After a bit of a delay, Festival Ballet Providence announced its schedule for their upcoming 37th season. Of note, they will present one less performance at The Vets but will add a third installment of the popular Up Close On Hope dance series.
Chatterboxtheatre, dance geared toward children, returns with an encore production of Peter and the Wolf. In December, FBP moves into PPAC for their annual holiday presentation of The Nutcracker. They then take the stage at The Vets in March with JuxtaPOSE, featuring resident choreographer Viktor Plotnikov’s groundbreaking and critically acclaimed “Coma”; the program also includes “Etudes,” allowing audience members to, as the title suggests, compare Plotnikov’s contemporary masterpiece alongside a classical masterpiece.
FBP’s season officially opens with the first installment of UCOH. And, as has become the norm, it is an ambitious program totaling nine works including four world premieres, two company premieres, one musical premiere and two new choreographers. With an exciting blend of contemporary dance and classical ballet, these performances allow company members and world renowned choreographers to present their work in an intimate setting with “dance so close you can touch it.”
On a recent Wednesday evening, I attended an UCOH rehearsal just as FBP company member Louisa Chapman was setting her piece “The Elements,” a company premiere. With the earth, air, water and fire as her muse, Chapman creates some stunning visuals. I spoke with her briefly before rehearsal began.
When asked about what inspired her, Chapman recalls how she would go on walks and “observe nature. Watch how the wind catches the leaves, how the water ripples when something is thrown into it. Or watch the fire in a fire pit and how the coals burn and how the fire spreads.”
When asked about the biggest challenges thus far, she admits that the choreography for “Earth” is still in the works complicated by her decision to forgo music in this segment. Rather, she wants “earth sounds, sounds that are human and tangible so the audience can connect with the piece,” coming up with such “sounds” has proven to be difficult. She also details some of the difficulties with “Air.” It features five women and, as Chapman notes, “female dancers want everything to look so beautiful. But I am trying to get them to give-up their weight, to let go and be natural.”
The most striking thing about this young dancer/choreographer is her confidence and the specificity of what she is trying to convey. Though she asks a lot of the dancers, she has a very easy way of explaining herself; one marvels at the remarkable give and take between Chapman and the dancers. And, after several run-throughs, her vision begins taking shape.
“Air” opens with the dancers squatting, arms out by their sides like wings. As the music builds, they soar like birds of prey on the hunt, strong and majestic. Then they become trees with arms lifting and bodies swaying as if being tossed about by gusts of wind. Chapman reminds them “let the wind catch you. This is too much like ballet. I need more movement.” And while she encourages the dancers to be more “natural” and abandon some of their classical training, the choreography still projects a certain grace and beauty.
Then she moves onto “Fire” with two male dancers also starting in a squatting position. As the music builds, their arms and torsos flicker and flutter until they are standing. This piece utilizes big jumps allowing the dancers to “eat up space” much like “the way fire spreads,” explains Chapman. But, much like fire, it burns itself out as the dancing slows and the dancers return to flickering and fluttering until they are motionless.
As the rehearsal draws to a close, Chapman and the dancers begin working on “Water.” In addition to Chapman’s premiere, this UCOH program will also feature world premieres by Plotnikov, frequent FBP contributor Gianni DiMarco and Ty Parmenter, a former FBP dancer who recently rejoined the company. And for those looking to have their classical ballet itch scratched, the “Peasant pas de Deux” from “Giselle” and “Chopiniana” should do the trick.
Finally, FBP Artistic Director Mihailo Djuric is thrilled to announce that Ilya Kozadayev will be making his FBP choreographic debut contributing a company premiere and a world premiere, Djuric has been a big fan of his work for quite some time. From a family of dancers, Kozadayev received his early ballet training in St. Petersburg Russia. He has toured nationally and internationally as a member of many prestigious ballet companies in the US, most recently as a soloist with Houston Ballet. Currently, he serves as Assistant Professor of Ballet at the University of Oklahoma.
For more information about FBP’s complete season, visit: festivalballet.com.