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Springing from one fun thing to another

Wow!  Spring is here—the beautiful big tulip tree in my back yard looks stunning against these gray, misty mornings, and the purple pansies are so great with the daffodils.  It’s a funny spring, and some things that would normally bloom in succession, are all blooming at once.

And that’s the way March feels with performances, too!  So much to see and do! On March 10, we had our annual fund-raising gala, which takes the form of a performance, followed by a cocktail party.  I so enjoyed seeing the sneak peeks of the new company works, and I also relished the opportunity to present some dancers from the school in we call “the Degas.”  As a dance teacher, one can get a little tired of the constant kitsch reproductions of Degas’ work onto teeshirts, mugs, etc.  But to actually study the colors and the placement of the figures within the frame, is to be brought back to an appreciation of his total modernity.   So I really enjoy using his paintings as a spring board for a presentation of young dancers, referring back to the deep tradition of the Paris Opéra on the one hand, but presenting very young dancers struggling to recreate those classic shapes anew in their own bodies.  If you can do a good tendu croisé devant, you’re on the road, my friend.

On the 17th, the company performed up at Raritan Valley Community College, in an extremely lively and well-received evening of mainly new works.  The incredibly quick and gifted Mary Barton presented a new work for the company men, showcasing their speed and attack.  Our friend Trinette Singleton’s work, “Capriccios” was a similar showcase for the women in the company, fleet and strong, with a lovely lyrical pas de deux for Claire and David.  David was also a strong and ardent Romeo to Karen Leslie’s believably young Juliet in the premiere performance of Douglas Martin’s new balcony scene choreography.  (This will get a repeat viewing this coming Sunday at the Jersey Moves! Festival at NJPAC).  

I’m a real fan of art that refers to other art—I don’t mean sampling, although that’s fun, too.  But original creations which pay stylistic homage to earlier creations are just so witty and resonant.  So I really enjoyed “Confetti,” Gerald Arpino’s homage to Bournonville style.  Of course, the echoes here go way back—Bournonville himself was paying homage to the folk forms of the region around Naples, when he produced his ballet “Napoli.”  And George Balanchine also weighed in (if you can say that about a dance as light as a feather!) with his “Tarentella.”  So I’m a real sucker for a dance with tambourines.  Years ago, we three Robertsons had the great adventure of spending New Year’s Eve holiday in Amalfi, a little town on the seacoast near Naples, and were thrilled to see and hear a band of traditional musicians and dancers parading through the piazza each evening at the aperitivo hour.  The first evening, as the band wended its way towards us, Miranda turned to me with her face lit up, and said “Napoli!”  They were playing one of the songs that Bournonville choreographed to for his ballet of 1842.  (I also really loved seeing the Royal Danish Ballet bring this to the State Theater last summer, with its new Fellini-esque décor, complete with the wedding couple leaving on an aqua Vespa).  It’s a thrill and an honor for us to be the only company, outside the Joffrey Ballet itself, which is currently allowed to produce “Confetti,” a demonically hard technical tour de force disguised as a bonbon.  The dancers looked great, and I look forward to it becoming a staple opener for our programs. 

Yesterday, I enjoyed being a small part of another of our Access and Enrichment events, this one a lecture on the history of the ballet “Romeo and Juliet,” given by Professor Kim Chandler Vaccaro of Rider University.  She gave a wonderful presentation, including moving video clips of the some of the great couples—Nureyev and Fonteyn as the outstanding example.  And then we opened the presentation up to questions for Douglas Martin about the direction that his new production will take.  I can’t wait to see the ballroom scene in May at Rutgers!

Looking forward to another one of my favorite art-as –reference pastiches this weekend—Stoppard’s “Travesties” at McCarter!

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