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Light and Bright: Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker full of joy and hope

Festival Ballet: Kobe Atwood Courtney as The Nutcracker.
(Photo: Liza Voll)

Festival Ballet Providence has reimagined its annual production of The Nutcracker, and the results will be the start of a delightful holiday tradition for families in southern New England. This production was given its world premiere at the show’s new home stage, the Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

The last few years have seen numerous disruptions and changes to Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker.  Costumes were stolen in 2016. Festival’s “Nutcracker Dog” Archie retired after 19 years on stage. COVID in 2020 led to the entire production being abbreviated and streamed online. Treating all this uncertainty behind the curtain as an opportunity, Festival Ballet Providence Director Kathleen Breen Combes and Artistic Curator Yury Yanowsky decided to revamp the entire show with new costumes, new sets, and new choreography.

Festival opens their new version with Herr Drosselmeyer in his workshop building the titular nutcracker and sprinkling the toy with magic. The story then moves to Clara, a young girl, on the night of her family’s Christmas party. Herr Drosselmeyer, who is a family friend and magician, comes to the party and delights both young and old with his mechanical marvels and wonderful gifts. The nutcracker is gifted to Clara and, after the party is over, she sneaks down from her bedroom and falls asleep on a sofa by the tree.

Festival Ballet: Mamuka Kikalishvili and Eugenia Zinovieva as Snow King and Queen. (Photo: Liza Voll)

Suddenly, Clara shrinks down to the size of her nutcracker doll and the room is filled with giant mice and rats. A battle begins, with the nutcracker fighting the Rat King and his minions. Festival’s 2021 battle is filled with fun and humor as combatants launch food at each other and the wounded are removed by an efficient rodent medical corps. Just when it looks as if the nutcracker might be defeated, Clara saves the day and distracts the Rat King allowing the nutcracker a chance to overcome his foe. The overly-dramatic death of the Rat King made his passing more humorous than scary. The nutcracker transforms into a handsome young prince and takes Clara away from her home to an enchanted snow-swept forest where they are welcomed by the Snow King and Queen who provide Clara with gifts fit for a princess, ending the first act.    

The second act takes place in the Land of Sweets where various characters dance and perform for the nutcracker-turned-prince and his companion Clara. These dances include cultural homages to Russia, Spain, Arabia, and China; Festival put time and effort into making all the dances show off these cultures in a dignified manner. The Chinese “Tea” dance especially has been reimagined with support from the Chinese community. The Sugar Plum Fairy (one of the sweets) and her partner dance a grand pas de deux displaying great strength and control throughout.

New to Providence’s production is the inclusion of Mother Ginger, a giant gingerbread house bursting with young dancers; the athletic prowess of some of the little dancers stole the show. The production doesn’t just have children in it as a gimmick: they are integral to the cast,  well employed as guests at the party, snowflakes in the winter, and propelling Clara and her Prince through the Land of Sweets.

Festival Ballet: Nina Yoshida and Kobe Atwood Courtney as Snow Queen and King.
(Photo: Liza Voll)

Festival’s Clara was played by teenager Charlotte Seymour at the December 19 performance reviewed. Using a younger dancer means that the Act I pas de deux sometimes performed by Clara is given to adult dancers. The strength of Seymour’s dancing and her delight in the role shine through, making it easy for all the aspiring ballerinas in the audience to believe in Clara’s adventures, wondering with her about what was real and what was imagined.  

Kobe Atwood Courtney danced the role of the nutcracker with powerful jumps and strong acting skills. In Act II he entertainingly relives, in pantomime, the adventures of the battle against the rodents and joins in the Russian Trepak dance.

Herr Drosselmeyer is often portrayed as mysterious or frightening, but in this production he is more of a “fun uncle” creating an opportunity for adventure. Unlike in many productions,  Drosselmeyer is a presence throughout Act II as he occasionally guides the couple, watching dances as he stands protectively nearby. Drosselmeyer’s final action is in the show’s penultimate moments to set things all back in order.

Much traditional Christmas fare is, in truth, rather depressing, almost like watching a television marathon of Little House on the Prairie, making you plod through four acts of unhappiness for the payoff in the final few minutes. This production is happy and joyful from curtain to curtain, making it a perfect diversion in uncertain times. It’s refreshing to see a show that can be readily appreciated and enjoyed by adults and children of any age. Light and bright, Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker is filled with youth and hope, a timeless tale made more fitting for our time.

The Nutcracker performed by Festival Ballet Providence, https://festivalballetprovidence.org/2021-2022-season/the-nutcracker/, at Veterans Memorial Auditorium. 1 Avenue of the Arts, PVD. Tickets: https://www.thevetsri.com/events/detail/the-nutcracker-21 or telephone (401)421-ARTS (2787).  Through Dec 26, 2021. Run time 115 minutes. Handicap accessible. COVID protocols in effect: proof of vaccination required for age 12 and up, masks required for age 2 and up.

