An Evening of Magical Support for Ballet

As fundraising becomes more and more vital for many arts organizations, it was truly inspirational to attend The State Ballet of Rhode Island’s 10th annual Summer Soiree: “Earth, Wind and Firefly.” While many, understandably so, have less to give, it never ceases to amaze what can be accomplished by some when motivated by a common cause.
On this particular balmy Thursday evening, nearly a dozen food vendors, a wine company, artists and patrons of the arts combined their efforts and talents to highlight the significance of a community coming together to support the arts. It was also amazing to see how some youngsters in attendance represent a family’s third or fourth generation of dancers to share the barre at The Brae Crest School of Classical Ballet, the official dance school of SBRI.
Tucked away in the woods of Lincoln, this intimate ranch-style building could actually serve as a nice peaceful retreat if not for the sweaty bodies hard at work on a daily basis within the studio walls. For the fundraiser, a small stage was constructed just a short walk even farther into the woods. Set in a natural amphitheater-like clearing, it appears vaguely reminiscent of Jacob’s Pillow, which resides in the thickly settled woods and rolling hills of the Berkshires. Throughout the evening, SBRI Executive Director, Ana Marsden Fox, expertly moves things along. After thanking all the sponsors, she gets things underway by announcing the four recipients of the 2013 Partner with the Arts Award, an award that recognizes the volunteers who are essential to the success of any arts organization.
Then those in attendance are treated to the first of two performances by company dancers. Ms. Fox explains that, “This is a piece from a ballet that Herci Marsden first created in 1981.” Now in her amazing 53rd season, Ms. Marsden, SBRI Artistic Director and co-founder, is in attendance and still teaches at the school. Ms. Fox also warns, “There will be no tutus in this piece, which is a tribute to Ms. Marsden’s modern vision. But, this is not modern dance.”
In familiar SBRI fashion, this ballet features dozens of dancers on stage simultaneously, with a couple standouts – the ever emotive and graceful Emily O’Heir, and SBRI newcomer who is just several months into his dance career, Matthew Annunziata; his poise and extension are especially impressive.
Set to a variety of music styles ranging from futuristic to classical to tribal, this piece offers the more astute observer an opportunity to see how some ballets often influence later pieces and vice versa. During one segment, with the stage filled with dancers, memories of SBRI’s 1990s world premiere “Americana” emerge. When the music turns more tribal and masculine, the dancing becomes reminiscent of “Prince Igor.” Throughout the ballet, there are also elements of a more folksy style that prevails in much of Ms. Marsden’s choreography.
After a brief performance by Opera Providence, the dancers return for the world premiere of Shana Fox Marceau’s “Dance of the Firefly.” This piece includes live music, two violins and a bass, conducted by composer Noreen Inglesi, who was commissioned to create the score for this ballet. And while Marceau represents the third generation of Marsden choreographers, “Firefly” depicts a freshness and crispness indicative of Ms. Marceau’s individual style and influences.
Wrapped in strands of lights, four dancers take flight as violins lightly fill the evening air. Though not nearly as uptempo as Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee,” the music is bright and playful and the dancers are clean and precise. As the music ends, the “fireflies” disappear into the woods, the glow of their lights marking their exit.
After the performance, guests are invited to bid on silent auction items, eat more and dance. Under a tent closer to the studio, singer Kelley Lennon, accompanied by the band Malloi, turn up the heat well into the evening hours.

Dance Up Close

While spring serves as a welcoming prelude to summer, it is also ripe with wonderful symbolism: rebirth, fertility and growth. Thus Festival Ballet Providence is opening the spring portion of their season with the popular Up Close On Hope dance series.

