Category Archives: Performances

Reviews and articles around Ballet Austin’s yearly performances

6 Things You Should Know about the Director’s Choice Choreographers

By Pei-San Brown,  Community Education Director

Director’s Choice 2016 is fast approaching and Artistic Director Stephen Mills is excited to introduce two extraordinary choreographic talents to local audiences, while presenting two of his favorite works. One of the most interesting aspects of Director’s Choice is the breadth of movement ideas and music used for the different pieces. Before you join us Valentine’s Day weekend, here are the top 6 things you need to know about our presenting choreographers.

1. Pontus Lidberg, the choreographer

Pontus Lidberg holds an MFA in Contemporary Performative Arts from the University of Gothenburg / Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts. He trained at the Royal Swedish Ballet School, and after graduating, he danced with The Royal Swedish Ballet, The Norwegian National Ballet, Le Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, and The Göteborg Ballet.

Choreographer Pontus Lidberg. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Choreographer Pontus Lidberg. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

2. Pontus Lidberg, the filmmaker

Lidberg’s most recent dance film, Labyrinth Within (2011)—featuring former New York City Ballet principal dancer Wendy Whelan, and a score by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang—received the Court Métrange du Jury prize at the Court-Métrange Film Festival in Rennes, France (2011) and won Best Picture at the Dance on Camera Festival in New York (2012).

Pontus and Wendy, Photo by Adrian Danchig-Waring

Pontus and Wendy, Photo by Adrian Danchig-Waring

3. Pam Tanowitz, the Guggenheim Fellow

Pam Tanowitz holds an MFA in Dance from Sarah Lawrence College, where she was mentored by former Merce Cunningham principal dancer Viola Farber-Slayton. She received a 2009 Bessie Award for Be in the Gray With Me, was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011, and was a 2013/14 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.

Pam Tanowitz, Photo by Brad Paris

Pam Tanowitz, Photo by Brad Paris

4. Pam Tanowitz, the critic’s favorite

Pam is lauded by dance critics everywhere. Alastair Macaulay of the New York Times wrote in February 2014, “Some of the dance steps, phrases and constructions by the choreographer Pam Tanowitz are among the finest being made anywhere today. They feature memorable footwork, strikingly elegant and witty combinations of lower- and upper-body movement, and complex, subtle, fascinating uses of stage space. And yet she’s an eccentric… Much of her dance vocabulary is taken from ballet and from Merce Cunningham technique, both of which she employs in ways that should often impress devotees of either genre.”

Maggie Cloud and Melissa Toogood in Pam Tanowitz's Passagen at the Joyce Theater, Photo by Andrea Mohin

Maggie Cloud and Melissa Toogood in Pam Tanowitz’s Passagen at the Joyce Theater, Photo by Andrea Mohin

5. Stephen Mills, the musician-turned-dancer

Stephen Mills is a classically-trained musician who studied piano and composition at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. He took his first dance class at the age of 18, and went on to dance with The Harkness Ballet and The American Dance Machine in New York.

He revealed in a 2013 interview with ATX Man, “When I was 8, I had encephalitis, and I was in a brief coma. The fact that I was able to walk in the end was miraculous. So sports were not part of my life. When I went to college and I learned that I could use my body like this, it was a revelation… The second I stepped into the studio, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

Stephen Mills, Photo by William Russell

Stephen Mills, Photo by William Russell

6. Stephen Mills, the award-winning dance maker

Stephen began his career at Ballet Austin as a dancer. He later became Resident Choreographer, and then eventually Artistic Director of the company. He was the choreographer chosen to represent the United States through his work, Ashes, at Les Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis in Paris (1998). His ballet, One / the body’s grace, was awarded the Steinberg Award, the top honor at Le Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur International Choreographic Competition. One of Stephen’s crowning achievements is the ballet Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project, which in 2006 was awarded the Audrey & Raymond Maislin Humanitarian Award by the Anti-Defamation League.

Ballet Austin's Stephen Mills in his work Ashes (1998). Photo by Lucia Uhl.

Ballet Austin’s Stephen Mills in his work Ashes (1998). Photo by Lucia Uhl.

Don’t miss your chance to see these extraordinary artists at their best for Director’s Choice!

New Year, New Work: Working With Pontus Lidberg

By Oliver Greene-Cramer, Company Dancer

Let me start by saying Happy New Year! With the first month of 2016 drawing to a close, we are putting together the final touches on Director’s Choice.

We are about three weeks out from the performance and have just finished learning all of the choreography for the final two ballets—there are four total dance works being performed during Director’s Choice. With this blog post, however, I’ll be looking back at the process and choreography of Pontus Lidberg’s Stream. Pontus first came to set his work on us in October, just before Ballet Austin’s tour to West Palm Beach, and will return to Austin two weeks before Director’s Choice.

Swedish choreographer Pontus Lindberg.

Swedish choreographer Pontus Lindberg.

An internationally acclaimed choreographer and filmmaker, Pontus is originally from Sweden but is currently based in New York City. Given his body of work with companies such as the Swedish Royal Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet, we were extremely excited to learn that we would be working with him.

Stream was originally choreographed on Oregon Ballet Theatre in 2013 so the process was one of resetting existing movement on our company dancers. The ballet is set to an original score by composer Ryan Francis. With gorgeous swells and ethereal melodies the music helps to guide the pulses within the movement.

Though Stream had already been choreographed, Pontus was interested in altering and modifying certain aspects so that we, as dancers, felt more natural in the movement. Therefore, instead of having us mimic a video, he took time to encourage individuality in fulfilling the steps.

Choreographer Pontus Lindberg setting his work Stream.