Festival Ballet: Mamuka Kikalishvili as The Nutcracker, Joshua Tuason as Mother Ginger, Charlotte Seymour as Clara, and Students of Festival Ballet Providence School as Polichinelles.



Island Moving Company Returns to Live Performance

On May 6, 7 and 8, Island Moving Company (IMC) will hold a hybrid in-person and livestreamed performance called Return to Live at the WaterFire Arts Center.

The performance will feature world premieres from guest choreographer Colin Connor, former artistic director of the José Limón Dance Company, and Danielle Genest, IMC’s associate artistic director. The performance will also include Mark Harootian’s recent work, Steady Grip, plus Ruth…Less, and A Life Well Lived by Miki Ohlsen, IMC’s artistic director. All performances will be accompanied by live music arranged by music director and cellist Adrienne Taylor, with pianist Andrei Bauman and violinist Emma Lee Holmes-Hicks.

Ohlsen, who curated the performance with Genest, said of the upcoming collection of pieces, “It furthers IMC’s commitment to artistic collaboration and providing audiences with the rare opportunity to engage with two live art forms in a singular production.”

Return to Live takes place May 6 – 8 at the WaterFire Arts Center. 475 Valley St, PVD. For more information, go to islandmovingco.org




Time to Dance, Sugar Plum!: ‘Tis the season for holiday dance to hit the stage

Photo Credit: Meri Keller

Whether it’s a vicarious urge to keep ourselves warm, or because something about graceful movement conjures associations with the holiday season, or just because “Happy Holidays” makes you feel like dancing — or at least like watching others dance — this is the dance season. Here’s some of what’s coming up:

Island Moving Company has their exciting mansion-based retelling of the classic Nutcracker story. “Characters move the audience from one room to another in the magnificent spaces within Briarcliff Mansion,” says marketing director Shauna Maguire.“This show sells out. The mansion is beyond belief.” Find Clara and friends at 548 Bellvue, Newport. It runs at various times and dates between Nov 27 and Dec 6, islandmovingco.org

The State Ballet of Rhode Island weighs in with Coppelia. This marks SBRI’s 60th year, and they’ve been bringing interpretations of Coppelia to RI since 1969, through four generations of Marsdens (82-year-old artistic director and founder Herci Marsden is still ruling the roost, with the help of her daughter, granddaughters and great-granddaughters). “We’re especially excited about the leading dancers who we have this season: They’re amazing,” says Ana Marsden Fox of performers Sarah Hamel and Devin Larser. “People tell us it’s become their tradition. We have some audience members coming for a second or even third generation,” Marsden Fox explains. This will be the fourth time the tale in which dolls come to life (a common problem in the holiday dance universe) takes the stage at Cranston’s Park Theatre, 848 Park Ave. It’s on Dec 6 and 7. stateballet.com

Providence’s Festival Ballet brings their annual traditional Nutcracker performance to PPAC. Between the location and the storied, esteemed history of the company, expect an opulent experience. On Sunday, December 15, kids can also enjoy brunch tea with Clara at Bravo Brasserie on Empire St before the show. Runs Dec 13 thru 15 this year, with Clara’s Tea on Dec 15. festivalballetprovidence.org

Providence Ballet Theater has their annual holiday entrant, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, taking place in the Nazarian Center at RIC, 600 Mount Pleasant Ave, on Sat, Dec 20, at 4:30 and 7pm. providenceballet.com

In New Bedford, New Bedford Ballet will be presenting The Nutcracker with a whaling city twist — dancers will include sailors and Native Americans, and one of the guests at Clara’s house will be author Herman Melville. We can’t wait to see the harpoon dance! Dec 7 thru 15 at the NBB Community Theatre, 2343 Purchase St, New Bedford, Mass. newbedfordballet.org

On the collegian circuit, Brown, RIC and PC will be twinkling their toes this season. 

Brown has 15 different pieces spanning a wide variety of genres. About half are new student work, and they will include step, hip-hop, classical ballet and a smattering of other genres. “We’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of dance [as a formal program] at Brown,” says Brianne Shaw, marketing coordinator at Brown University. “Specifically this year, we’re not only featuring new work by current students, but we’re also featuring alumni work and classical work to celebrate that anniversary. Julie Strandberg, who founded the dance program, is still with us and is producing this show.” Find them at the Ashamu Dance Studio in the basement of 83 Waterman St, PVD. Thu – Fri, Nov 21 -22.

PC has its seasonal Blackfriars dance performance. Wendy Oliver of PC says, “We’ll have guest choreographers from around the area. We have Jean Appolon, who’s doing a modern dance piece with a strong Haitian influence. We also have three contemporary choreographers, Danielle Davidson, who teaches [at PC], Gisela Creus, from Spain, and then Orlando Hernandez choreographed a modern tap piece and is also doing a tap solo. And Cayley Christoforou, who lives in Salem.” Oliver is also choreographing a piece of modern dance with a political theme, called “Debate.” That’s at Angell Blackfriars Theatre, Smith Center for the Arts, Eaton St, PVD, at 7pm Fri, Nov 15 and 2:30 Sat, Nov 16.