This latest installment consists of 10 pieces, six world premieres, and features many of the company’s new and younger dancers, showcasing the company’s continuing growth. The program opens with the premiere of guest choreographer Thomas Vacanti’s Enroulement, a simple, yet beautifully danced number. Four dancers, through a series of pas de trois and solos, nicely capture the musicality of the choreography. Next, company trainee Louisa Chapman kicks up her pointe shoes in a fun and playful romp, The First Thirty Years (world premiere). Set to the twanging guitar of Eric Clapton’s Mean Old World, Chapman is wonderful while teasingly gesturing for one to come hither only to quickly turn away, at one point lifting her long white gown and flipping up her backside to her overmatched suitor.

 While much of UCOH’s popularity revolves groundbreaking premieres, the classical pieces also seem to receive the most robust applause, with the response following Flames of Paris being no exception. Here, trainee Eugenia Zinovieva shines, making a challenging pas de deux filled with many supported and unsupported pirouettes look easy. Her partner, the always exciting Toleu Mukanov, doesn’t disappoint either. Always pushing the limits, his gravity defying leaps leave audience members on the edge of their seats until he calmly lands. Rhapsody for Two (world premiere) set to the music of George Gerswhin, is both sultry and temperamental and seems perfectly suited for Emily Loscocco and Ilya Burov. Emily radiates a natural seductiveness that works well with his unassuming confidence and ease.The two have partnered before in similar numbers and seem to get better and better together. Just before intermission, company member Vilia Putrius presents her world premiere, Musica. With the ever expressive Jennifer Ricci and two male dancers, this piece comes across as very contemplative with each dancer yearning for something. Two come together while another fades into the background; they switch, sending the other off to be alone. Though the truncated movements are sometimes a bit odd, there is some interesting partnering, with Ricci literally climbing up or walking over another dancer.

The second half opens with Pieta (world premiere). Pieta is actually a famous sculpture by Michelangelo depicting Mary holding Jesus after the Crucifixion. Set to a soaring operatic musical score by Handel, this piece projects a certain religious theme, but it comes across as multilayered and unclear. In the end, the lights fade on a single dancer with arms outstretched and palms turned upward.

Grand Pas Classique once again highlights the mastery of Vilia Putrius and Mindaugus Bauzys. Putrius beautifully smiles while making the difficult look easy, hopping for 32 counts on one pointe shoe while slowly extending the opposite leg. Bauzy completes a series – a perfectly executed double tour en l’airs or circling the studio in grand jete with his front leg perfectly extended. Over the years, FBP audiences have become spoiled by their near perfection.

Company member Alex Lantz marks his choreographic debut with Sides of Farewell, a very whimsical and simple piece that, much like Enroulement, is beautifully danced. Company apprentice Tegan Rich looks especially impressive here, telling a compelling story through her facial expressions. Rich truly stands out in former FBP company member Mark Harootian’s Identity.Set to the music of heavy metal band Tool, reorchestrated for the piano, this piece has a futuristic feel. Dancers seem to pulsate, then one arm hits another and then another, setting off a series of movements. While some of the partnering appears cumbersome, Rich’s solo variation filled with dizzying pirouettes impresses. FBP Artistic Director Mihailo Dhjuric’s The Unexpected completes the bill, a romantic and playful pas de deux danced nicely by Ruth Whitney and Alan Alberto. Dance into spring; visit www.festivalballet.com for details on upcoming shows.



