Balanchine’s classic ‘Liebeslieder Walzer’ returns to RVA Ballet, with a sad farewell to company’s longest running dancer
The Richmond Ballet is set to close their 2014-15 season with a bang when they bring back what’s considered one of their most popular productions, George Balanchine’s elegant Liebeslieder Walzer (“Love Song Waltzes”).
“Liebeslieder Walzer has been one of my favorite ballets since my dancing days,” said Stoner Winslett, Artistic Director of Richmond Ballet. “I always wanted to build a company that would be strong enough to do Liebeslieder Walzer, and I am so proud that we have done that here in Richmond. It’s one of the most precious ballets in the New York City Ballet repertory and we were incredibly honored when we were given the rights to do it two years ago. It’s just four couples, so the dancers have to be really strong, not only technically, but artistically.”
Born in 1960′s New York, Liebeslieder Walzer combines Balanchine’s classical vocabulary and his fascination with sweeping waltzes to produce something which transitions from temporal and spiritual through the use of dramatic costuming.
“The ladies are first dressed in satin ball gowns and heeled dancing pumps, but later in lush romantic tutus and pointe shoes,” reads the press release sent out supporting the show. “The gentleman, while remaining in their white ties and tails, remove their formal gloves from one section to the next.”
“By knowing the dancers well, having both staged and choreographed for Richmond Ballet through the years, I have an advantage in casting Liebeslieder Walzer,” said Balanchine Trust répétiteur and former New York City Ballet dancer Philip Neal. Neal has returned to the RVA Ballet for this version of Liebeslieder Walzer – he’s playing a similar behind-the-scenes role he played in 2011, the last time the piece was performed here.
“I can quickly identify when a particular dancer will need to project more or perhaps pull back. And with Stoner, Malcolm Burn and Jerri Kumery [Ballet Masters at Richmond Ballet] in charge of rehearsing the ballet, I have every confidence that Liebeslieder Walzer will receive its finest performance possible. In terms of a positive work environment, Richmond Ballet sets the gold standard.”
The smaller venue of Studio Three is sure to provide a uniquely intimate production as well – with the dancers, singers, and audience members gathered together close enough to hear and see the finest details.
“Members of our audience have often told me the reason why they loved this particular ballet so much is because they felt that their souls danced with the dancers,” said Winslett on why she was so excited to bring this production back to Richmond audiences. ”They felt free like the ballet dancers on stage.”
But this exciting chance to see Liebeslieder Walzer is a bit bitter sweet - it also marks the farewell for one of Richmond Ballet’s longtime company dancers, Phillip Skaggs (pictured below). Skaggs, after 16 years, will be leaving the company with the distinction as one of their longest running dancers.
“I feel so thankful for the opportunity to dance with Richmond Ballet, a company that has become my home,” said Skaggs. “I have been so fortunate to have had the great support of our artistic staff, my friends and my family over the course of my career; it certainly would have been hard to make it in this business for so long without it. For the memories, for the lessons of hard work, for the chance to see the world, for the opportunity to work with fellow artists in pursuit of the same creative ideal, and of course, for the friends whom I will cherish for a lifetime still to come, I’m grateful for everything.”
Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Skaggs graduated from The Youth Performing Arts School in 1996, when he then joined with Connecticut’s The Nutmeg Ballet. He danced with the Hartford Ballet before accepting a position as a company member with Richmond Ballet in 1999.
Skaggs will take part in a Q&A session after Tuesday’s opening performance.
Liebeslieder Walzer runs from April 14- 19th at the Richmond Ballet’s Studio Three theatre.
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