Tag Archives: Grand Rapids Ballet

Fifth Annual ‘The Benefit’ Set To Wow Audiences Again With World-Class Music and Dance  


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From 2017’s ‘The Benefit’: Dancers in Cincinnati Ballet soloist James Cunningham’s “Mordent.” Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

By Steve Sucato

One of the region’s premiere arts events, The Benefit returns for the fifth year running on Sunday, May 20 at downtown Columbus’ Jo Ann Davidson Theatre at the Riffe Center. Produced and curated by former BalletMet dancers Jimmy Orrante and Attila Bongar, the talent-packed evening of dance and music benefits The Central Ohio Chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation.

Joining The Benefit’s returning music groups Camarata (a multi-piece orchestra made up of musicians from the Columbus Symphony Orchestra led by CSO principal cellist Luis Biava) and Columbus ambient alternative band The Wind and the Sea playing live, will be dancers from BalletMet, Cincinnati Ballet, Dayton Ballet, Grand Rapids Ballet and Miami City Ballet.

The 90-minute program kicks off with Bongar’s “Concerto in A Minor,” titled after the music it is set to by Johann Sebastian Bach played live by Camarata. The work for 6 women is an homage to the movement style of father of American ballet, George Balanchine.  Says Bongar: “I’ve spent most my career dancing his [Balanchine’s] ballets or in his style. It shaped me as an artist and I have a huge appreciation of how he impacted American Ballet.”

Next, The Benefit regular Cincinnati Ballet soloist James Cunningham debuts his new ballet “Ristretto,” set to the 4th movement of Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Sonata for Cello and Piano in D minor IV Allegro,” also played live by Camarata. Named after the concentrated espresso drink, the 4-minute contemporary ballet for 4 dancers patterns its movements after another meaning for “ristretto” in Italian — restricted, says Cunningham.

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From 2017’s ‘The Benefit’: Dancers in Christian Broomhall’s “Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 2.” Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

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From 2017’s ‘The Benefit’: Milwaukee Ballet’s Nicole Teague Howell and Patrick Howell in the second act pas de deux from Michael Pink’s “Swan Lake.” Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

Premiered by BalletMet in 2015, Canadian choreographer James Kudelka’s “Real Life has the feel of “a mechanized square dance,” I wrote in a review of work’s debut. Danced to Caroline Shaw’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning Partita for 8 Voices, BalletMet dancers Caitlin Valentine-Ellis, Jessica Brown, Martin Roosaare and Peter Kurta will perform an excerpt of the unique dance work that will have them “promenading through a tricky series of alternating handshake holds and snaking around one another in delicious patterns.”

The Benefit first-timer, Russell Lepley’s 5-minute “The Things That I Knew,” is a contemporary dance work set to music by Joanna Newsom (performed live) whose concept says Lepley “is to transcribe the music directly to dancers’ bodies.”  A former dancer with Les Grand Ballet Canadians and co-founder of Columbus’ Flux + Flow Dance and Movement Center, Lepley’s piece for 6 dancers, he says “was created by generating detailed movements which oscillate between abstract shapes and the familiar lines of classical ballet to create a whimsical, refined movement vocabulary.”

After a choreographer Kristopher Estes-Brown’s pas de deux “Little Bird” for BalletMet dancers Jessica Brown and Michael Sayre, kathak dancer/choreographer Mansee Singhi will perform her 5-minute solo “Sangam-Confluence of Music and Dance.” Says Singhi, the dance is “a Tarana (a musical composition) in which words and syllables are based on Persian phonemes and “showcases rhythmic footwork on fast beats…music and singing.”

Closing the program’s first half will be BalletMet 2 dancer Allison Perhach and BalletMet company member Sean Rollofson in Balanchine’s iconic “Tchaikovsky Pas de deux.”

After an intermission, the jam-packed program’s second half will open with the musical interlude “Akhnaten” (Excerpt) by composer Philip Glass performed by Camarata, The Wind and The sea and baritone Robert Kerr.

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From 2017’s ‘The Benefit’: Miami City Ballet principal soloist Lauren Fadeley and BalletMet’s Michael Sayre in Attila Bongar’s “63.” Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

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From 2017’s ‘The Benefit’: Marcus Jarrell Willis in “A Caretakers Vow.” Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

Then, former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer Marcus Jarrell Willis will perform his 7 ½-minute contemporary modern solo “Beyond Reach.”  Danced to music by Richard Goode, the work, like last year’s “A Caretaker’s Vow,” encapsulates Willis’ emotional state during an important transition in his life/career; this time just after joining Ailey.

Like compatriot Bongar, Orrante’s new 5-minute ballet “Arc” is set to a composition by Bach that will be played live by Luis Biava (cello) and Suzanne Newcomb (piano). The neo-classical/contemporary ballet for 6 dancers takes its inspiration from Bach’s “Ave Maria,” which will be performed twice in succession.