Dance Up Close: Ground Breaking Ballet

Artistic inspiration comes in many forms. For Festival Ballet Providence Artistic Director Mihailo Djuric, the muse for his company’s upcoming production was a series of orchids photographed in various states of decompose. “It’s amazing how drying orchids look like dancers,” notes Djuric. “They even have faces.” Indeed, after viewing several photographs, the imagery becomes remarkably apparent. In one photo, wilting petals take on the appearance of arms and legs with one dancer gently lifting another.
Resident FBP choreographer Viktor Plotnikov, charged with creating a ballet based on the photographs, was also struck by the imagery created by the orchids. “I look at the pictures of the orchids and they describe dance movements through the lines. So what I would actually like to do is bend the dancers into the lines of those orchids, what you see in the pictures. Blend it in and make the picture live.”
Thus, Orchis, based on a series of black and white images that photographer A. Cemal Ekin started taking in 2004, came to fruition. This world premiere ballet will debut with the RI premiere of George Balanchine’s masterpiece Agon. Billed as Agon and Orchis: Then and Now, these two groundbreaking ballets will be presented at The Vets March 8-10.
When speaking with Djuric about the upcoming production, it doesn’t take long before he launches into a subject he feels very passionately about: the local community supporting local artists and arts organizations. He refers to the touring dance companies that have performed in the area the last couple of months with several more due this spring. “All the money generated by these shows goes to help these outside organizations. Our performance is 100% local. Our artists all live here, work here and do their art here. They are also educators.”
He then proceeds to run through the litany of names associated with Orchis and their local ties. “Cemal teaches at PC. Alan Pickart [set and lighting design] is a professor at RIC. The costume designer [Beth Bentley] graduated from RISD. Toots [Zynsky] is a world-renowned glass artist and lives right here in Providence. The composer, Sonya Belousova, is a former student of RI Philharmonic conductor Francisco Noya. These people are not outsiders. Who would you rather support?” he concludes, barely able to catch his breath.
Incorporating the unique talents of all these dynamic artists, Djuric hopes to create a “new concept for multimedia art utilizing projection, lighting and unique materials.” He is especially excited to see how the multi colored textiles sewn to the dancers’ costumes will interact with the lighting. The end result could very well stretch the limits of visual artistry and dance.
When talk turns to Agon, Djuric sticks to his guns. “All these people going to see these touring productions and not coming to our shows would be shocked by Festival Ballet and our dancers. Not many companies are mature enough artistically or intellectually to do Agon.” In fact, a ballet company cannot perform a Balanchine ballet without first applying for and receiving permission from The Balanchine Trust. The Trust then sends a repetiteur to oversee rehearsals and to ensure that the ballet is performed correctly.
First performed in 1957 by New York City Ballet, Agon is actually the Greek word for contest and many consider this ballet to be Balanchine’s crowning achievement. Interestingly enough, he and composer Igor Stravinsky set the choreography while simultaneously creating the music. Thus the term “contest” takes on greater significance.
Djuric observes “there are times when the choreography goes against the music and then the opposite. It is like a contest between the music and dance, the composer and choreographer. For the dancers, it is challenging for the body and the brain. They are pushed to the limit.” With 12 dancers clad simply in black and white, the music counts out a specific cadence and exact timings as the dancers interact in pairs, trios and quartets. Several variations are also based on 17th century French court dances. “I liked this ballet the first time I saw it as a teenager,” confides the smartly greying Djuric. “I was struck visually by the patterns and the movements. I have always wanted to do it. Now I can.”
Agon and Orchis opens March 8 at The Vets with repeat performances on March 9 and 10. For tickets call: 401-421-ARTS or go online to ppacri.org.

Winter Dance Preview

With the season’s first snowstorm behind us and the mercury dropping to bone-chilling levels, RI’s winter dance offerings are ready to heat things up. From local productions to several touring troupes, things could get hot around here long before the spring thaw.

Festival Ballet Providence (FBP), the capital city’s resident professional ballet company, will get things started with Boyko Dossev’s newest creation for kids: Little Red Riding Hood. Last season, his world premiere of Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood played to sold-out audiences in the company’s intimate Black Box Theatre; his latest debut promises to be equally as popular.

The show will run from February 2 – 10 as part of FBP’s ChatterBOXtheatre dance series. After the performances, children are invited to stay for milk and cookies and pose for pictures with the dancers.

When not performing with Boston Ballet, Dossev spends much of his time in Providence lending his extensive talents to FBP. In addition to creating children’s ballets, he also choreographs for the company’s wildly successful Up Close On Hope (UCOH), a collection of short, unrelated dance pieces – many of them world premieres – also presented in the Black Box Theatre.

