Friday, October 25, 2013

Intern Alix and the Role of the Arts Administrator

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By Alix de Commines, Auditorium Theatre Intern

As a kid, I played harp, took music theory classes, and danced ballet in a Parisian Academy of music, so I grew up immerged in an artistic atmosphere. If I live twice, I actually wish I could be a ballet dancer, but this life had other plans for me as I happen to be better at negotiating and following the business-oriented side of the arts. Promoting dance, especially ballet, through an arts administration internship appeared to be the best fit for me.

I feel like promoting the arts and working to broaden its audience is essential for our society. Indeed, our generation is highly specialized, and even though people are excellent at what they are doing, they don’t necessarily have a broad cultural overview. It’s a shame because it helps to build a balanced personality. By promoting the arts, your goal is to make people feel something new, think about things differently, and broaden their knowledge of artistic creation. I believe you cannot fulfill yourself without the arts, either professionally or personally. Anything in life can be related to the arts. It’s all about helping people build finer critical thinking skills, find out who they are, and figure out their artistic tastes. It also helps develop sensitivity to other cultures throughout the various types of ethnic dance and music, including: contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, flamenco, ballet, and many others.

The main message I want to work on at the Auditorium Theatre is telling people that these shows are made for them—for everyone. The arts are not as selective as they used to be. To make this audience broader, our mission is to use business strategies to reach people in order to make them aware that there is a huge cultural legacy that is not going to survive without them and without their interest. The arts administration staff at the Auditorium Theatre is doing an amazing job promoting dance and music. It’s a really good experience for me to work side by side with people who have the same goal of preserving and highlighting their 125-year-old building by attracting the most diverse population through broad and multi-cultural programming.

This internship has been really beneficial for me for various reasons. I have learned how a theater works, both backstage and front of house, why certain shows come to certain places, and how the artistic life is organized! You won’t have this opportunity twice in your life! So if you don’t know the awesome staff of the Auditorium Theatre yet, if you’ve never walked to the dress circle of one the most beautiful buildings in Chicago, if it has been a long time since you’ve seen a dance performance, or if you want to become part of the adventure, do it now and come to the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University! I will be more than happy and proud to give you a private tour!

Sabrina Lenzi, Répétiteur Works With The Joffrey Ballet on La Bayadère

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Sabrina Lenzi, native of Rome, Italy and former principal dancer, was hand selected by renowned choreographer Stanton Welch to be the “répétiteur” for The Joffrey Ballet’s upcoming production of La Bayadère. (Learn more about the ballet here.)

Ms. Lenzi, tell us about yourself and how this shaped your dance journey to where you are today.
Sabrina Lenzi, Répétiteur

I was born in Rome, Italy and left Italy at 16 years old to pursue dancing. I eventually joined the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany for 11 years. After that, I worked with David Bintley at the Birmingham Royal Ballet as a principal dancer in London, where I met Stanton Welch. I got to dance some of the lead roles in his ballets including Powder. Later, Stanton was asked to be the Artistic Director of Houston Ballet and he had asked me to help him with Bayadère.

How does Stanton Welch’s La Bayadère differ from the original Petipa version?

Stanton has an amazing sense of musicality; his ability to hear music is incredible. In this version, Stanton layered the original choreography – making some of the choreography more technically difficult, especially the men’s variations and the corps. He also layered upon the first pas de deux with Nikiya, making it more romantic. 

It’s interesting that Stanton has elaborated upon the dancing in the men's sections. It seems to be aligned with the evolution of ballet in that during Petipa’s time, the man’s role was more to highlight and accentuate the women whereas now, male dancing is becoming more central – establishing more of a sense of equality in the ballets. Do you think this is accurate?

Yes I do think that he is creating a sense of equality in the roles and in the dancing. He added more steps and dancing in the male roles as well as increased the level of technicality in their dancing as well.

What is your favorite part of La Bayadère?

I love the Kingdom of the Shades in Act III. Other favorites are the first pas de deux and the temple scene with all of the ladies. It has such a wonderful energy and atmosphere.

