Student Jack MacDonald practicing his tendu (right)

“I like ballet class because of how they teach it. I think it helps me focus.” Jack said of his experience, adding, “It seems like there aren’t too many boys [men] in ballet.  But I think that’s cool.  It makes it special.”


And there you have it. So what are you waiting for? It’s never too late to join these boys and sign up for classes! For our current class schedule, curriculum, and all other school information, 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.

University Orthopedics: Keeping Dancers on Their Toes

Everything is beautiful at the ballet, right? Well, most of the time it is, but what happens behind the scenes to keep the Festival Ballet Providence (FBP) dancers dancing? Blood, sweat, and University Orthopedics!

FESTIVALBALLET_University Orthopedics Dancer Screening-18.jpg

Equally as important as rehearsing and stretching, rehabilitating is an integral part of a dancer’s routine. Dance is the only art form in which the human body is the  complete medium: the instrument, the canvas, and the clay. Keeping a dancer’s body safe while it executes the incredibly difficult movements seen on stage is no simple task. Fortunately for FBP, the expert team at University Orthopedics has our backs. And hips. And feet…

FESTIVALBALLET_University Orthopedics Dancer Screening-19

A few weeks ago, physical therapists at University Orthopedics conducted fitness consultations with the artists of FBP to assess the health of each dancer’s body. Through a series of physical evaluations, the dancers tested their stamina, strength, and power to determine their current state of physical fitness. The team at University Orthopedics combined the data gathered from participants with their extensive knowledge of the human body to tailor personalized wellness programs for each individual dancer.

FESTIVALBALLET_University Orthopedics Dancer Screening-16

The benefits of University Orthopedics sponsorship of FBP are limitless, but the Company’s Physical Therapist in Residence, Jennifer Davis, is perhaps the most meaningful. A former professional ballet dancer herself, Jen Davis fully understands the unique stress being put on a dancer’s body. She says:

“On-site physical therapy for Festival dancers is so important.This is a small company and Misha counts on each member. Avoiding dance injury, or addressing it quickly, enables dancers to perform at their best, helping to ensure both their personal achievement and also the company’s success.”

Jennifer Davis visits the Hope Street studios once a week to treat the dancers, ensuring minor irritations do not become full blown injuries. Of her experience with treating the Company, Davis says, “My job is to help these elite level athletes address the bumps, bruises, irritated tendons and stuck vertebra before daily issues develop into ongoing problems. The energy here is positive and constructive. The dancers have prepared for years to reach this level of dancing professionally. Everyone is striving to do their best work.”

“I am so glad that University Orthopedics has made it possible for us to work together to help these dancers stay in the game and perform at their highest level.”

FESTIVALBALLET_University Orthopedics Dancer Screening-7

To see the strong dancers of FBP in action, purchase tickets for the Company’s 40th Anniversary Season 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 a Choreographer


Ilya Kozadayev is quite the jet setter. Before retiring from the stage to focus on choreographing, Kozadayev trained at the Vagonova School in St. Petersburg, Russia, The School of American Ballet in New York City, the Academy of Ballet in Colorado and graduated from the John Cranko Ballet Academy in Stuttgart, Germany. After performing with an impressive array of professional ballet companies from Boston to Houston, Ilya served as Assistant Professor of Ballet at the University of Oklahoma School of Ballet.


Currently in his first year as a member of the Dance Faculty at North Carolina School of The Arts, Ilya Kozadayev has made several trips to Providence in recent years, creating some of FBP’s most memorable story ballets including Hansel & Gretel and Romeo & Juliet. This season, Ilya departs from this narrative approach with his gripping Symbiosis, coming to Up Close On Hope this week. Let’s dive into some details…

So Ilya, let’s start from the beginning. When did you first feel inspired to create choreography?

I think I was 12 or 13 when I created a solo for myself and performed it in my middle school concert.


What is your process like? Are you driven by the music first or a specific concept?