Billed as “dance so close you can touch it,” UCOH features work from local artists and world renowned choreographers. It is a rare opportunity to see dance from a behind-the-scenes perspective. The latest installment will run from March 29 – April 13. During intermission, enjoy complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants.

In between Little Red Riding Hood and UCOH, FBP will present Agon and Orchis at The Vets (March 8 – 10). Considered by many as one of Balanchine and Stravinsky’s greatest creations, Agon represents the perfect blending of abstract and neoclassical ballet, which aligns perfectly with Viktor Plotnikov’s Orchis, a stunning collaboration with composer Sonya Belousova, glass artist Toots Zynsky, and photographer Cemal Ekin.

For tickets or more information about FBP, visit www.festivalballet.com. For tickets to Agon and Orchis, visit www.vmari.com.

Other local productions include Fusionworks Te Deum with the R.I. Civic Chorale & Orchestra (March 16). For tickets or more information, visit www.fusionworksdance.org. Also, relative newcomers to the local dance scene, Providence Ballet Theatre will present Hansel and Gretel (March 15 & 16). For tickets or more information, visit www.providenceballet.org.

Make sure to save some time for The State Ballet of Rhode Island’s (SBRI) Project Ballet Coffee Hour. SBRI Artistic Director and “First Lady of Rhode Island Ballet,” Herci Marsden, invites all to share in the experiences that bring a performance from a rehearsal studio to the stage. Featuring music, dancing, and chats, this free event includes cheese, crackers, desserts, and, of course, coffee. Seating is limited; for more information visit www.stateballet.com.

Several touring productions will also step off in Providence during the winter months. On February 5, PPAC will host Shen Yun, a celebration of Chinese culture through classical Chinese dance. This impressive production features nearly 100 artists and 400 costumes.  Lord of the Dance returns once again to PPAC (February 16). Always a crowd pleaser, Dance is an electrifying blend of traditional and modern Celtic music and dance. On March 16, Firstworks is proud to present Joffrey Ballet: Rite of Spring. Set to Nijinsky’s original choreography, this production celebrates the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s masterpiece: The Rite of Spring. For tickets or more information regarding these performances, visit www.ppacri.org.

Back at The Vets, The State Ballet Theatre of Russia will be in town for two performances of Cinderella (February 10). Featuring 65 distinguished dancers, this company showcases the unparalleled art of Russian ballet to countries throughout the world. For tickets or more information, visit www.vmari.com.

Finally, Rhode Island College, as part of its acclaimed Performing Arts Series, will welcome The Trisha Brown Dance Company to Roberts Hall on March 6. Inspired by her own experiences in opera, Ms. Brown directs her dancers in a fluid yet unpredictably geometric style that remains the hallmark of her choreography. For tickets or more information, visit www.ric.edu/pfa/pas.php.

A Vision On Stage Festival Ballet Providence’s The Nutcracker

While some in RI continue to debate whether it’s a Christmas tree or a holiday tree, it’s refreshing to see that several local Christmas traditions remain unaffected: Festival Ballet Providence’s The Nutcracker and The State Ballet of Rhode Island’s Coppelia.

Recently, I sat with FBP Artistic Director Mihailo Djuric before the start of rehearsal. With the company celebrating its 35th season, this marks Djuric’s 15th Nutcracker since taking the reins. And while there has been talk about staging a new production, tough economic times have put such plans on hold.

When asked how he continues to get excited about The Nutcracker, Djuric replies with a twinkle in his eye, “It’s the holidays, Christmas, kids, presents and fun.”  I sense, however, a bit of sarcasm in his retort, indicative, perhaps, of the daily struggles confronting many in the arts.

When rehearsal commences, the troupe runs through two of the ballet’s longer numbers consisting mostly of corps dancers: “Waltz of the Snowflakes” and “Waltz of the Flowers.”  During “Snow,” the music stops frequently as Djuric removes his glasses and rubs the bridge of his nose. After a pause, he barks, “Again.” About an hour later, the first run-through is complete. When performed onstage, this piece will take approximately 10 minutes.

