Stars of Amer­i­can Bal­let


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g eorge Balan­chine’s Jew­els has its 50th an­niver­sary this year, an event that was com­mem­o­rated at New York City’s Lin­coln Cen­ter last month with per­for­mances by dancers from the Paris Opera Bal­let, New York City Bal­let, and the Bol­shoi Bal­let. The per­for­mances were no­table not just for the com­ing to­gether of three of the world’s great dance com­pa­nies, but be­cause their in­ter­na­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion mir­rored the work it­self. Jew­els is com­posed of three acts: Emer­alds, which evokes the French tra­di­tion of bal­let; jazzy Amer­i­cana show­cased in Ru­bies; and Di­a­monds, with mu­sic by Tchaikovsky and a mood and style that re­call Balan­chine’s train­ing in Rus­sia. Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio called the shows “a bit of cul­tural diplo­macy.”

Santa Fe au­di­ences will have the op­por­tu­nity to see a pas de deux from Di­a­monds when the Stars of Amer­i­can Bal­let re­turn for their sev­enth year. The troupe — whose mem­bers in­clude prin­ci­pal and soloist dancers with New York City Bal­let and Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre — will be per­form­ing a mixed reper­toire over the course of two evenings, Wed­nes­day, Aug. 9, and Thurs­day, Aug. 10, at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter. Dances in this year’s pro­grams range from restag­ings of pas de deux from Au­gust Bournonville’s 1836 La Syl­phide and Mar­ius Petipa’s 19th-cen­tury Le Cor­saire to a world pre­miere by Broad­way chore­og­ra­pher Lorin Latarro.

Stars of Amer­i­can Bal­let pro­duc­tions al­ways honor Balan­chine, New York City Bal­let’s co-founder, and this year, in ad­di­tion to Di­a­monds, they will per­form Who Cares?, a cel­e­bra­tion, in the vein of Ru­bies ,of Amer­i­can vi­vac­ity. The works, both plot­less, pre­miered three years apart, with Who Cares? fol­low­ing in 1970.

Di­a­monds “does not stretch the lines of clas­si­cal bal­let,” said Daniel Ul­bricht, founder of Stars of Amer­i­can Bal­let and a New York City Bal­let prin­ci­pal

dancer. “In fact, it uses a lot of class­room and clas­si­cal vo­cab­u­lary. Noth­ing is off bal­ance.” It em­pha­sizes “pure bal­le­rina strength, poise, grace” — the bal­le­rina’s part­ner is “the ut­most cava­lier, al­ways pre­sent­ing her.” Balan­chine muse Suzanne Far­rell and Jac­ques d’Am­boise, founder of the Na­tional Dance In­sti­tute, danced the leads in the orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion of

Di­a­monds; it is be­ing per­formed in Santa Fe by City Bal­let principals Teresa Re­ichlen and Ask la Cour. The ti­tle Who Cares? comes from a song in Of Thee

I Sing, the 1931 mu­si­cal by Ge­orge and Ira Gersh­win, which sat­i­rizes pres­i­den­tial elec­tions and po­lit­i­cal inanity. For his bal­let, Balan­chine re­vis­ited 1920s and ’30s Amer­ica, and set his chore­og­ra­phy to sev­eral Ge­orge Gersh­win fa­vorites — the re­sult is a cap­ti­vat­ing ode to Man­hat­tan life. While Who Cares? uses clas­si­cal bal­let tech­nique, it pushes that tech­nique past its con­fines, in­fus­ing the piece with the forms of the­atri­cal dance. Who Cares? not only ex­pands the bal­let vo­cab­u­lary but makes it “stretch, lean, twist, torque, and fall,” Ul­bricht said. “Maybe where the dancers, in terms of a very clas­si­cal bal­let vo­cab­u­lary, would be do­ing some­thing where their hips would be un­der them, and they would be very placed, here Balan­chine has the dancers go more off pointe. Here he has the dancers swing their hips back and forth.”

Two other jazzy and pop­u­lar songs from the past are fea­tured in this year’s pro­grams: “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Louis Prima with ar­range­ment by Benny Good­man (1937) and “Moses Sup­poses,” from the 1952 film Sin­gin’ in the Rain. Sing, Sing, Sing was chore­ographed by Ul­bricht and first per­formed ear­lier this year; Moses Sup­poses is by Latarro. Both duets are per­formed by Ul­bricht and mu­si­cal the­ater dancer Danielle Diniz. Like Who Cares?, these new works ex­tend the di­a­logue be­tween clas­si­cal tech­nique and mu­si­cal the­ater. All three dances do so to the nos­tal­gia-in­vok­ing sounds of Amer­i­can stan­dards. In re­vis­it­ing the past, they have made it fresh again, in­vig­o­rat­ing it with new en­ergy and cre­ative verve.

“The pieces I loved grow­ing up danc­ing were the pieces in which I could see the per­son­al­ity of the dancer,” Ul­bricht said. In Sing, Sing, Sing, the au­di­ence is “watch­ing two peo­ple be so elated and be in that mo­ment. My goal would be to flood the en­tire orches­tra of the Len­sic with the en­ergy they just saw.” He said that “the horn that’s go­ing wah wah —I want the pirou­ette to cre­ate that shape. The mo­ment where there is the drum com­ing in — these clas­sic drum breaks that are in the chore­og­ra­phy — that’s us mov­ing a lit­tle more grounded to the floor.”

“Talk about a dif­fer­ent vo­cab­u­lary,” Ul­bricht said of Latarro’s Moses Sup­poses, which in­cor­po­rates forms such as soft shoe to re­fer back to, and cel­e­brate, the danc­ing styles in clas­sic Gene Kelly films. The duet plays on the con­trasts be­tween clas­si­cal and the­ater danc­ing, with a sportive back-and-forth de­vel­op­ing be­tween the two dancers. Latarro, whose ré­sumé in­cludes Broad­way’s Wait­ress and Les Dan­gereuses

Li­aisons, adds a layer of cin­e­matic danc­ing to the 2017 Stars of Amer­i­can Bal­let pro­grams, broad­en­ing the scope of their reper­toire.

Other dances in this year’s pro­grams in­clude pieces by Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre prin­ci­pal dancer Marcelo Gomes (chore­ograph­ing to mu­sic by Ber­lioz and the An­i­mals) and Ask la Cour, and the bal­cony pas de deux from Sir Ken­neth MacMil­lan’s 1965 Romeo and

Juliet. Nine of the works are be­ing per­formed by Stars of Amer­i­can Bal­let for the first time in Santa Fe. The pro­grams pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for au­di­ences to see the range of bal­letic dance, as well as the ways in which its vo­cab­u­lary has shifted and ex­panded with time.

Who Cares? not only ex­pands the bal­let vo­cab­u­lary but make it “stretch, lean, twist, torque, and fall,” said Stars of Amer­i­can Bal­let founder Daniel Ul­bricht.

Stars of Amer­i­can Bal­let in Who Cares?

Danielle Diniz and Daniel Ul­bricht in

Teresa Re­ichlen and Ask la Cour in Di­a­monds

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