My process is different for every piece that I do. I usually develop a concept and then look for the music (or silence) to fit it.

Where did the inspiration for Symbiosis come from?

The inspiration for Symbiosis actually came from the idea of dance itself, and its requirement of close physical and physiological support, particularly in contact partnering.


Symbiosis will feature a unique use of the new lighting in our Black Box Theater. Can you tell us a bit about how lighting, in tandem with costuming, music, and other elements, contributes to your overall vision as a choreographer?

I think that the beautiful new lighting in the Black Box Theater are an important part of this work. Lighting, costume and music are vital parts of the whole for me- the “ total work of art”. All of these elements are essential in setting the environment of that which is happening on the stage, thus creating a complete vision; an experience which the viewer can then freely enjoy and interpret.


What do you think the dancers at FBP can bring to this piece? 

I always enjoy working with the dancers at FBP. They learn the work fast and interpret the choreography with dynamic yet sensitive approach. It is beautiful to watch.

To see Ilya’s piece at Up Close On Hope this month, head here or call (401) 353-1129 for tickets.


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.


In The Spotlight: Mary Ellen Beaudreau

With the first mainstage program in the books, the Company is already looking ahead to the first installment of its popular Black Box Theatre series, Up Close On Hope, opening in just two short weeks!
The Company is thrilled to welcome Festival Ballet Providence (FBP) School alumna Mary Ellen Beaudreau back into the studio as a choreographer for this month’s Up Close On Hope program. Since graduating from FBP School, Mary Ellen has traveled the world dancing with an impressive roster of professional companies and working as movement director for several different organizations. Beaudreau has also earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance from The Juilliard School in New York City as well as a Masters degree in Choreography from Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London. She is currently the Director of the Brooklyn Ballet School. We sat down with this ambitious artist to hear all about her roots, her return to FBP, and the inspiration behind her newest creation…
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Mary Ellen Beaudreau, photo by Oriel Pe’er.
What is your first dance-related memory? 
I remember when I was about 3 years old being completely enchanted watching the dancers on the Lawrence Welk television show. Most people will recognize the parody of the Lawrence Welk show from Saturday Night Live, but for the 3-year-old me, it was magical, joyful and exciting to watch, especially with my grandparents. 
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Mary Ellen at age 8
When did you begin training at the Festival Providence School? 
I started training at Festival Ballet Providence at the age of 12 after watching FBP’s The Nutcracker. I knew that I wanted to dance professionally and I understood that FBP had the best training to get me there. I was a determined kid and despite my parents reservations about the unknown future of a dancer, I forged ahead and trained every day after school (providing that I maintained straight As in school of course).
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Mary Ellen in her first tutu, age 15 performing Paquita at the Festival Ballet Providence School
What was your time in the school like? 
It was intimidating at first when I arrived. I didn’t know anyone and recognized that I didn’t fit into any social clique, but I was at peace when I danced. I focused on my teacher’s corrections, improving in class and getting to understand the craft rather than trying to be “cool” to fit in with my peers. 
You were so focused! That’s wonderful. Did you get to perform with the company while you were here? 
Yes, as a student, I had the pleasure of performing in the corps de ballet in The NutcrackerGiselleLes SylphidesEsmerelda, and even went on tour with the company.

It was a thrill to learn from [FBP Artistic Director] Misha Djuric and the company members. I will never forget their support and guidance in becoming a professional dancer.

Were you always interested in choreographing? 
Instinctively I always knew that I needed to express my inner thoughts, ideas and creative impulses through movement. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I could be a choreographer because as a student, my main goal was to become a professional dancer. As I continued to work as a classical and modern dancer in the field I realized more and more that my creative voice needed to be expressed.

As a female dancer, I found that female voices are often suppressed in a creative project and I wanted to change that opportunity not only for myself but also for other women in the profession.