Emily Loscocco and Alex Lantz (Snow Queen and Snow King) are especially impressive. Lantz brings an understated confidence to the pas de deux, executing crisp double sauté de basques before dropping to a knee. Loscocco captivates with endless, elegant lines and dizzying supported pirouettes. Vilia Putrius with Mindaugas Bauzys and Ruth Bronwen Whitney with Alan Alberto will dance these roles during alternating performances. They will also share the lead roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavilier with Elizabeth Mochizuki and Toleu Mukanov.

Rhode Island native and fan favorite Jennifer Ricci returns once again to reprise her most famous role, Arabian. Now in her remarkable 22nd season, audiences are left breathless during this seductive number highlighting Ricci’s ethereal grace and flexibility.

In addition, over 120 children from local dance schools will perform alongside the professional dancers. And, of course, Archie the Nutcracker dog, who has been in more than 100 productions, will make his annual dash across the stage.

Growing Local Talent
State Ballet of Rhode Island’s Coppelia

To see some of R.I.’s younger aspiring ballet dancers, one must head North to SBRI’s headquarters in Lincoln. Now in its amazing 53rd season, the company prepares for its traditional Christmas offering; though not a “holiday” ballet, Artistic Director Herci Marsden continues to honor an agreement she reached with old friend and former Boston Ballet Artistic Director Virginia Williams not to present competing December ballets. Thus explains their selection of Coppelia, the heartfelt story about a doll maker who falls in love with one of his dolls.

As a first, this year’s performance will feature some children from area ballet schools. “It is about community,” explains Ms. Marsden. “We are the State Ballet.” All told, the production requires close to 100 dancers, with almost 70 onstage for the finale.

During rehearsal, young dancers, crammed along the floor and back wall, wait their turn, watching with an intense curiosity or listening with rapt attention whenever Ms. Marsden speaks.  All the while, Derek Kunz (male lead Frantz) calmly maneuvers the animated and feisty Melissa Sorkin (female lead Swanhilda) through the three-act ballet.

Fifteen-year-old Emily O’Hier especially stands out. As one of Swanhilda’s friends in Act I and with two solo variations in Act III, she emerges as one of the finest young dancers I have seen in quite some time; her exceptional talent as a dancer upstaged only by her remarkable stage presence and acting ability – a pure joy to watch.

FBP’s Nutcracker and SBRI’s Coppelia open Friday December 14, so plan accordingly and see them both. Don’t be a Scrooge! For that, you need to go to a different theatre.

SBRI Presents Spring ‘Tour De Ballet’ at RIC

This Mother’s Day weekend why not take mom on a trip around the world to see how various cultures celebrate their heritage through dance. To do so, you will not have to use any SkyMiles, just set your GPS for Roberts Hall at RI College where The State Ballet of RI will present Tour de Ballet.

As SBRI Artistic Director Herci Marsden reaches back into the company’s repertoire, prepare for stops inIrelandfor traditional Celtic dance,Francefor a saucy “Can-Can,”Italyfor the breathless “Tarantella,”Spainfor the fiery and romantic pas de deux from Don Quixote,Viennafor some waltzes and East Slavic for the powerful “Polovtsian Dances” from Borodin’s Prince Igor.

But first the production will open with the world premiere of SAFARI choreographed by former SBRI principal dancer and resident choreographer Mia Godbout; emerging local composer Christy Isles was commissioned to create the musical score for this ballet, which will be performed by a live musical ensemble. According to SBRI Executive Director Ana Marsden Fox, this is the first time since the 1960’s that music was “created just for State Ballet.”