RIC will present End It!, an exploration of human trafficking in modern society through dance. Think of it as counter-programming if you’ve had too many damn sugar plums in your dance diet. That takes place at RIC’s Forman Theater, in the Nazarian Center, 600 Mt Pleasant Ave, PVD at 7:30pm on Fri Dec 6 and Sat, Dec 7.




Dancing Thru the Snow: Leap into the holidays with these seasonal dance performances

 

While Island Moving Company is packing away its Nutcracker at Rosecliff in Newport, the rest of New England is just beginning to celebrate the magic of Christmas.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Providence Ballet Theatre’s one-night-only holiday performance, returns. The production is inspired by Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem, and professional dancers, along with a cast of local children, create a fun-filled performance for all ages. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas runs Dec 14 at 7pm at The Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, Roberts Hall, Rhode Island College.

New Bedford Ballet will perform its annual production of A New England Nutcracker. Journey back to the 1850s, as this favorite holiday story is reimagined through New Bedford’s historic whaling era, and prepare for the “City That Lit the World” to light up your holiday season. This original adaptation of the traditional Nutcracker ballet, created by Rebecca Waskiel-Marchesseault, director of the New Bedford Ballet, features choreography by Ms. Waskiel-Marchesseault, Erin Petitjean Allen and Eugenia Zinovieva. The performance takes place in New Bedford Ballet’s studio, offering an intimate environment charged with the dancers’ energy. This simple version with narration is engaging for children, and the hour-long performance is perfect for anyone juggling the many events that fill the holiday season. A New England Nutcracker takes place through December 9 at the NBB Community Theatre, 2343 Purchase St, New Bedford. Tickets are limited and sell quickly; reserve by contacting the New Bedford Ballet at 508-993-1387.

Rounding out the holidays is Festival Ballet Providence’s classic rendition of The Nutcracker. See principal dancers Eugenia Zinovieva and Kirsten Evans dance the iconic Sugar Plum Fairy. The production features more than 50 young dancers from around the state. The newest addition to the production was just auditioned on December 2. Archie the dog, known and loved by many, retired this year, and Festival Ballet held open auditions to replace him. FBP’s The Nutcracker takes place Dec 21 – 24 at the Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St, PVD.




Inside Island Moving Company’s  Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff

There is nothing grander then walking into the Rosecliff Mansion, especially at Christmas. Island Moving Company adds to the grandeur with several beautifully decorated Christmas trees in every corner, each with its own style and color theme. It is breathtaking and magical.
Mikki Ohlsen and her wonderfully talented company, faculty, staff, along with approximately 80 students from the Newport Academy of Ballet, is not to be missed. I had the opportunity to perform with Island Moving Company as a guest artist, playing the role of the Snow Queen. It was a great honor and a pleasure to work with this fine company of dancers, the faculty and of course, the wonderful students.
The Island Moving Company’s production differs from any other local Nutcracker production. The audience is treated to a holiday experience from the moment they enter the mansion. The performance begins with the party scene, which takes place in the foyer of the mansion. It’s Christmas Eve in Newport, Rhode Island, and the family of Judge Oelrichs, his young daughter Tess and her brother Hermann are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Vanderbilt family. The mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer, an imposing figure enveloped in a great cloak, arrives and brings the Winter Fairy, an unseen spirit who helps Drosselmeyer enchant the house. The audience follows the company of dancers throughout the mansion, as we are treated to scenes in several different rooms of the mansion, each decorated more grandly than the last. The Vanderbilt and Oelrich children are charmed by the wonderful life-like mechanical toys that Drosselmeyer has brought, and are thrilled when they receive gifts. Tess adores her special gift, a Nutcracker. Hermann is jealous and takes the precious Nutcracker; after a brief struggle, the Nutcracker is broken. Tess is heartbroken, but Drosselmeyer quickly fixes it. The party moves into the Rosecliff’s grand ballroom, and the audience is seated once again to watch the families dance and celebrate the holiday. They then move back into the foyer as the Vanderbilts and Oelrichs say goodnight. Late that night, Tess sleeps restlessly; when the clock strikes midnight, the Mouse Queen and her rats appear and torment Tess. Tess is consoled by Herr Drosselmeyer who twirls his cape and reveals a life size Nutcracker, with several soldiers. At battle follows between the soldiers, the rats, the Queen and the Nutcracker.
The battle ends and the Snow King and Queen enter down the grand staircase and lead Tess and the audience to the magical snow scene. The audience experiences the waltz of the snowflakes and the beautiful Snow Pas de Deux. The first act ends with the Snow King and Queen waving goodbye as they exit the grand ballroom.
The ballroom is then transformed into the Land of the Sweets during the 15-minute intermission. This transformation, which only an ‘insider’ sees, is a magical event itself. Volunteers and staff quickly transform the ballroom from a frosty forest to a beautiful Kingdom of Sweets. As the second act begins, we are introduced to the Sugar Plum Fairy and other confections who perform for Tess. The scenery is beautiful, and the dancing is magical. The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, along with the other confections, slowly bow to Tess and recede as figures in a dream, placing the Nutcracker toy into the sleeping Tess’ arms.
Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff is very enchanting. The audience is seated among the scenes themselves; this is dance up close. The grandeur of the mansion, the addition of the beautifully decorated trees, the costumes and most especially the dancing is a perfect way to enhance your holiday season. There is no better way to welcome in the holidays than to experience this very unique production.
To purchase tickets visit IslandMovingco.org. Remaining performances of Nutcracker at Rosecliff  are November 27 – 30.