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Video-Fashion-Dance Collaboration with fashion designer Jenny Lai, NOT fashion line, photo credit: Lydia Bittner-Baird
Yes! We are so excited to be able to present so many talented female choreographers at FBP this season. So, after graduating from FBP and working professionally, you went back to school to earn several degrees. Why was furthering your education so important to you?
I believe that as artists – whether we are performing or creating- we need to be informed and well versed in all aspects of our craft. After working with San Francisco Ballet, I wanted to have a greater understanding of the scope of American dance. The Juilliard School was an incredible resource for me to investigate and learn from some of the finest teachers in our country – learning modern and ballet techniques, anatomy, music theory and dance history. After performing with a number of companies and choreographing and movement directing for theatre and opera works, I realized that I had little time to investigate my craft. Attaining a Master’s Degree in Choreography at Laban in London felt superfluous at first, but I realized that studying theories, researching other artists’ creative processes and writing a thesis helped me to organize and thoroughly investigate my ideas more fully.
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Mary Ellen at The Julliard School, age 22, photo by Norbert De La Cruz III
You have performed with several different companies including San Francisco Ballet, Charlotte Ballet, Pilobolus Dance Theatre, RUBBERBANDance Group, Trey McIntyre Project and Sidra Bell and Dancers, to name a few. How did your experience dancing in different environments shape your artistry as a choreographer?
I am attracted to the unknown and often go towards the things I fear the most and I always want to learn something new. Gaining precision, hard work, and dedication from being a classical ballet dancer first, I had the tools needed to thrive in any challenging situation, because I knew I could rely on my own will power to make things happen. It was a struggle as a classical dancer to embrace the different modern dance techniques and methods that were thrown my way throughout my career, but I was determined to find out what worked with my body. Pilobolus Dance Theatre in particular redefined my idea of what dance was and could be. For the first time, I didn’t need to fit into any particular aesthetic, but I needed to be really strong and have a lot of trust in the dancers I worked with. The idea that every show included and supported everyone on the creative and production team was very appealing to me especially coming from a classical background where everyone is fighting to reach the top in a hierarchical setting.

I think that every experience that I had and continue to have informs the work that I do – from working on a construction crew in Montreal to teaching children in South Africa, I try to absorb the environments and cultures that I experience.

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Mary Ellen at Charlotte Ballet in 2009, photo by Christopher Record


That’s really beautiful. So after all of that traveling, how does it feel to be back at FBP, this time choreographing?
It feels surreal sometimes walking through the halls again, and also a bit like I am coming home after 16 years of being away. I have so many memories growing up and discovering my life’s passion at Festival Ballet. It is wonderful to work with the dancers now and see where Misha’s vision for the company has grown. I greatly appreciate his support of me throughout the years and his trust in me to choreograph on FBP this season. It’s been a pleasure to work with the dancers. I am enjoying every minute.
Can you tell us a bit about your new work for Up Close On Hope? What is the inspiration?
My new work, Swimmers Suite, is inspired by my late grandmother and native Rhode Islander, Marjorie Burgess Houston, who we affectionately called “Gummy.” She was born in 1921 and spoke fondly of her summers swimming and camping on the Rhode Island beaches in the 1930s with her family. Her outlook was always positive despite living in a time sandwiched between two wars. A survivalist and generous soul, Gummy persevered and brought joy and humor to every life she touched.
Your creative process is very unique. Can you tell us a bit about that?
The choreographic process for Swimmers Suite was constructed with the 18 dancers in the room. Much of my choreography is developed from the creative input of the artists I work with – every voice and body in the room is important to building a new piece. It’s been exciting to see the dancers work together in new ways and develop a real camaraderie in the piece.
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Ballet Confessions (choreography & creation by Mary Ellen Beaudreau, premiered at Judson Memorial Church in May 2014), photo credit: Lydia Bittner-Baird

To see Mary Ellen’s Swimmers Suite and the rest of the exciting program at Up Close On Hope, click here for tickets or call FBP at (401) 353-1129.


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.