SAFARI certainly fits the program’s travel motif especially, as Godbout explains, since each letter represents certain styles of dance: S for Spanish; A for American, F for French, R for Russian; and I for Irish. Godbout adds, “It is a nice introduction for the rest of Tour de Ballet as the countries referenced in my piece are represented throughout the show. It is also a great stand-alone piece if we ever decide to present it at other venues around RI.”

And while Godbout has choreographed other ballets, the twenty-one minute SAFARI represents her most ambitious effort to date. “This is my biggest project to date,” she affirms, “I worked on several shorter pieces for SBRI and choreographed many pieces for local area dance schools. In college, I won an informal competition for a piece I choreographed that SBRI ended up performing at studio performances and demonstrations.  A few years ago, I collaborated with [SBRI dancers] Mark Marsden and Shana Fox in “Gracefully Gershwin” which was also a one-act ballet.  Most recently, I collaborated with author David Ira Rottenberg and created a short ballet set to a live reading of his book Gwendolyn the Graceful Pig. But, this is my first one-act ballet on my own for a large-scale show!”

Godbout also explains how working directly with the composer has helped the creative process, “Generally, choreographers have to suit their steps to the music as it is. Yet, I have been able to ask Christy for sections to be lengthened or cut back if needed or the addition of instruments to enhance the steps.” Godbout concludes, “I think I have definitely been spoiled as a choreographer during this process! Christy has attended almost all rehearsals, watched the choreography and took notes so we would all be working together when it is performed live. She herself is playing in each movement, either on the cello or piano.”

As for future plans, Godbout observes, “This season has been incredible! I have had many exciting opportunities, with this show at the top of that list!  But, I definitely need a bit of a break! My poor family has seen me trying out steps to Christy’s music in every room of our house…even outside! I have put in long hours at the studio, so a bit of a rest is in order starting May 13!”

Tour de Ballet, featuring over 40 local dancers, runs May 11th and 12th at Roberts Hall at8:00PMand2:30PM. For tickets visit: www.stateballet.com.


Collision Shines Bright in ‘August Osage Country’

August Osage County

‘This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends,” and so ends Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County running through April 1 at Warren’s 2nd Story Theatre. Some may recognize those final utterings from the final stanza of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men,” with the title, many believe, serving as a subtle allusion to the character of Kurtz from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness referred to as “hollow at the core.”
Likewise, many of the characters who populate Letts’ over-the-top look at a dysfunctional family living in the wastelands of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. posses a Kurtz-like hollowness. The men are all impotent and the women are damaged beyond repair. The play itself is part comedy, part tragedy but thoroughly depressing!
Much of the action centers around the relationships between a pill-popping, mean-spirited and foul-mouthed mother, Violet, and her three daughters: Barbara, the oldest and outwardly the most competent but inwardly very damaged; Ivy, the most fragile of the three who never worked up the courage to leave home and resents everybody for it; and Karen, so eager for a meaningful relationship that she ignores her finance’s sleazy and perverted behavior.
The denouement occurs when the girls return home for their father’s (Beverly) funeral following his suicide. Fatherless and soulless, the family airs all its dirty laundry during a meal commemorating Beverly’s passing, presided over, ironically enough, by Johnna, a Native American he hired as a caretaker for Violet shortly before his disappearance. Proud of her own family heritage, Johnna wears a necklace that contains pieces of her umbilical cord, thus preserving her lineage and her soul, in contrast to the family she looks after whose souls, after death, are condemned to “walk the earth looking for where [they] belong.”
The Act II family dinner, which Violet refers to as “truth telling time” while verbally attacking all present, loudly serves as the play’s highlight. Following some extremely powerful exchanges between Violet and Barbara, with Barbara literally trying to pry the pills from her mother’s hands: “Try to get ‘em away from me and I’ll eat you alive … I’ll eat you alive girl,” the audience sits in a stunned silence as the lights rise for the second of two short intermissions.
The production features a very capable cast, but Lynne Collinson’s portrayal of Violet is marvelously gut-wrenching. Whether stumbling across the stage in a drug induced stupor or lamenting with her daughters during brief moments of lucidity, Collinson makes many of the unbelievable things occurring in this play somewhat believable. As Barbara, Joanne Fayan also has some very fine moments with the unenviable tasking of having to match Collinson’s pitch and power.
And while Letts’ August: Osage County presents a powerful and compelling look at a family’s crimpling dysfunctions, his continually pushing the envelope, just when you think things have hit bottom, the bottom gives way once again, seems to be asking a bit too much from the audience. But, I recall a writing professor who once confided in me that he no longer felt comfortable determining whether or not his students’ writing was believable or plausible. After a brief pause, he concludes, “look at the world we live in.”
August: Osage County, 2nd Story Theatre, 28 Market St. Warren. Runs thru April 1. www.2ndstorytheatre.com