Next, former Pennsylvania Ballet dancers and current Miami City Ballet principal soloists Lauren Fadeley and Alexander Peters will reprise choreographer Matthew Neenan’s “La Chasse”.  The pair premiered the pas de deux in 2014 as part of Pennsylvania Ballet’s program A 50th Finale: The Ultimate Celebration.

BalletMet company dancer Leiland Charles then makes his The Benefit choreographic debut with “Too Real,” set to music by, and played live by The Wind and The Sea. The 4 ½-minute contemporary dance work for 6 dancers says Charles, has “an otherworldly atmosphere to it.”

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From 2017’s ‘The Benefit’: Miami City Ballet principal soloist Lauren Fadeley and BalletMet’s Jarrett Reimers in Jimmy Orrante’s “Regard.” Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

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From 2017’s ‘The Benefit’: Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s Luis Biava conducts Camarata. Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

After another musical interlude featuring baritone Robert Kerr in Mozart’s “Hai già vinta la causa!” from The Marriage of Figaro, and Camarata performing Béla Bartók’s “Divertimento Molto Adagio No. II,” the program concludes with Gabor Toth’s interpretation of Jozsef Janek’s work “Train.” The 5-minute piece based in Hungarian folk dance uses the metaphor of a train to symbolize humanity’s journey through life. Says Toth: “Just like a train we all have a journey while we depart and arrive in different stages in our lives.”

Following the performance there will be a meet and greet with the performers that includes refreshments and a silent auction that is open to all ticket-holders.

Joan Wallick presents the fifth annual The Benefit, 5:30 p.m., Sunday, May 20, The Riffe Center’s Jo Ann Davidson Theatre, 77 S. High Street, Columbus, OH. Tickets: Adult – $30, VIP Priority Seating – $55, Student/Child – $15. (614) 902-3965 or https://www1.ticketmaster.com/event/05005442FF8CAA11

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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On the move: Dance in the Annex begins educational partnership with Grand Rapids Ballet


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DITA performance at a former SiTE:LAB location during ArtPrize. Photo credit Erin Wilson.

Since 2009, the collective known more commonly as DITA has gained recognition for its classes, performances, and dance-on-film. Master classes once again resume this month, with world-renowned Graham Technique master teacher William Crowley.

By Steve Sucato

While Grand Rapids can boast a lot of things—from Beer City USA to Furniture City to ArtPrize—one thing it isn’t known for is a plethora of professional dance companies and presenting dance, especially when it comes to modern dance. In 2009, the local scene’s leanness provided just the impetus needed for dancer/choreographer Amy Wilson and friends to form Dance in the Annex (DITA), a modern dance collective fostering an appreciation of dance through education and performance opportunities.

Since their formation, DITA has grown to regularly hosted master classes, and produced dance concerts, site-specific works, and dance-on-film works on a project basis.

Wilson says the collective was formed not only to support professional dancers in the area, but also to be a place where adults could take a modern dance class.

“We started once a month on Sundays, opening up classes to anyone over 16,” says Wilson. “Of course when you get a bunch of dancers in a room they inevitably want to start choreographing on each other and performing so things then evolved from there to where we are now.”

DITA’s latest class offering came last October. Wilson attributes this most recent gap in programming to DITA no longer calling the Wealthy Theatre Annex home. But a new partnership with Grand Rapids Ballet to their master classes is something Wilson feels will reenergize the organization as well as the Grand Rapids dance community’s interest in it.

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Grand Rapids Ballet Begins Search for a New Artistic Director


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By Michael Erickson

Grand Rapids, MI, August 15, 2017– Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB) announced today that they are formally beginning a search for a new artistic director for Michigan’s only professional ballet company. Current artistic director, Patricia Barker, announced in June that she accepted the artistic director appointment at Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB). Barker has been in this position with GRB since 2010, and will split her time between GRB and RNZB until the end of the 2017-18 season.

“We have already had a lot of Interest in this position,” said Glenn Del Vecchio, GRB Executive Director. “Patricia’s artistic vision and the success of the company have made GRB a highly respected ballet company. We will find an excellent candidate to continue the artistic excellence Patricia began and our patrons expect.”

A search committee has been formed within GRB that includes current board members, company dancers, and community leaders. Applications will be accepted through September 15, 2017. Interviews will begin in early October with a final decision being made by early December 2017.

A complete job description and details on how to apply can be found at grballet.com/ADsearch. No phone calls, please.

About Grand Rapids Ballet

Celebrating its 47th anniversary this season, Grand Rapids Ballet remains committed to lifting the human spirit through the art of dance under the current leadership of Patricia Barker as artistic director, Glenn Del Vecchio as executive director, and Attila Mosolygo as school director.

A proud recipient of the ArtServe Michigan Governor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Cultural Organization, Michigan’s only professional ballet company has a rich history marked by steady growth, a commitment to excellence, and strong community support. In addition, Grand Rapids Ballet School provides over 250 students with the highest quality dance instruction in a nurturing and encouraging environment and the opportunity to perform in productions by Grand Rapids Junior Company.

Keep up with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and visit grballet.com today.

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