2018 Theater Award Winners

Motif-188This year saw a number of records broken at the Motif Theater Awards. The number of voters was the most yet, with 4,565 readers weighing in on their favorite performers and performances. The event filled McVinney, the 728-seat auditorium in downtown PVD, with a spirit of cheering camaraderie that carried through the entire night. You can see the list of winners below, but one of the themes was that everyone who came out was a winner – theaters were cheering one another, and companies were offering passes to other companies. Almost every theater company in the region was represented, and the afterparty at Hotel Providence was awash in theatrical energy and networking between companies.

Performances represented some of the best work from local theaters, and included boffo showstoppers from a full cast of Newsies by the Academy Players, a show-defining original song, “Everything that Matters,” from Empire Revue’s Benny’s the Musical, stirring solos from Trinity Rep’s Ragtime and Stadium Theatre’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, medleys from Granite’s Jesus Christ Superstar and Theatre by the Sea’s Chicago, a piratical mashup from Penzance by the Wilbury Group and an ever-optimistic rendition of “Tomorrow” from Community Players’ Annie. Every single number managed to stir or inspire the crowd of fellow thespians.

Guided by showrunner Terry Shea and veteran MCs Kevin Broccoli and Reba Mitchell, presenters included Karen Kessler, Samantha Gaus, Beth and David Jepson, Paula Faber, Vince Petronio, Rita Murray Maron, Leonard Schwartz, Kira Hawkridge, Ted Clement, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley, Joanne Fayan, Angelique Dina, a beat-boxing Rudy Rudacious, a heartfelt Tony Annicone, Cheryl and Charles Cavalconte, and Tom Gleadow and Fred Sullivan.

Spoken word winner Christopher Johnson rededicated his award to Vatic Kuumba, and Lynn Collinson, recipient of the Unsung Hero award, gave a rousing speech about community and teamwork, also announcing her new project that will focus on roles for mature women.

The afterparty jammed out to the tunes of Westminster Yacht Club and included a few more personal award presentations. Culinary treats from Julians restaurant and brews from Narragansett Brewers rounded out the night.

COLLEGE
2018 Lighting Design – College
Jessica Winward – Eurydice, URI
2018 Set Design – College
Katryne Hecht – Beauty and the Beast, RIC
2018 Sound Design – College
Anna Drummond, Eurydice, Brown Trinity MFA
2018 Costume Design – College
Marcia Zammarelli – Beauty and the Beast, RIC
2018 Male Performance – College
Brooks Shatraw – Bert, Mary Poppins, URI
2018 Female Performance – College
Emily Turtle – Mary Poppins, URI
2018 Choreography – College
Nicole Chagnon – Mary Poppins, URI
2018 Direction – College
Bill Wilson – Beauty and the Beast, RIC
2018 Production of the Year – College
Mary Poppins, URI

COMMUNITY
2018 Lighting Design – Community
Megan Ruggiero & Doug Greene – American Strippers,
Attleboro Community Theatre
2018 Set Design – Community
Danny Rodrigues – You Can’t Take It with You, Portsmouth Community Theater
2018 Sound Design – Community
Terry Shea – Isn’t It Romantic, Barker
2018 Costume Design – Community
Johnny Cagno – Sweeney Todd, RISE
2018 Supporting Male – Community
John Brennan – Mr. DePinna, You Can’t Take It with You, Portsmouth Community Theater
2018 Supporting Female – Community
Katrina Rossi – Susan, The Crazy Time,
Newport Playhouse
2018 Male Lead – Community
Brian Mulvey – The Grandfather, You Can’t Take It with You, The Community Players
2018 Female Lead – Community
Vivienne Carrette – Athena, American Strippers, Attleboro Community Theatre
2018 Direction – Community
Cindy Killavey – Love, Loss and What I Wore, Portsmouth Community Theater
2018 New Work – Community
Murder at the Coal Mines by Gloria Schmidt – Portsmouth Community Theater
2018 Production of the Year – Community
You Can’t Take It with You, Community Players
SEMI-PROFESSIONAL
2018 Lighting Design – Semi-Pro
Marc Tiberiis II – ESCAPE, OUT LOUD Theatre
2018 Set Design – Semi-Pro
Christopher J Simpson – Rosencrantz
& Guildenstern Are Dead, Contemporary
Theater Company
2018 Sound Design – Semi-Pro
Ryan Stevenson – The Healing, Epic Theatre
2018 Costume Design – Semi-Pro
Kira Hawkridge – King Lear, OUT LOUD Theatre
2018 Supporting Male – Semi-Pro
David Sackal – King Lear, OUT LOUD Theatre
2018 Supporting Female – Semi-Pro
Natasha Cole – King Lear, OUT LOUD Theatre
2018 Male Lead – Semi-Pro
Kevin Broccoli – Wolf Hall, Epic Theatre
2018 Female Lead – Semi-Pro
Valerie Westgate – Vanda, Venus in Fur,
Burbage Theater Company
2018 Direction – Semi-Pro
Kira Hawkridge – King Lear, OUT LOUD Theatre
2018 New Work (or significant adaptation) –
Semi Pro & Pro
Marshall by Kevin Broccoli – Epic Theatre
2018 Production of the Year – Semi-Pro
Wolf Hall, Epic Theatre

