The Ballet Chicago Studio Company will be at The Harris Theater for two performances on May 6 (at 2PM and 7:30PM), performing in the Company’s Platinum Anniversary Concerts. Here’s a closer look at the far reaching program, but in a special way.
We asked the choreographers whose works will be presented to choose a photo from their piece, and give us an inside look at what that photo captures — about the Ballet Chicago Studio Company performers, about the Company’s vision, and about their own perspective.
Here’s a chance to read what Ballet Chicago co-founder and artistic director Daniel Duell has to say about George Balanchine’s Serenade, and about his own Ellington Suite. Ballet Chicago Resident Choreographer Ted Seymour gives us an equally insightful look inside both Fragile, This Side Up and Secrets de Printemps. Frank Chaves shares both his own insight into the World Premiere of Ascension and his thoughts about working with the Ballet Chicago Studio Company.
When we asked Ballet Chicago if they would be interested in working with us on the very first of our 4 PHOTOS series, we never imagined the richness of the insights and perspectives that these choreographers were going to share with us. Not only that, they sent us five, and each is so engaging that we just had to run all of them. Along with the photography of Ron McKinney and Haley Wellman, here are five great reasons to make sure you see the Ballet Chicago Studio Company’s Platinum Anniversary Concert.
Choreography – George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust • Music – Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky • Photography – Ron McKinney Photography
(Five girls in a split, at the beginning of what is called “The Russian Dance”)
At this moment, the five ladies lined up closely together have just descended weightlessly and slowly to the floor as if in telepathic unity, timed to a pianissimo adagio melody of violins in the upper register. The lift of the dancers’ upper bodies, the floating quality of their arms, and the reverence in their faces all reflect the heart of Tchaikovsky’s music …beauty, community, and a sense of the sacred , as if heaven is being brought down to earth, or earth lifted up to heaven.
The moment’s feeling of preparation, of a prelude to something about to follow, is reflected in the music’s, and the choreography’s, repeated, suspended rests. From this peaceful moment, the five ladies erupt into a quick-paced dance of feverish energy, unity still abounding but now in counterpoint and canonic sequence for the full ensemble that carries into an onrush of climactic splendor.
Serenade fits our core mission and artistic values first and foremost because it deeply plumbs the inner landscape of Tchaikovsky’s music, imbuing artists and audiences alike with its universality, its grandeur, and its sheer beauty. In so doing, Balanchine’s choreography for Serenade also lays a foundation of excellence, reverence, and stringent technical demands for each and every participant, and teaches today’s classicism as few other ballets do through its pure and comprehensive vocabulary of movement. As official repetiteurs for the George Balanchine Trust, Patricia Blair’s and Daniel Duell’s daily training in intrinsic Balanchine-based technique ensure the most authentic possible staging.
— Daniel Duell
Fragile, This Side Up (2007)
Choreography – Ted Seymour • Music – Alva Noto and Steve Reich • Photography – Haley Wellman
Fragile: This Side Up is a contemporary work en pointe that divides in to sections that explore the stages of human development. The ballet begins with an energetic solo that not only introduces the language and theme steps that the dancers will be using as the piece expands, but it also sets a tone of mystery and tension to draw viewers deeper into the physicality and athleticism of the piece. The solo dancer takes such huge risks, throwing her body to extreme high and low positions, discovering how to remain standing and composed after each experience. The photo shown here is of the moment just before she actually falls to the floor. Only once does she lose the ability to correct the situation and stay on her feet, from this extremely pulled in every direction position she drops completely stomach first to the ground.
To pick oneself up from a collapse is a part of human growth we all go through, and hope it inevitably makes us stronger. An ambient, yet complex score written by Alva Noto, sets a haunting and calculated mood in which the solo section and then later the pas de duex section unfold. The members of Ballet Chicago Studio Company are taught the ability to take there heightened understanding of classical technique and lend it to the exploration of contemporary concepts, making them stronger, more well rounded dancers for their professional careers in the future.
— Ted Seymour
Secrets de Printemps
Choreography – Ted Seymour • Music – Maurice Ravel • Photography – Ron McKinney Photography
Secrets de Printemps, set to Maurice Ravel’s orchestrated “Le Tombeau de Couperin” has been a very special addition to The Ballet Chicago Studio Company’s repertoire. Choreographed just last year, Secrets offers a whimsical and musically punctuated set of dances, to showcase the many uniquely talented artists that fill the company.
In the first movement, ten of the tallest ballerinas go flying around the stage, showing the amplitude of large jumps and quick footwork with such long bodies. They bring us into the world they protect. In the second movement (pictured here), we encounter three principal couples and a corps de ballet of fourteen, all sharing the delights of neoclassical partnering and intricate turning sequences.
The photo shown here is a moment where multiple working parts are overlapping to transition through Ravel’s ever varying score. One pas de deux is ending in a dive, while the corps sets a new formation to dance as linked pairs. All the while, the principal male is exploding on stage with a huge sissone. The section is very busy, but a treat for the eyes, causing you to take in the whole stage. The ballet continues with a lyrically grand pas de deux in the third movement, that is accompanied by a group of our smallest ballerinas from the School of Ballet Chicago. They exhibit a purity of ballet and the commitment to American classicism — a look towards the future.
— Ted Seymour
Ascension (World Premiere)
Choreography – Frank Chaves • Music – Josephine Lee • Photography – Haley Wellman
Ascension explores the loss of a man’s one true love, recalled in a tragic loop in his dreams. He creates an imaginary world to relive their romantic relationship, only to be brokenhearted time and time again as his beloved ascends into the afterlife, returning only when summoned back to his dream life.
This work marks a choreographic milestone in my career as the first piece I’ve created “en pointe”, made especially easy by the beautiful talents of BCSC’s stunning dancers.
— Frank Chaves
Ellington Suite (1987)
Choreography – Daniel Duell • Music – Duke Ellington • Photography – Ron McKinney Photography
This photo of five ladies in a high, finger-snapping “grand battement”, from the final movement of Ellington Suite, defines the joyous energy of Duke Ellington’s “Riba” from his orchestral suite The River. Here, syncopation reigns supreme, with the emphasized accent largely on the “off-beat”. This photo captures such an “off-beat” moment.
The rest of the finale incorporates a large cast of men and women reveling in the Duke’s irresistible humor, driving beat, and hummable tunes. The ending moments send us musically into a syncopated solo for the bass viol, plucking charismatically away as the dancers hop and sugar-foot their way to the final “snap”.
This five-movement ballet, a wide-ranging essay in visual and musical moods, fits Ballet Chicago’s mission, values, and this anniversary program because it so deeply explores and reveals Duke Ellington’s magnificent symphonic jazz score. It carries classic ballet vocabulary into a jazzier vein, joyfully helping dancers understand the importance of accurate rhythm. It also educates about diversity of music, movement style, and culture, critically important to Ballet Chicago.
— Daniel Duell
For more information about Ballet Chicago, visit them at balletchicago.org, or click here for information about tickets to Platinum Anniversary Concerts on May 6.