What is the most technically difficult part in regards to either staging La Bayadère and/or the dancing itself?

In staging the ballet, the most difficult part is that it is a classic piece, but has a very specific style, which can be challenging to teach. For the dancer, they have to really become the character and not just “be” the character but build it from the beginning and follow through until the end. It is also challenging for the dancer to remain engaged in their role both technically and artistically from the beginning until the end. La Bayadère is truly an “endurance ballet.”

Our audiences may be curious to know more about the live snakes (yes, real snakes!) and other props that play a role in this production. Can you tell us more about this?
Joffrey dancers Amber Neumann and Temur Suluashvili rehearse with live snakes
This ballet is very exciting – it is a busy, lively production and there are lots of props including snakes. There is a snake handler in the ballet and we are working with a company to decide which ones to use (they are in the 3-5 foot range and in case you are wondering, they are not venomous and have been hand raised, phew!)
From the dancers’ point of view, it can be very challenging to work with all of the props. For instance, in the temple scene, the women dance with large jugs and are wearing veils. Everything needs to be staged carefully so that the scenes run seamlessly. Additionally, in the Kingdom of Shades scene, there is a large ramp with lights involved in the scene, which adds to the effect for the audience, but for the dancers, it is difficult to remain focused and balanced.

There is certainly a lot for audiences to see and enjoy- from the dancing to the props, scenery, costumes, and more! La Bayadère is being performed at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, October 16-27. Click here to purchase tickets.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tweet to Win Tickets @AuditoriumCHGO

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Enter to win a pair of tickets to your favorite show during our 13/14 Season! To enter, tweet and complete the phrase below. Click the link next to your favorite show for a pre-made customizable tweet! The most creative tweet that represents or promotes the event best will win.

“If I won tix to <event name> @AuditoriumCHGO, <fill in the blank>. #theaud”

Performances in the 13/14 Season include:

·      Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, November 22 [Tweet]
·      Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah, January 18-19 [Tweet]
·      Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, February 28 – March 9 [Tweet]
·      Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan Songs of the Wanderers, March 14-16 [Tweet]
·      Houston Ballet Aladdin, March 22-23 [Tweet]
·      Chick Corea and Béla Fleck, April 5 [Tweet]
·      River North Dance Chicago, April 12 [Tweet]
·      The Idan Raichel Project, May 15 [Tweet]
·      The Paul Taylor Dance Company, May 17-18 [Tweet]

Contest Rules: Only public tweets will be counted as entries. Enter as many times as you like for more chances to win!

One winner will be selected for each event  and contacted via Twitter on November 15. The most creative tweet that represents/promotes the event will win.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Living my Childhood Dream with Ballet West

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By Tom Mattingly, Ballet West Dancer

I grew up in Ridgecrest, CA.  It's a small town that the billboard on highway 395 states is "the gateway to Death Valley." It was mostly sand and tumbleweeds.  The tallest building in town was around three stories high.  My father was a teacher and my mother an artist. From an early age I loved dancing to music. Fred Astaire and Kurt Browning were my idols (Michelle Kwan too). At four years old I was a regular at dance school. Sierra Academy of Dance was a small studio, usually hovering around 55 students total, with just one boy – me. 

Joffrey Nutcracker tour to California.
Photo by Mark Goldweber
When I was eight or nine I learned about the Joffrey Ballet and what it meant to be a professional dancer. I had no idea that dance could be a career until then, and I knew instantly that that was what I wanted to do. When I was 11 I auditioned for the Joffrey's tour of "The Nutcracker" at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. I made the cuts and became “Party Boy 4.” We had to learn the choreography quickly, stay in line and hope that our props (mine was a wheeled toy bear on a string) had no snafus. A man named Mark Goldweber was my rehearsal master and another (very tall) man named Adam Sklute was my Drosselmeyer. Move ahead 10 years and I've been offered a corps de ballet job with Ballet West by artistic director Adam Sklute and ballet master Mark Goldweber. When I told Mark that I was a Party Boy years ago his eyes lit up, and he excitedly said "I remember you! You had a little bowl cut and just learned how to shimmy!" The next day he came to work with a photo to prove it. It was me without any doubt. 