PROFESSIONAL
2018 Lighting Design – Professional
Amith Chandrashaker – Othello, Trinity Rep
2018 Set Design – Professional
Eugene Lee – Ragtime, Trinity Rep
2018 Sound Design – Professional
Mikhail Sulaiman –  Othello, Trinity Rep
2018 Costume Design – Professional
Kara Harmon – Ragtime, Trinity Rep
2018 Supporting Male – Professional
Jeff Church – As You Like It, Gamm
2018 Supporting Female – Professional
Phyllis Kaye – Death of a Salesman, Trinity Rep
2018 Male Lead – Professional
Tony Estrella – Vanya, Uncle Vanya, Gamm
2018 Female Lead – Professional
Lauren Weinberg – Belle, Beauty and the Beast,
Theatre By The Sea
2018 Direction – Professional
Tony Estrella and Rachel Walshe – As You Like It, Gamm
2018 Production of the Year – Professional
Ragtime, Trinity Rep

MISCELLANEOUS
2018 Stage Manager Award
Max Ponticelli
2018 Improv / Audience Participation
Bring Your Own Improv
2018 Most Bombastic Fight Choreography
Normand Beauregard – As You Like It, Gamm
2018 Social Media Campaign
Benny’s the Musical, Empire Revue
2018 Favorite Spoken Word Artist
Christopher Johnson
2018 Favorite Concessions
Trinity Rep
2018 Favorite Fest
FRINGE PVD
2018 Youth Production of the Year
The Lion King Jr., Academy Players of RI
Most Exciting Creative Collaboration of 2018
Murder at the Coal Mines – Portsmouth Community
Theater and Portsmouth Historical Society
2018 Favorite Variety Show / Cabaret
Theatre By the Sea Cabaret
2018 Favorite Ensemble
Pirates of Penzance, Wilbury
2018 Unsung Hero Award
Lynn Collinson
2018 Devised Theater Award
The Sea Pageant, Strange Attractor
2018 Nazo Award for
Boundary Defying Theater
Red Speedo, Epic Theatre

DANCE
2018 Principal Male Dancer
Alex Lantz, Festival Ballet
2018 Principal Female Dancer
Kirsten Evans, Festival Ballet
2018 Production of the Year – Dance
Little Mermaid, Festival Ballet

MUSICAL
2018 Supporting Male in a Musical
Alvaro Beltran – Bernardo, West Side Story,
Stadium Theater
2018 Supporting Female in a Musical
Chantal Arraial – Anita, West Side Story, Stadium
2018 Male Lead in a Musical
Jack Cappadona – Quasimodo, Hunchback
of Notre Dame, Stadium Theatre
2018 Female Lead in a Musical
Rachael Warren – Mother, Ragtime, Trinity Rep
2018 Choreography Award
Jennifer Webb – A Chorus Line, Stadium Theater
2018 Musical Production Number
“Out There” – Hunchback of Notre Dame,
Stadium Theatre
2018 Musical Direction
Mark Colozzi – Hunchback of Notre Dame,
Stadium Theatre
2018 Director of a Musical
Becca Donald – Hunchback of Notre Dame, Stadium
2018 Musical of the Year
Hunchback of Notre Dame, Stadium Theatre

Editors’ Picks
These special, fun awards were selected by our editors to
reflect some of their favorite work from the year:
2018 Dynamic Duo
Rachel Tondreault and Cam Torres – Senga
and Ever, Dancing Lessons, 2nd Story Theatre
2018 King of the Year
Alan Hawkridge – King Lear, King Lear, OUT LOUD Theatre
2018 Sensational Scene Stealer
Becky Gibel – Evelyn Nesbitt, Ragtime,
Trinity Rep
2018 Jury Selection
Nick Menna – Juror #3, 12 Angry Jurors, Barker
All Hail the Queen
Valerie Tarantino – The Player, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Contemporary Theater Company
Musical Accompaniment
Julia Egan – The Troubadour, Isabella,
Counter Productions Theater Company
Comedic Gold
Ben Church – Feste, Twelfth Night,
Burbage Theater Company




Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 2018

Nestled in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains in the town of Becket, Mass, is Jacob’s Pillow, a sprawling 220-acre site that hosts the oldest and one of the most prestigious dance festivals in the US. Every summer, thousands of people gather to watch prominent dancers, choreographers and rising talent display their talents on several stages.