Ask Viktor Anything

For the latest episode of our “Locker Room Talk” series, the Communications Crew tested the multi-tasking skills (and patience) of Festival Ballet Providence (FBP) Resident Choreographer Viktor Plotnikov: We decked out the men’s locker room in Halloween decor, set up a pumpkin carving station, and handed the choreographer a tiny plastic knife and a trick-or-treating bucket of questions sourced from all of you! There is not nearly enough time for all of Viktor’s creative genius in one short video, so we’ve transcribed the rest of the interview here for you. Let’s see how he made out…

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How is choreographing movement for a broom different than making steps for a human character?

Well, bringing the broom to life was actually a big challenge. First of all, the Broom’s movement resembles a lot of human characteristics. When it meets the Widow’s son, the Broom tries to behave like a kid. So, the choreography has to have elasticity to show that the Broom is alive. But the choreography also has to represent the rigidity of an object as well as the agility of what this broom can do, and I think that’s the magic.

Would you rather get a pumpkin spice latte or go apple picking?

I love apples. I grew up picking apples- we had a garden with an apple tree there. I haven’t gone apple picking in a long time. That would be a treat.

[Carves a hole in top of pumpkin]

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How did you find FBP and why did you want to choreograph for them?

In Boston I was trying my hand in choreography with little pieces in different workshops. Misha came to see these workshops and one day just called me. He wanted me to choreograph a big piece- Carmen- and I almost fell on the floor. I got so nervous.

That was in 2003. I started working with the company then and that’s how it went. So really Misha found me and gave me the opportunity to do a bigger work here. It went rather well, I think.

If two witches watched two watches, which witch would watch which watch?

I would say that the first witch would have to watch the watch of the second witch. And yeah, like that. So the witch would have to watch the watch of the witch which watched the watch of the witch before that witch. [Laughs]

[To the crew] Guys, this is so much fun! I’m definitely going to buy myself one of these kits.

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What was it like working with Chris Van Allsburg, Aleksandra Vrebalov and Eugene Lee?

That’s an awesome question. All of them are so inspiring. Chris Van Allsburg was so fantastic. He’s like a little kid. He was so inspired. So alive!

Eugene Lee was so fast. He presented the whole structure of the sets as a mock up in a small box, like a miniature stage. That was a lot of fun, to look inside and sort of walk through.

Working with Aleksandra was my first time actually working with a composer. It was really cool, because we could collaborate so much. If I needed a section to be a certain length, she was able to accommodate that. It was really awesome.

The whole process was really inspiring. It was a lot of teamwork and collaboration.

[Turning his gaze back to the pumpkin] Guys, I’m going to cut my hand off!

Uh oh. Let’s talk inspiration. Where do you get your inspiration from?

From space! [Laughs] I think inspiration sits within us all the time, it just has to be activated. Sometimes you already have the story cooking in your head, so you get excited. Sometimes you have a piece of music already, so then you have a base to create from. It’s all about being inspired in a different way.

[Viktor turns around his half-carved pumpkin] 

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Look, look, look, look, look, you see? [Laughs] It’s not that clean, but it’s coming along. 

How do you feel when you see your choreography being performed on stage?

I used to panic for the final element, until I learned that then it’s in the hands of the dancers. When it goes on stage, the dancers are responsible for it. It’s still stressful, but not too much.

Was “The Widow’s Broom” the first storybook ballet that you choreographed?

No. Well, there was Carmen, then…yeah it’s the second. [Laughs] Ta-da!

Have you choreographed any other story ballets since?

Yes, Cinderella. And Romeo & Juliet coming up at First State Ballet Theater in Delaware this March.

Which of your ballets are you most proud of?

I think the one I did for one of the workshops way back in Boston. It’s called “State of Mind”. I like that piece the best not because of the movement, but because the idea was bold. I was not afraid. Later, I guess all choreographers do this, we end up sticking to what we know to a certain degree. But choreographing “State of Mind”, I was really experimenting with what I could do.

