RVA Ballet’s New Works Festival Delivers Promising Young Talent
Creating a ballet within a few months can be daunting. Producing one in 25 hours seems almost impossible.
Since 2008 the Richmond Ballet has been commissioning dance makers from around the globe to take on this intimating task as part of their New Works Festival. Granted with one week, 25 hours, and unlimited access to the company’s resources, four contemporary ballet choreographers are selected to create innovative pieces for the Richmond Ballet dancers.
“At Richmond Ballet, we truly believe that commissioning new work is crucial for the perpetuation of the art form,” said Stoner Winslett, the company’s artistic director. Winslett has stayed true to this mission. Over the past 30 years the Richmond Ballet has commissioned 57 new works from 20 choreographers, an homage to the company’s commitment to producing progressive dance and maintaining a company of versatile dancers.
This year’s New Works Festival, running March 25-30 at the Richmond Ballet Studio Theatre, features world premieres from artists Melissa Barak, Peter Quanz, Gavin Stewart, and Edgar Zendejas, each of whom brought freshness to the company.
Opening the show was Canadian choreographer Peter Quanz’s lively ballet, Exulto.
Spanish Baroque music billowed as the dancers flew from the wings. The female dancers, wearing red corset dresses, grabbed their skirts as they presented their meticulous pointe work. The males, in brown pants and bare-chested, exuded power as they leaped athletically.
Lauren Fagone and Matthew Frain in Exulto by Peter Quanz. Richmond Ballet 2014. All rights reserved. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.
The inclusion of solos for the six-dancer cast, while impressive, came second to Quanz’s touching choreographic reasoning. After spending an extended time with the dancers he felt the desire to let their artistic personality shine within the piece. This is the type of collaborative inspiration that occurs during the New Works process every year.
Edgar Zendejas’ ballet, Reife (Headline Image), was the most contemporary dance of the night. Zendejas’ choreography resembled geometric patterns as arms and legs sliced through the space connecting angles with each step. The dancers were exact, defining each movement with precision. Soloist Fernando Sabino’s commandment of the space was immediate. His strength in both technique and performance was captivating even as the lights went out.
Eos Chasma, choreographed by former New York City Ballet dancer Melissa Barak, pulled motivation from Julia Wolfe’s dark composition, Cruel Sister for String Orchestra. Barak found the music “scary, unsettling, and unfamiliar.” Feet cautiously treading and the violent shaking of legs ingeniously illustrated Barak’s hostile world. The ending image of the dancers quickly skidding across the stage, arms outstretched in a protective huddle, was unshakable.
Melissa Robinson and Fernando Sabino lead Richmond Ballet dancers in Melissa Barak’s Eos Chasma. Richmond Ballet 2014. All rights reserved. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.
The final piece, Shadows on the Inside, choreographed from Richmond Ballet II’s own Gavin Stewart, was inspired by Don Draper’s character from the hit series Mad Men. Sharp suits, 1960’s style dresses and enthusiastic facial expressions were appropriately charming in this character ballet. Maggie Small, Lauren Fagone, and Thomas Garrett’s love triangle teased the audience in all the right ways, with flirtatious gestures and shrewd deception included. The only thing that would have made this piece more enjoyable would have been a stiff martini.
Shira Lanyi leads her fellow Richmond Ballet dancers in Shadows on the Inside by Gavin Stewart. Richmond Ballet 2014. All rights reserved. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.
Richmond Ballet’s New Works Festival runs March 25-30 at the Richmond Ballet Studio Theater. For more information, visit www.richmondballet.com
Headline image: Cody Beaton and Fernando Sabino in Reife by Edgar Zendejas. Richmond Ballet 2014. All rights reserved. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.
Rebecca A. Ferrell, a native of Richmond, Virginia, is a dance educator, choreographer and performer. She is currently the artistic director of FDANCE, a project dedicated to her work as an intervention dance artist. Rebecca holds a BFA in Dance and Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University as well as a MFA in Dance from Arizona State University. She is currently adjunct faculty at VCU Dance and is in charge of dance curriculum at John Tyler Community College. When she is not dancing, Rebecca is making cupcakes, breaking hearts, and obsessing over the color pink.
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