Summer 2018 is no exception. If you haven’t ventured to Jacob’s Pillow, this is the summer to do so. The line-up of talent is nothing short of amazing. Jacobs Pillow is a family-friendly venue offering so many diverse programs that even the youngest family member will enjoy the experience.

“2018 Season highlights include US company debuts, world premieres, international artists, newly commissioned works and the formal presentation of work developed through the organization’s growing residency program at the Pillow Lab,” states Nicole Tomasofsky, Pillow’s public relations coordinator. ” International artists will travel to Becket, Massachusetts, from Denmark, Israel, Belgium, Australia, France, Spain, and Scotland. Notably, representation from across the United States includes New York City, Minneapolis, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Chicago among others.”

June 20-24

The Season begins with the opportunity to see Royal Danish Ballet at The Ted Shawn Theatre. Principals and soloists return to the Pillow with excerpts from classical ballet’s enduring masters, including Marius Petipa, Jules Perrot and August Bournonville.

The Doris Duke Theatre will host Ragamala Dance Company, described as “soulful, imaginative and rhythmically contagious” (The New York Times), this Bharatanatyam company performs Written in Water. Original composition by jazz trumpeter Amir ElSaffe.

June 27 – July 1

Pilobolus. A must-see for all ages. This wildly creative troupe of daring dancers will present Branches, a stunning display of acrobatics, inventive wit and dazzling imagery.

Ephrat Asherie Dance presents the world premiere of Odeon, a mixture of hip-hop, house and vogue with an enticing score by Brazilian composer Ernesto Nazareth. Live music.

July 4 – July 8

Hailing from Israel, Batsheva; The Young Ensemble will perform Naharin’s Virus. This troupe is considered one of the most prominent contemporary dance companies in the world.

The Herald Sun describes Nicola Gunn as, “tantalizing, entertaining, ridiculous and often bewildering in the best most possible way.” Nicola Gunn tells the story of a man, a woman, and a duck.

July 11 – 15

Choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui will perform alongside his company EASTMAN. They are presenting Fractus V, “an epic work that spans contemporary genres from Flamenco to hip-hop, featuring live music from India, Japan and Korea.”

Phildanco! “Spiritually uplifting, and socially conscious (The Philadelphia Inquirer),” this celebrated Philadelphian Company delivers athletic, contemporary ballet.

July 18 – July 22

Dorrance Dance. Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award-winner Michelle Dorrance returns, bringing her latest piece, Myelination, along with a world premiere, set to live music.

The New York Times describes Cie Art Move Concept, as ” a French tour de force of movement and motion; a thrilling fusion of hip-hop and contemporary dance.”

July 25 – 29

Ronald K Brown/ Evidence, returns to the Pillow with a soulful and uplifting new work. A blend of African, Carribbean and contemporary choreography set to Grammy winner Arturo O’Farrell’s Latin jazz beats. Live music.

Compania Sharon Fridman makes its US debut at the Pillow. “The program highlights athletic, adventurous work rooted in improvisation.”

August  1 – 5

Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance will return to the Pillow. This world-renowned dance force brings a diverse program lead by such amazing choreographers as Crystal Pite and Alejandro Cerrudo.

2018 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award-winner Faye Driscoll returns with Thank You For Coming: Play. “A collage of gesture, image, voice, and persona where performers ventriloquize, shape-shift and speak through and for each other.”

August 8 – 12

Limon Dance Company, a staple in the American modern dance world, brings to life classics by Jose Limon, as well as new choreography.

Paramodernities By Netta Yerushalmy. This world premiere deconstructs modern choreographers including Alvin Ailey, George Balanchine and Bob Fosse.

August 15 – 19

Houston Ballet returns for the first time in nearly 40 years with a program celebrating classic and contemporary choreography alongside a piece by Trey McIntyre and a Pillow-commissioned world premiere by artistic director Stanton Welch.

“Obie and Lucille Lortel Award-winner Sonya Tayeh presents you’ll still call me by name, an emotionally charged dance symphony in collaboration with vocalist and indie-folk duo The Bengsons.

August 22 – 26

Rounding out the summer, Daniel Ulbricht curates Stars of American Ballet in celebration of legend Jerome Robbins. San Francisco-based ODC/DANCE flaunts rigorous and partnering in their performance of Dead Reckoning.

These may be the season’s highlights but alongside this spectacular line-up is also Inside/Out Performance Series set on the Pillow’s outdoor stage. Popular with audiences of all ages, these performances happen Wednesday through Saturday, from 6:15 to 7pm, and they’re free.