I've been to Chicago with Ballet West once before. We were performing Jiri Kylian's "Sinfonietta" as a part of the Chicago Dancing Festival. I was the traveling understudy. While it was great to visit Chicago with a light schedule, I was sad to not be dancing with the rest of the company. Adam promised me that next time we came to Chicago I'd be on stage. He made true on his promise and I am going to be one busy guy this week! I'll be dancing both casts of Prince Floristan in "Sleeping Beauty". It's a classical pas de trois with an incredibly demanding "Speedy Gonzales" type variation in the middle. Mark choreographed this on me when we premiered "Sleeping Beauty" in Salt Lake in 2011.  In the Gala performance I'll be featured in Nicolo Fonte's "Presto" and Val Caniparoli's "The Lottery." Fellow BW dancer Katie Critchlow and worked with Val to create the solo in "The Lottery" last fall. Neither of us has pulled the lot yet but I'm dying (pun) to choose the marked ballot this weekend. "Presto" is not only a Chicago premiere but a world premiere that Nicolo made in August. I'm in the unique position of exclusively performing choreography that has been made especially for me – it almost puts me in a comfort zone. 

Performing at the Auditorium Theatre is special for another reason as well. In May I had surgery to remove four bone spurs and a mass of scar tissue from my right ankle. These performances in Chicago will be my first with Ballet West since April. A tour of this nature might seem like an awful lot of pressure, but I couldn't be happier. I came from a small desert town and now I'm living my childhood dream and even getting paid to do it.  I'm dancing roles made especially for me by choreographers that I love and admire. I can't wait to take on this challenge and to have a few thousand people loudly smack their hands together when I'm done. 

Hopefully Mark will look down and smack his hands too. 


For tickets and information please click HERE.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hello Chicago! Wonderful to see you again! [By Ballet West Dancer Jamie Hickey]

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By Jamie Hickey, Ballet West Dancer

Hello Chicago! It is so wonderful to see you again!

What can I say? Being back in this incredible city and performing at the Auditorium Theatre again is flooding me with so many emotions.

I moved to Chicago in 2009 to join Yhe Joffrey Ballet. As most of you know, the Auditorium is The Joffrey’s home theatre. I had grown so comfortable in this space and so in love with it. There is a vast amount of beauty and intricacy in the architecture of the theatre and when you step out on that stage it brings the energy of the performance to the next level. I had many career milestones right on this very stage from my very first real company performance to my very first solo role and pas de deux. These moments will forever be in my heart.

When I accepted the offer from Ballet West to perform in their production of The Sleeping Beauty this season, which would include a tour to Chicago, I could not turn it down. As much as I wanted to find a new company to dance with, it was certainly hard to leave the Auditorium Theatre and all of the memories I have made there. Now I get to make another memory right here on the Auditorium stage. I am beginning a new chapter and tomorrow night I will have my first performance with Ballet West.

Ballet West has been so welcoming to me since I joined just one month ago.  They are a company of beautiful artists who are inspiring me each day I am with them.

When I arrived back at the theatre a few days ago to begin rehearsals, I was giddy. Walking through the alley to get to the stage door, it felt like I was coming home. I have to admit, I get a kick out of everyone who is trying to figure out their way around all of the yellow doors separating the dressing room hallways and am glad I know my way.   Haha.  It was also comforting to see some familiar faces among the stage crew and wardrobe staff, who all welcomed me back with open arms.

So tomorrow night I will make my return to the Auditorium Stage as one of Aurora’s Friends, a member of the Hunting Party, and a Nymph. I do have some butterflies to perform again for my friends and supporters of the ballet who I know well, but I can’t wait to get out on that Auditorium stage and perform. 

Chicago, I hope you enjoy this weekend with Ballet West!

For tickets and information please click HERE.

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