Utah Ballet brings fresh choreography, live music and a romantic story to the stage

The School of Dance presents four exciting dances in Utah Ballet’s Spring 2020 program, including faculty works, new creations and traditional pieces. The show opens February 6 at the Marriott Center for Dance. Utah Ballet will include an original piece from award-winning choreographer Heather Gray, and a world premiere from School of Dance Assistant Professor Melissa Bobick. In Visiting Professor Rick McCullough’s Preludes, dancers will be joined on stage by pianist Professor Vedrana Subotic from the University of Utah School of Music. Finally, Utah Ballet will include Assistant Professor Chris Alloways-Ramsey’s reimagining of the romantic La Vivandière, originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon.

Guest Artist Heather Gray originally choreographed Il Riposo over 15 years ago, with the idea of creating “an eccentric classical ballet. I have always loved how traditional ballet choreographic form typically incorporated line, unison and exact precision of movement… What would happen if one dancer were to break free from tradition and were to find their own unique way of moving within the group?” she asks.

This question serves as the basis of her choreography and remains something she continues to reflect on throughout her creative process.

“The movement vocabulary was inspired by using simple balletic movements designed to push the limits. The movement was also created with a technically strong dancer in mind because agility would be required. Elongated lines, mixed with intricate contemporary footwork would help me to create an interesting aesthetic as the piece was taking form. This piece is choreographed to three Vivaldi concertos, which generated a perfect framework for the style.”

Over the years, Il Riposo has received many accolades, including being selected for the National Choreographic plan at the Regional Dance America Festival as well as winning 1st place at the Youth America Grand Prix Ballet Competition.

Assistant Professor Melissa Bobick’s UNCOVERED will make its world premiere at Utah Ballet. Bobick has created movement that is accented by beautiful, full skirts designed by School of Dance Costume Shop Director Chris Larson.

“These skirts, which represent the ‘costumes’ we feel we must wear to be ready to face the world, were an integral part of the choreography’s creation and informed the movement quality extensively,” Bobick says. “The performers in the piece have used the collaborative process to explore the range of emotions they feel within themselves in response to their masks. At times, the masks are quite burdensome and difficult to carry. At other times, they offer us comfort and security. Yet, in either instance, they are always with us. As we are wrestling with our masks, however, being truly seen is all it takes to help us let them go. In that place of vulnerability, we discover who we really are and no longer feel UNCOVERED.”

Visiting Professor Rick McCullough’s Preludes is a meditation on how ballet dancers prepare and warm-up for performance.

“Observing myself and others at the barre, I thought that personalities were revealed in the way dancers approached their warm-ups. Some dancers were nervous and self-centered, others were easy-going and lethargic, some were introspective and thoughtful, others might be running late and anxious. Each had their own ‘Prelude’ to their time on stage, that place of transition from dancer to stage artist,” explains McCullough. “Essentially, Preludes is a group of character studies set to piano Mazurkas, Etudes, and Preludes of Frédéric Chopin, each with its own mood.”

McCullough originally created the piece with students at Southern Methodist University in 1986 and has restaged it several times since.

“Originally I had hoped to make duets, but not having enough men, I decided to use the familiar ballet barre as the ‘partner’ so to speak. Barre is one of the most familiar and comfortable places for ballet dancers, and the dancers move over, under, and around it,” he says.

Professor Subotic will join the dancers on stage to provide live accompaniment for the performance, marking a first for Preludes.

The program concludes with La Vivandière, a  bright, romantic ballet with choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon set to music by Cesare Pugni. It was presented at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London in 1844, and subsequently restaged for the Paris Opera in 1848. This ballet tells the story of Kathi, a vivandière who sold provisions to troops during a war, and Hans, the soldier she falls in love with. Christopher Alloways-Ramsey has restaged the Pas de Six based upon Saint-Léon’s choreography. This Pas de Six, which has been performed by ballet companies all over the world, is known as either the La Vivandière Pas de Six, or, in Russia, the Markitenka Pas de Six.

Spring 2020 Utah Ballet runs February 6 – February 15. Don’t miss this delightful evening (or afternoon) of ballet!
For tickets and showtimes visit https://tickets.utah.edu/events/utah-ballet-ii/