The Ballet Chicago Studio Company is celebrating its Twentieth Anniversary on May 6 with two concerts at the Harris Theater, and the program is characteristically promising. The evening includes the world premiere of Frank Chaves’ Ascension, a pas de deux set to a commissioned score composed by Josephine Lee (the president and artistic director of Chicago Children’s Choir), which will be performed live by Lee and cellist Meena Cho. The two performances (Saturday, May 6, 2017 at 2 and 7:30 p.m.) also feature revivals of works by George Balanchine, Ballet Chicago Founder and Artistic Director Dan Duell, and Resident Choreographer Ted Seymour.
DancerMusic thought this would be a great time to ask Artistic Director Daniel Duell, and Associate Artistic Director Patricia Blair (who together founded the Ballet Chicago Studio Company twenty years ago) about the accomplishment. Here’s what we were wondering, and what they had to say:
DancerMusic: After twenty years, what do you see in Ballet Chicago now that is most like what you hoped it would become, when you began the Studio Company twenty years ago?
Daniel Duell: Twenty years later, what I (we) see as “most like what we hoped the Ballet Chicago Studio Company would be” is:
Our dancers’ joy of self-expression in performance combined with their superb artistic accomplishment. The boundless enthusiasm of youth inspired by the discovery of dancing beautiful choreography to beautiful music is a wonder to witness.
That choreography, (masterworks of George Balanchine, plus works of Dan Duell and Resident Choreographer Ted Seymour), that music (largely classical and neo-classical), and their inspiration leads young dancers to levels of artistic excellence and lifelong skills beyond their own expectations for themselves, forged in the crucible of focused, diligent, daily effort in the studio.
Patricia Blair: I would say it is the development of our students, both as dancers and people, and the life skills that they learn in the studio that is most significant. We are in contact with so many of our former students, those who have become professional dancers and those who have chosen other paths, and we constantly hear that the life skills they learned in these halls have shaped who they are and have significantly contributed to their success.
As for The Platinum Anniversary Concerts, they look to be an excellent chance to see just what the Ballet Chicago Studio Company is. It’s a Company that is known for its imaginative blend of heritage and creativity, and the program for May 6 promises to be a showcase. Frank Chaves is an exceptionally accomplished and respected choreographer who, in Ascension, creates his first work en pointe. The work is a pas de deux set to the commissioned score composed by Josephine Lee. “I’ve admired the incredible work of Ballet Chicago directors Dan Duell and Patricia Blair for quite some time,” Chaves says. “Quality, technique, nuance, and style are all evidenced in their students, whether in a class or onstage for fully produced performances.”
The program also includes George Balanchine’s Serenade (1934) staged by Duell and Blair to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48. The first original ballet Balanchine created in America, choreographed on the inaugural students of the School of American Ballet, Serenade is recognized as one of the great choreographic masterpieces of the 20th century.
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.