Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Madison Ballet's 2016-17 Season

Shannon Quirk in Balanchine's Elégie,
performed by Madison Ballet in the spring of 2015
© SKepecs
by Susan Kepecs
In February of this year Madison Ballet delivered the first of two repertory evenings set for the spring, plus a cold shock – the cancellation of the rest of the season, which included a second repertory performance plus the return of Smith’s full-length Peter Pan.  To many of us, the future of ballet in this city seemed uncertain. But Madison Ballet is back this fall, with a company of 14 dancers on season contract.  Four are new, and I don’t know anything about them.  But the ten  
Annika Rekiersdorfer sails a grand jete at the Madison
Ballet Studio  © SKepecs 2016
returning dancers are strong and seasoned; among them are reigning company queen Shannon Quirk, young, fast-rising star Annika Reikersdorfer, and the smolderingly sexy Shea Johnson, formerly a principal at Arizona Ballet.
“What’s different about the 2016-17 season,” says artistic director W. Earle Smith, “is that we’re not doing a full-length production in the spring, which we’ve typically done in the past. Full-length ballets are extremely costly to produce, and with the situation we went through last year – having to suspend part of the season – we have to be very careful from a business perspective as to how we get back on track.  But that edge of financial caution also opens up new possibilities.  The really exciting thing about this season is that in addition to The Nutcracker (Dec. 10-26, Overture Hall), which will be as spectacular as ever – it is big, it is grandiose, it’s the perfect production for the holiday season – there are three repertory evenings.
“In the past we’ve done eight works in two repertory shows, but this year there’ll be between twelve and fourteen works, in three performances.  That means we’re bringing in more choreographers this year.  The great thing about doing repertory is that it broadens the artistic scope of both the company and the audience.  It’ll be fun – and challenging – for the dancers.  And it’ll give the public a look at an array of styles and a taste of what ballet can do beyond its traditional formalities.”
The programs aren’t set yet, but the first repertory show, “Black/White” (Oct. 14-15, at the Bartell), features the three themes from Balanchine’s 1946 The Four Temperaments, one of his early, avant-garde, black-and-white ballets, with a score by Paul Hindemith. “Temperaments” refers to the medieval notion of elemental “humors” that determine a person’s character.  The full ballet runs 30 minutes and requires 25 dancers; the three themes Madison Ballet will perform are pas de deux that, if you see the work in its entirety, introduce the “temperament” variations.
This piece, like the other Balanchine works Madison Ballet has performed, is done with performing rights granted by the Balanchine Trust, and is set on the company by Balanchine Trust répétiteur Michelle Gifford. “It’s wonderful to have a relationship with the Trust, and to have the opportunity to do Balanchine ballets – it’s an important part of who we are,” Smith says.
 Also on the “Black/White” bill: a new work by frequent guest choreographer General Hambrick, whose approach mixes neoclassical vocabulary with Aileyisms and spiritual accents.  And Smith is bringing back “Street,” a piece he originally choreographed for a spring repertory concert in 2013.  The score combines Bach and Beethoven with contemporary urban street music, and the choreography’s part straight-up neoclassical, part contemporary / hip hop.  The earlier version ran about 16 minutes; this one, he says, will be roughly ten minutes longer.
The second repertory program, “Bare,” runs Feb. 3-4 (at the Bartell); the third (March 31 – April 1, also at the Bartell) is “Primavera.”  Much of what’s on the programs for these shows is still TBA, but I do know that “Bare” will be an eclectic choreographers’ showcase, featuring a diverse set of guest choreographers including UW-Madison dance professors Jin-Wen Yu and Chris Walker.  And “Primavera,”  Smith says, “will be along romantic lines.  I’m doing a new waltz piece – I think I’m calling it “One Last Waltz” – that’ll pull together a number of waltzes I’ve done over the years.  The women will be in long, white, flowing ballgowns and opera gloves.  I’m also doing a completely new work, “Las Cuatro,” to Astor Piazzolla’s wonderful Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas – it’s very lush, just gorgeous.” 

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