Reflections: Seeing Something Different
For three weeks in August, amidst a juggling act of rehearsal scheduling, rescheduling, shifting and nudging, the wealth of contemporary choreographic voices filling the backstage halls, offices and studios of the Center was an homage to the artistic process. All of this intense creative energy foretells a rich cultural experience when the production receives its world premiere on January 20-23, 2011, at the Orange County Performing Arts Center before it moves to Moscow for another run of performances the following week.
In a way, the project actually began back in the original days of the Bolshoi Ballet, in 1776, when the company was formed and set the foundation for what was eventually to become regarded as the gold standard for classical ballet training. Indeed, a core value of Reflections is the exploration of the grand tradition and excellence of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. But this iconic tradition also serves as a jumping off point for what Reflections seeks to explore—a melding of the refinements of the classical past with the bold strokes of thecontemporary artistic world.
With a string of successful collaborations in the past, including Ballet Company of the Mariinsky Theater of St. Petersburg, Kings of the Dance and Diana Vishneva: Beauty In Motion, Judy Morr, executive vice president of the Center, and Sergei Danilian, president of Ardani Artists, moved forward with a decidedly contemporary tone in their curation process for Reflections. The dancers would be graduates of the renowned Bolshoi Ballet Academy, schooled in the same classical training to root the concert with the impeccable strength and grace that the Bolshoi provides. "We've always strived to bring the most refined artists to the Center," says Morr, "and the Bolshoi's refinement is of the highest standard." The company of dancers for Reflections draws not only from the current Bolshoi company, but from dancers who, following successful careers at the Bolshoi, moved on to great success with other ballet companies around the world—Maria Kochetkova of San Francisco Ballet; Yekaterina Krysanova, Natalia Osipova, Yekaterina Shipulina and Anastasia Stashkevich of the Bolshoi Ballet; Olga Malinovskaya of the Ballet Estonia and Polina Semionova of the Berlin Staatsoper Ballet. Morr adds, "These dancers are the best representatives of the Bolshoi tradition—these are the dancers who are creating the current history."
Then, rather than reach out to classical choreographers, Morr and Danilian looked to voices who have left indelible and prolific marks on the world of modern dance. Their strategy was that by marrying the elegant precision of the Bolshoi dancers with some of the most intriguing contemporary choreographers, a graceful and resonating collision of worlds, languages, ideas and processes would occur. Says Morr, "The Center recognizes the importance of supporting and producing new work, and to be able to commission artists of such high caliber is a tremendous opportunity for our audiences."
And, for Danilian, the process was itself was an artistic and emotional success: "In my 20 years of producing, this is the first time I've seen a creative process with this much joy."
The prospect of such a concert is exciting, but the challenges of producing an event of this scale can be more than daunting. Perceptions and conventions were being challenged. But amidst the chaos of creation, there was a unique energy that could be felt in the rehearsal studios. Mauro Bigonzetti, principal choreographer of Italy's Aterballetto, was commissioned to create a work for the ballerinas. He was undaunted and inspired by the challenges a contemporary choreographer faces when working with dancers whose training is steeped in neo-classical technique.
While Bigonzetti has an impressive background as a classical choreographer, his work in the last 10 years has ventured towards a distinctly contemporary style. Speaking from his home in Italy following the rehearsal period, he recalls "From the first day, we had to find something in the middle. We do something close to me and then close to them. That's best for everyone. And they were so generous—we did something strange and exciting. Both the choreographer and dancer moved out of our comfort zones to do something together."
Another interesting curatorial theme that the program threads is one that allows the opportunity to focus in on the special intimacy that arises between choreographer and dancer through the process of creating solo work. While the world premiere of Bigonzetti's work, Cinque, set to Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, is a cornerstone of Reflections, there are also several compelling solo works. Alongside Bigonzetti, the roster of choreographers who have been commissioned to create these solos is comprised of not only of a sampling of today's most compelling artists, but also of artists who have served as cultural touchstones in the development of modern dance: Karole Armitage (choreographer for Hair at the Center January 25–February 6), Aszure Barton, Lucinda Childs, Susan Marshall and Wayne McGregor.
With a program so full of newly commissioned works, both Morr and Danilian were seeking a way to round out the program with reconstructed works that could be presented to both the Center and Bolshoi audiences for the first time. This choice wasn't too difficult because, as Danilian says, "What program of ballet could be complete without Balanchine?" So they chose to reconstruct Pas de Trois, which had its premiere in 1948. And to balance that work out, the choice was made to bring a Center favorite, Nacho Duato, to reconstruct his triumphant work, Remansos.
As if this assemblage of talent isn't enough, late word elevates what is already an ambitious and exhilarating program into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for dance and music lovers in Orange County: The world famous Bolshoi Orchestra, more than 70 instruments strong, will be making the trip to provide live accompaniment—a rare and fitting treasure for a program on the scale of Reflections.
Allen Moon is a Santa Ana-based writer and manager of internationally touring contemporary theatre, dance, musical and circus companies.
Dates: January 20–23, 2011
Tickets: $15 and up
For tickets and information, visit SCFTA.org or
call (714) 556–2787.
Group services: (714) 755–0236
© 2011 Segerstrom Center for the Arts
All rights reserved