Call Board

Published in the February/March 2012 issue.

Garrett Ammon in rehearsal. Photo by Samuel Trojanovich.

Dance, Love—and Twitter
Ballet Nouveau Colorado harnesses the power of social media.

Ballet Nouveau Colorado has collaborated with all kinds of artists, from poets to painters to musicians. But their latest project involves a different kind of collaboration: a piece that anyone and everyone can help create. Love in the Digital Age, which premieres this February, makes use of fan submissions from various media platforms—Vimeo, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook among them—to create a collaged portrait of love. BNC followers (and a few professional artists) have been sending in their pictures, poems, short films and the like since November.

“I love the new ideas that come when you bring multiple people into the creative conversation,” says BNC artistic director Garrett Ammon, the project’s ringleader. “Now we have all these digital tools that can facilitate that conversation, so that it can easily become a large-scale thing. I thought, Why not run with that?”

As for what the piece will actually look like, Ammon has no idea (yet). “We’re going to take all this information and assemble it into an evening-length performance that expresses a broad idea about love,” he says. And what will the BNC dancers have to do with all of this? “My plan is for the dancers to be manipulating a lot of the technology during the performance,” Ammon says. He’s especially excited about the Kinect for Xbox, a motion-sensing device that will allow the dancers to control projections with their bodies. “I’m not sure where it’ll all go,” he says. “But hopefully it will encapsulate the meeting of technology with one of the most basic human experiences.”  —Margaret Fuhrer


Tharp’s Goblin in Atlanta
Children, goblins, Twyla Tharp—not three things that usually fall in the same sentence. But this February Atlanta Ballet will premiere Twyla Tharp’s The Princess and the Goblin, a full-length story ballet featuring students from the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education. (The production was co-commissioned by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, which will perform it this fall.)

Goblin is based on a fairytale by George MacDonald. In Tharp’s version of the story, Princess Irene and her friend, Curdy, attempt to rescue Irene’s sister and a gaggle of other children who have been captured by goblins. According to AB dancer Jacob Bush, who plays Curdy, Tharp has been mulling the ballet for years. “We learned some of the choreography off videotapes, but she’d pop one in and the date would come up as 1989,” he says. “And Twyla would say, ‘Yup, here’s your duet—I choreographed it 20 years ago.’ ”

Working with students seems to have softened the notoriously demanding Tharp. “In the beginning, all of the professional dancers were nervous: Oh gosh, it’s Twyla,” he says. “But the kids had no idea who she was, so they were just being their fearless selves. Twyla loved it. Soon they were saying, ‘We want to try this today’ or ‘We want to do it this way,’ and she’d go along with it all.” —MF


Colorado Ballet's Strong Women
Colorado Ballet’s “Tribute” program, premiering in March, honors the company’s two female founders, the late Lillian Covillo and Freidann Parker, with new works by three women choreographers. Emery LeCrone is excited to be on the lineup along with Jodie Gates and Amy Seiwert. “It’s important to put women working in the ballet idiom at the forefront, and give us a chance to see each others’ work and learn from each other,” LeCrone says. “Shows like ‘Tribute’ give us a moment in the sun.”

When LeCrone first began creating her piece on the company this summer for the Vail International Dance Festival, she didn’t realize just how perfect it would be for “Tribute.” “Colorado Ballet has two beautiful but very different principal dancers, Chandra Kuykendall and Maria Mosina,” she says. “I had them learning the same part initially, but I kept seeing different qualities in it depending on which one was dancing.” LeCrone eventually decided to split the principal part between two movements, having Mosina dance one and Kuykendall the other. “It became an exploration of the tug and pull between their styles,” she says. A few days after LeCrone split the role, a CB board member mentioned how fitting the work was for a program honoring two women artistic directors. LeCrone laughs. “I guess it was fate!” —MF


Ratmansky in Miami
The ever-busy Alexei Ratmansky has been hard at work this winter. Pacific Northwest Ballet will present the U.S. debut of his Don Quixote in February, and American Ballet Theatre will premiere his Firebird on March 29. His new Symphonic Dances will have its world premiere at Miami City Ballet’s gala on March 1. (The ballet will then enter the company’s regular repertoire this fall.) MCB soloist Sara Esty kept notes on the Symphonic Dances rehearsal process for Pointe.

Every once in a while, a person comes along and changes the ballet world, as Alexei Ratmansky has. Over the past few months, Miami City Ballet has worked with Ratmansky on a new piece set to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances.”

The ballet feels dramatic and edgy from the start. In the first movement, questions hang in the air as everyone follows the principal male character intensely with their eyes; then, suddenly, the stage erupts with activity. The second, more romantic movement slows down the pace. And the final movement is fantastically powerful and impressive. “There is no real story,” Ratmansky explained to us. “This may confuse some people, but I almost want the audience to be confused by the mystery of it all. I want them to leave with the images and feelings that the movement gives them.”

During rehearsals, Ratmansky was able to demonstrate exactly what he wanted with his own body. He is a fearless choreographer. In fact, he has such an extreme range of motion that at times it was hard for us to re-create his steps. That resulted in frustration, long rehearsals and sore muscles. However, by the end of our time with him, we all felt as though we had created something truly new. —Sara Esty


Ballet All Over: New Ballet Documentaries

-Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance is the first documentary to chronicle the history of The Joffrey Ballet. It’s a treasure trove of archival footage and photographs (like the one at left), woven in with interviews with former and current Joffrey dancers. The documentary will be screened at various locations across the U.S. Visit joffreymovie.com for more information.

-First Position follows six talented young dancers as they prepare for Youth America Grand Prix finals in New York. The documentary premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September, where it won the audience choice first runner-up for best documentary. It will be released in North American theaters this year. Visit firstpositionfilms.com to learn more. —MF