PillowTalks

These are entertaining and informative discussions with writers, choreographers, filmmakers and cultural experts, moderated by Pillow scholars. Friday 5 – 6pm and Saturday 4 – 5pm. Free

Spend a day at The Pillow, picnic on the grounds or dine at one of two restaurants. The Old Inn on the Green, a full-service dining and full bar experience or The Southfield Store, an on-the go- menu of sandwiches, salads and sweets, with wine and beer.

Classes

For the advanced dancer, 16 and older, the Pillow offers master classes on Sundays. Learn from festival artists. Sundays, June 24 – August 26 from 10-11:30am.

Family classes are offered for all ages and levels.

There is so much happening you may find that one visit is not enough! Tickets can be purchased online at jacobspillow.org or by phone 413-243-0745. Jacob’s Pillow, 358 George Carter Rd, Becket, Mass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




Little Mermaid Swims into Providence

 

Festival Ballet Providence brings a New England Premiere for its final performance of the 2017-2018 season, Little Mermaid. The ballet was originally created for Charlotte Ballet in 2008. In 2016 choreographer Mark Diamond reimagined the production, bringing to it more color, more scenery and more whimsical costumes. “This is an all-new version with elaborate scenery and very colorful costumes,” said Diamond. “The lighting plays a pivotal role in creating the magical undersea world. We  have added background projections, which bring a 3D quality to the undersea adventure,” he says.

The ballet, while based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale, is far more light-hearted and family-friendly than Anderson’s original story, which is quite scary.

We first meet the Little Mermaid, portrayed by Kirsten Evan or Eugenia Zinovieva, when she is rolled onto the stage and then scooped up by a group of dancers who are referred to as the undertow. They carry her and guide her through the ocean along with a host of other colorful characters. “We actually do not see the Little Mermaid’s feet touch the floor until she finally finds her way to the shore. The movement of the undersea world characters is very flowy and soft; we see a much different quality of movement when we are in the Prince’s world. The movement is more grounded and realistic,” states Diamond.

We meet the Prince, portrayed by Alan Alberto or Alex Lantz, and his guard at the palace. This world choreographically is much more grounded in reality, we can feel gravity in the movement. The Guards dance a wonderful Mazurka with highly stylized steps and quick foot movement. Diamond has done a wonderful job creating two very different worlds with his sets, colorful costumes and diverse choreography.

The production includes more than 50 students from the Festival Ballet School. These students have been in rehearsal for several weeks, often outside of their regular training hours. “Giving students the opportunity to perform with the professional company takes their training to the next level,” says artistic director Mihailo Djuric in a press release. Diamond adds to this, “I wanted the young audiences to feel exhilarated and exalted by what they see; this is a ballet for the whole family.”

This wonderful interpretation ends joyfully, not tragically, like so many of the Hans Christian Anderson tales. Little Mermaid and her Prince have happily found each other and both worlds are filled with joy.

Little Mermaid makes its premiere in Providence April 27-28 at The Vets. Call 401-421-Arts or visit the Festival Ballet website for tickets. Don’t miss this bubbly adventure!




Dance Season 2017-2018 Preview

Holiday-themed dance performances from nearly every Rhode Island company will open the season, ranging from traditional to contemporary work.

The Rhode Island College Dance Company (ric.edu/pas) will host the Bang Group, Friday (Dec 1) and Saturday (Dec 2) at Sapinsley Hall, in a collaboration called Nut/Cracked, “an ode to American eclecticism” they describe as “The Nutcracker, but definitely not as we know it. The Bang Group has taken every little girl’s favorite Christmas show and torn it limb from limb,” with a mix of “Tchaikovsky’s original score with music by Duke Ellington, Glen Miller and others.”

According to RIC dance professsor Angelica Cardente-Vessella, “David Parker [of the Bang Group] will be in residence at RI College for one week preceding the performance. He will audition the RIC dancers and choose a cast. They will rehearse for four days and perform in the show along with the Bang Group as part of Nut/Cracked. He and his associate Jeff Kazin will teach daily class to our entire dance population regardless of whether or not they are chosen for his cast. This is very much a full collaboration, and all our students have this fantastic opportunity to work with this celebrated artist.”

Providence Ballet Theatre (PBT) (providenceballet.com) will present a single performance of Twas the Night Before Christmas, Friday (Dec 5) at the Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts in Roberts Hall at RIC. It is a new, original synthesis of “St. Nick, dancing sugar plums, prancing reindeer, the magic of snowflakes, moving sets, clever puppetry and colorful costumes with original choreography” by artistic director Eva Marie Pacheco, with the goal of being entertaining and accessible to all audiences, Pacheco said. This public performance will follow four sold-out “special school day performances for children,” she said.

PBT will premiere Snow White and the Seven Dwarves with choreography by Pacheco and music by Tony Lustig at three venues: at RIC in March, at the Bank of America Arts Showcase in March and at the East Greenwich Odeum in May.