New Works Debut at Up Close on Hope

As Festival Ballet Providence continues to make unprecedented strides since its amazing season opening fundraising gala “Together We Dance,” where dancers from some of the top ballet companies around the world donated their talents, Artistic Director Mihailo Djuric has planned a very busy second act for their 2011-2012 Season.

During February, the dance troupe presents the second installment of the award winning Up Close On Hope, along with a world premiere of “Mother Goose Goes toHollywood” for the popular chatterBOXtheatre, a dance series designed for children – young and old.

Billed as “dance so close you can touch it,” Up Close features a collection of unrelated dance vignettes ranging from contemporary to modern to classical in style. Set in the company’s intimate Black Box Theatre, audiences gush about these performances where “you can even hear the dancers breathing and see them sweat,” proving that despite how effortless they make dance look, they are working pretty darn hard.

The centerpiece for this installment will be resident choreographer Viktor Plotnikov’s “Short Stories for a Small Magazine.” Plotnikov first premiered this piece in 2004 for Boston Ballet’s highly regarded Raw Dance series. Since 2002, he has been staging world premiers for FBP often drawing international acclaim and awards for his efforts.

Inspired by the Jean Paul Belmondo film, Le Magnifique, “Short Stories” consists of six stories exploring family, hardship during war, addiction, labor strive, machines and childhood and love. With themes that are for more topical than some of Plotnikov’s current offerings, which tend to be far more metaphysical in nature, the dancing too seems a departure. The movements are bigger, raw and edgy versus the compact, rigid and eclectic style that has become his trademark.

The program also includes yet another world premiere by company dancer and popular Up Close choreographer Mark Harootian. Set to the music of Lady Gaga, rearranged by the Vitamin String Quartet, this piece utilizes six company dancers. As with most Harootian works, what he does with the music generally proves to be just as intriguing as his choreography.

Another company dancer, Leticia Guerrero, presents her second work for Up Close on Hope also a world premiere. The program features a total of four world premieres. Using three couples, this piece looks at relationships, “how they connect us and set us apart.”

Festival Ballet also proudly introduces George Birkadze, he will debut two world premieres: “RJ,” “a duet about first steps, first experiences and something forbidden,” and “My Sorrow” with five dancers depicting experiences with frustration.

Rounding out the program will be two classics: Petipa’s exhilarating “Don Quixote” pas de deux and Vaganova’s version of Petipa’s “Diana and Acteon.” Both pieces will give company dancers an opportunity to showcase their superior skills and athleticism.

And while Up Close will be occupying the spotlight on evenings in February, Boston Ballet’s Boyko Dossev, a frequent Up Close contributor, will present his world premiere production of “Mother Goose Goes toHollywood” for chatterBOXtheatre prior to the evening performances.

This charming and wholly original work promises to delight all – young and old. Watch as a father and his daughter create a series of heartfelt stories and then successfully sell them toHollywood, culminating in a trueHollywoodending complete with a wedding.


Festival Ballet Providence,825 Hope St,Providencepresents Up Close on Hope Feb 17-18, 24-25; March 2-3 at

Visit www.festivalballet.com