I’m more interested in the work itself in the studio. The process is much more interesting than the final result. For me, I don’t have that excitement once its over. When the last step is created in the studio, that’s when I give birth to my baby. 

[Revealing his finished pumpkin to us] Here! That was the last question and it’s done. [Imitating a ghost] Ooooh!

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To see “The Widow’s Broom” on stage, click here for tickets or call (401) 421-ARTS.


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.

11 Reasons You Need To See “The Widow’s Broom”

You already know this show is a festive Halloween treat, but in case you need some convincing, here are 11 reasons to see Festival Ballet Providence (FBP)’s “The Widow’s Broom” this weekend…

  1. Get your daily dose of art. Celebrate 40 years of culture in Providence as Rhode Island’s premiere ballet company makes this season’s mainstage debut in its 40th Anniversary Season with “The Widow’s Broom”.

    FBP Company Dancers rehearsing “The Widow’s Broom”
  2. Witches and pumpkins and ghostly brooms, oh my! “The Widow’s Broom” is the perfect way to get ready for Halloween night, complete with a coven of creepy cool witches.

    A few of the “Widow’s Broom” witches sweeping up at Providence Waterfire’s Fireball event.
  3. Enjoy the adventurous tale that has already captivated hundreds of students across the region! Children will love seeing this story (and the enchanted broom himself!) come to life through movement.

    FBP Dancer Louisa Mejeur getting witchy with the 2nd grade class at Paul Cuffee Charter School as part of the Company’s Community Outreach Program
  4. Behold the bewitching scenery from Eugene Lee, the designer of Broadway’s Wicked. Maybe the Tony Award-winner has a thing for witches

    Broom & son play while widow sleeps, Davide Vittorino, Heather O'Halloran, Jennifer Ricci, photo by Thomas Nola-Rion
    Davide Vittorino, Heather O’Halloran, Jennifer Ricci in FBP’s “The Widow’s Broom”, photo by Thomas Nola-Rion
  5.  Indulge in the ingenious choreography of FBP Resident Choreographer Viktor Plotnikov. Watch an enchanted broom come to life before your eyes!

    Viktor Plotnikov watches FBP rehearsing “The Widow’s Broom”
  6. Hear the spellbinding music by Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov. Did you know the young composer was only 21 when she wrote the original score for FBP’s “The Widow’s Broom”? Charmed!

    Broom Plays Piano, 4 x 7, 400 dpi,
    illustration from The Widow’s Broom, by Chris Van Allsburg.
  7. Fall in love with the charming story from Polar Express author Chris Van Allsburg, and see how the children’s book author/illustrator- famous for his clever characters and detailed drawings- helped bring this classic tale to life.

    Chris Van Allsburg’s The Widow’s Broom on display at the Lincoln School Book Fair
  8. Enjoy an experience in the heart of historic downcity with a visit to the impressive theater at The Vets. That gilded proscenium hugging the stage, though!

    photo of The Vets stage via
  9. Magic tricks and sweet treats are sure to delight the whole family with dazzling holiday fun! Children and those young-at-heart will awaken their imagination as this spooky story unfolds on stage.

    Jennifer Ricci reading Chris Van Allsburg’s The Widow’s Broom at the Lincoln School Book Fair.
  10. Witness the accomplished Company Dancers showcasing their talents and expressing their artistry in this emotional and uplifting performance.

    FBP Company Dancers rehearsing “The Widow’s Broom”
  11. Whether you are a native Rhode Islander or a new-kid-on-the-block, FBP invites you to dive into the Creative Capital by embracing this visionary dramatic production!
Widow and son dance, Leticia Guerrero and Emily Bromberg, The Widow's Broom, photo by Thomas Nola-Rion, 400 dpi
Leticia Guerrero and Emily Bromberg in FBP’s “The Widow’s Broom”, photo by Thomas Nola-Rian.

For tickets to “The Widow’s Broom”, click here or call 401-421-ARTS.


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.