Festival Ballet Providence (FBP) (festivalballetprovidence.org) begin their 40th season with The Nutcracker, an annual tradition, at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) with two evening shows Friday (Dec 15) and Saturday (Dec 16) and two matinée shows Saturday (Dec 16) and Sunday (Dec 17). The iconic work by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky “is a highlight of the holiday season, for years delighting children and parents alike with the sweet tale of the little girl who dreams of sugar plum fairies and places far and wide,” said spokesman Ruth Davis.

The FBP Director’s Choice show, with evening performances Friday (Feb 9) and Saturday (Feb 10) and a matinée performance Sunday (Feb 11) at The Vets, will feature George Balanchine’s “Rubies,” the second of his three-movement Jewels on the 50th anniversary year of the ballet, along with The American choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon to the music of Antonín Dvořák, and will close with a world premiere by FBP resident choreographer Viktor Plotnikov set to the music The Soldier’s Tale by Igor Stravinsky, a dark composition from the aftermath of the First World War about a soldier encountering the devil while returning home.

FBP will close its season with The Little Mermaid, Apr 27 – 29 at The Vets, based upon the Hans Christian Andersen folktale, choreographed by Mark Diamond with music from Alexander Borodin, Claude Debussy and Reinhold Glière.

The State Ballet of Rhode Island (stateballet.com) open their 58th season with Coppélia, their annual tradition, with an evening Friday (Dec 8) show and a matinée Saturday (Dec 9) show at the Park Theatre in Cranston. This is a classic 19th century comedic ballet described as “a whimsical and enchanting love story of a dancing doll.” The 1:30pm Saturday matinée will be preceded by a noon “Kids Tea Time” for children, requiring separate reservations and tickets, and will include “a cast meet and greet, tea time snacks, souvenirs, a backstage tour and photo opportunity.”

There will be an “educational performance” oriented toward children, youth and families at 10am Friday (Dec 8) at the Park Theatre that is “pay what you can” with a suggested donation of $10. This program will be “a special dress rehearsal performance explaining the music, the staging mechanics, the physical training of the dancers and the facts about the ballet.”

In the spring, the State Ballet will present Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Friday (Mar 23) evening and Saturday (Mar 24) matinée at the Park Theatre, with an educational “pay as you can” dress rehearsal at 10am Friday (Mar 23) and a separately ticketed “Mad Hatter Tea Party” for children at noon before the Saturday matinée.

Island Moving Company (islandmovingco.org) present their 16th Newport Nutcracker at the Rosecliff mansion with performances twice daily on Tuesday (Nov 28), Wednesday (Nov 29), Thursday (Nov 30), Friday (Nov 24, Dec 1) at 4pm and 7:30pm; Saturday (Nov 25) at 2pm and 7pm; and Sunday (Nov 26) at 2pm and 6pm. At press time, many shows are listed as sold-out, but others remain available.




Fusionworks Marks 30th Anniversary

 

Modern dance company Fusionworks is celebrating their 30th anniversary  with a special concert on November 5. Artistic director Deb Meunier, who founded the company and serves as its primary choreographer, promises a lot of variety in the performances. “It will be a wonderful rollercoaster ride,” Meunier said. “I wanted to create a new piece myself, which is what I did. Then I pulled out two dances of my own that were my favorites over the years.”

Meunier’s choreography has been produced at Jacob’s Pillow, Dance Services Network, ECA, The Mayfair Festival in PA, Artspace of New Haven, the Gowanis Outback Series, The Field and the 92nd Street Y of NYC. In addition, her work was chosen to represent Rhode Island at the New England Artist’s Congress and she has been invited to present her work two times at the prestigious 92nd Street Y in New York City.

The concert will feature audience favorites, including the heart-pounding dance, Please, created by this season’s first place winner of Fusionworks’ Nationally Emerging Choreographers Festival, Aaron McGloin. Audiences will also see Vesperae, a dance performed to one of Mozart’s magnificent choral arrangements, as well as the deeply musical, rhythmically layered River Rocks and the non-stop jumping Elliptic/Stippling Line.

Fusionworks’ junior company, Fusionworks II, which serves as a training ground for young dancers, ages 14-20, who wish to further their education in modern dance, is also presenting a piece. “They always perform a piece with us as part of their education,” Meunier noted.

There will be also some special guests: Former members of Fusionworks will be watching the current company on stage. Amy Burns has been with the company since 2001 and said the experience has been rewarding. “It’s been a great environment to grow as a dancer and as an artist,” Burns said. “What I love about dance is it combines the physical and the spiritual and the intellectual and the mental so you’re coming at this discipline from every aspect of your life and applying things you’ve learned and things you’ve experienced to your art and sharing that with other people.”

30th Anniversary Performance, Nov 5, 3pm and 6pm, Festival Ballet Providence Blackbox Theater, 825 Hope St, PVD. 401-334-3091, fusionworksdance.org/calendar