scene changes

FERNANDO MELO at aspen santa fe bal­let

Pasatiempo - - RANDOM ACTS - Craig A. Smith Anthony Tiede­man and Emily Proctor in Re:play, photo Michael Al­varez; in­set, Fernando Melo

When it comes to con­tem­po­rary chore­og­ra­phy, Fernando Melo is a busy and sought- af­ter man of the hour. From cinema to ab­stract chore­og­ra­phy, from work in mu­sic the­ater to mas­ter classes, Melo is on the move. Melo’s Re:play comes to the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter on Fri­day, April 1, in a pro­gram kick­ing off Aspen Santa Fe Bal­let’s 20th-an­niver­sary sea­son. It is one of two new com­pany com­mis­sions along with Huma Rojo by Cayetano Soto. Ale­jan­dro Cer­rudo’s Silent Ghost, also made for ASFB and per­formed here be­fore, rounds out the bill.

Melo, a Rio de Janeiro na­tive and a res­i­dent of Europe since age six­teen, i s cur­rently re­hearsal di­rec­tor for the dance wing of the Göte­borg Opera in Swe­den. He was a com­pany mem­ber there from 2004 to 2014. Prior to that, he danced with Bal­lett am Rhein in Düs­sel­dorf, from 1999 to 2004. He stud­ied at the bal­let school of the Vi­enna Opera from 1997 through 1999.

Melo has made works for en­sem­bles in­clud­ing Luna Ne­gra Dance The­ater in Chicago ( Walk-In and Bate), Nor­rdans in Swe­den ( Mid­dle of Nowhere), and Bal­let His­pánico in New York ( If Walls Could Speak) in a co-com­mis­sion with the Apollo The­ater. He has chore­ographed a num­ber of pieces for opera, such as Strauss’ Daphne in Toulouse and Detlev Glan­ert’s So­laris in Cologne. His dance films, for which he served as chore­og­ra­pher and di­rec­tor, have been screened in venues and at fes­ti­vals rang­ing from Maine, Cal­i­for­nia, Ari­zona, and Ore­gon to Swe­den, France, Por­tu­gal, and Holland.

Melo had not seen Aspen Santa Fe Bal­let live be­fore com­ing to set his piece on the dancers, but he knew the com­pany by name and ac­com­plish­ment. As he noted, “ASFB has quite an in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion,” and he was pleased to col­lab­o­rate with the troupe.

How does a new work be­gin? With pre­con­ceived move­ment ideas and tech­ni­cal con­sid­er­a­tions in place? Or com­pletely free and un­fet­tered at the start? “It de­pends on the pa­ram­e­ters of the project,” Melo said. “Of­ten pro­duc­tion dead­lines de­mand a ton of prepa­ra­tion and de­ci­sion mak­ing be­fore we even en­ter the stu­dio. That said, at a cer­tain point, the work tends to gain a life of its own as we sur­ren­der to the cre­ative process, of­ten lead­ing to ex­hil­a­rat­ing, un­fore­seen re­sults. This was the case in Aspen,” he added. “Some of the the­atri­cal el­e­ments, like stage [de­sign] and cos­tumes, had to be es­tab­lished be­fore my ar­rival. … We then had four weeks to de­velop the con­cept, cre­ate the two miss­ing el­e­ments [chore­og­ra­phy and mu­sic], and syn­chro­nize it with a com­plex sys­tem of light­ing cues, makeup, and cos­tumes.”

Some might think of a chore­og­ra­pher as a stern and un­yield­ing taskmas­ter, in­ter­ested only in set­ting his own ideas in cre­ative stone, with a cast of dancers humbly obe­di­ent to his com­mands. For Melo, noth­ing could be fur­ther from his method of plan­ning and work­ing, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “In my cre­ative process, the ex­plo­ration of a theme, as well as the devel­op­ment of a phys­i­cal vo­cab­u­lary, is a col­lec­tive act in which all par­ties in­volved pro­pose ideas and so­lu­tions. The de­par­ture point of our con­cept was to cre­ate a work that was en­tirely made of con­struct­ing and de­con­struct­ing a sin­gle scene. To achieve this goal, we es­tab­lished roles and re­la­tion­ships be­tween the dancers and cre­ated a scene packed with ac­tion and re­ac­tion move­ments.”

Such col­le­gial­ity also ex­tends to the tech­ni­cal ex­perts who pro­vide cos­tumes, light­ing, and stage de­sign. Melo states on­line that his cre­ative goal is to con­nect with, and ex­press, hu­man emo­tions through move­ment. As he works to achieve that goal, he said, “I of­ten make use of the­atri­cal el­e­ments be­yond the chore­og­ra­phy, such as the phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment in which the per­for­mance takes place, the sound­scape, the light de­sign, and the cos­tumes — in a non­hier­ar­chi­cal man­ner. Mu­sic, for ex­am­ple, doesn’t dic­tate choices, but rather sup­ports the scene by set­ting the right am­bi­ence. An ob­ject or even a light cue is at times given the same im­por­tance as a hu­man body.

“Given this non­hier­ar­chi­cal im­por­tance of the the­atri­cal el­e­ments, my col­lab­o­ra­tion with the other mem­bers of the cre­ative team is as fun­da­men­tal as the process I have with the dancers. Con­se­quently, hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to work with the great light­ing de­signer Seah John­son [in Aspen] al­lowed me to ex­per­i­ment with giv­ing the light the same rel­e­vance as the chore­og­ra­phy or mu­sic in the piece. I’d go so far as to say the light­ing be­came one of the piece’s main char­ac­ters, with the cru­cial role of lead­ing the au­di­ence on a rhyth­mic jour­ney of images.”

ASFB has a num­ber of con­tem­po­rary works in its reper­toire, many of them com­mis­sions. What cri­te­ria does the com­pany use in choos­ing a chore­og­ra­pher for a new piece? Artis­tic di­rec­tor Tom Moss­brucker said, “Most of all it has to be a good fit,” be­tween the cre­ator and the com­pany. “When we find a good fit, we like to de­velop re­la­tion­ships.

“Most of the work we do draws on clas­si­cal vo­cab­u­lary with el­e­ments of mod­ern [dance], but the clas­si­cism is dom­i­nant. Also, the en­vi­ron­ment the chore­og­ra­pher cre­ates in the stu­dio is para­mount. They must be nur­tur­ing and re­spect­ful to our dancers. This en­vi­ron­ment has proved suc­cess­ful in creat­ing many beau­ti­ful works — 30 in our 20-year his­tory!”

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