Choreographer Pontus Lindberg setting his work Stream.

From the first day in the studio Pontus’ aesthetic and intention was clear. Though very intricate in terms of partnering and spatial patterns, the flowing movement demands an organic and effortless mindset. Much of the choreography is connected by off balance steps or even an intentional fall. While the piece is full of floor work and complex partnering, Pontus’ desire is that everything flows naturally while working in the context of the movement vocabulary. Nothing looks forced or random; everything seamlessly connects to the next step. Though his choreography is firmly rooted in classical line, Pontus wants more than just technical cleanliness in a dancer. The choreography demands an expressiveness from the dancers that requires precision without severity.

Company dancers Oliver Greene-Cramer and Ashley Lynn Sherman.

Company dancers Oliver Greene-Cramer and Ashley Lynn Sherman.

Next week Pontus returns to continue coaching Stream in the weeks leading up to the Valentine’s Day Weekend performances. As with all of the other pieces in Director’s Choice, we look forward to sharing Pontus’ beautiful work with Austin.

IN PICTURES: Behind The Scenes of The Nutcracker

By Molly Morrow, HR & Accounting Associate

Ballet Austin’s 53rd annual The Nutcracker is an Austin holiday tradition, and the longest running production of The Nutcracker in Texas. Even if you’ve seen it every year, I hope these behind-the-scenes images shed a new light on the production.


There are people who like the ballet, and then there are people who like tattoos of the ballet tattooed into their flesh. We let you find out which kind of person you are with these fun temporary nutcracker prince tattoos.

We revamped The Nutcracker with brand new costumes and sets in 2013, and it shows. The costumes for these waltz-of-the-flowers dancers are lovely, even when you pass them outside of the dressing room under cold fluorescent lighting. Onstage under warm spotlights they are mesmerizing.

These particular flowers (Ballet Austin II dancers Nicole and Abby) are laughing and just generally goofing around while they wait for the second act to start, an exceedingly common occurrence backstage.

A photo posted by Molly Morrow (@mrmollymorrow) on

This life-size Ballet Austin nutcracker is a fun photo op for ballet goers. But it has blossomed into so much more. His head is the size of my living room and he is easily a foot taller than me. He calls me Moll Doll, I call him Mr. Nuts. :-)

I hope you enjoyed my look at The Nutcracker from behind the curtain and I hope that you get to create your own magical experience at the Long Center for this year’s The Nutcracker, running from December 5–23.

Ballet Austin Company Dancer Shares What It’s Like Working With New Choreographers

By Oliver Greene-Cramer, Ballet Austin Company Dancer

Company dancers Christopher Swaim, Jaime Lynn Witts and Oliver Greene-Cramer in the studio learning a new piece by Pam Tanowitz (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Company dancers Christopher Swaim, Jaime Lynn Witts and Oliver Greene-Cramer in the studio learning a new piece by Pam Tanowitz (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Working with a new choreographer is often a very rewarding experience for a dancer. We get pushed and inspired in new ways while working in the familiarity of our own studio. As with many companies, at Ballet Austin we have the pleasure of working with multiple guest choreographers during the season. This season being no exception, Pam Tanowitz and Pontus Lidberg will be setting work on us for the Director’s Choice performance in February.

There are many different ways that choreographers choose to work with the company. From playing games to get to know us all the way, to just setting already choreographed steps. It’s always interesting to work in new ways. Even if you don’t end up being featured in the piece there are still opportunities to discover something new in the audition.

Working With Pam Tanowitz

Choreographer Pam Tanowitz in the Ballet Austin studios (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Choreographer Pam Tanowitz in the Ballet Austin studios (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

One the most interesting processes came to us this week with Pam Tanowitz and her assistant Melissa Toogood. Based in New York, Pam is quite aesthetically similar to Merce Cunningham. Her almost pedestrian intention and love for chance echoes many of Cunningham’s methods. The piece that Pam set on us, Early that Summer, had already been created, but instead of merely giving us steps Pam wanted to work with us on changing and modifying the piece so it felt natural for our bodies. Both Pam and Melissa spoke to us about adhering to technical purity, while also fulfilling the steps in our own way. Any piece becomes far more interesting for the dancers with that kind of collaboration. Pam also spoke about how much she loves to discover new things in an old concept.

Another distinct aspect of this particular piece is that Pam didn’t choreograph to specific counts. Instead of adhering to a strict musicality, she instead encouraged the dancers to find the natural rhythm of the group, as well as our own individual movements. As a ballet company, this is a very foreign concept for many of us because so much of what we do is very defined with unison and formations. While being scary at points, it is very exciting and liberating to find such freedom, as well as making personal choices.

Limited Studio Time

Pam Tanowitz sets choreography for upcoming debut in Director's Choice. Company Dancers Christopher Swaim and Oliver Greene-Cramer pictured. (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Pam Tanowitz sets choreography for upcoming debut in Director’s Choice. Company Dancers Christopher Swaim and Oliver Greene-Cramer pictured. (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

In the case of Pam we only had one week to put this piece together, and for most guest choreographers we only have a few weeks. Regardless of how brief the process is, it is really wonderful to connect with the new work.

Next up is Pontus Lidberg who we work with for three weeks in October before Ballet Austin travels to Florida to perform Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project and before the fourteen performances of The Nutcracker.

We look forward to sharing all of these with you and hope you enjoy the works from Pam Tanowitz and Pontus Lidberg featured in Director’s Choice as much as we do.

10 Things You Should Know About Hamlet

By Pei-San Brown, Community Education Director

1. William Shakespeare’s The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is over 400 years old, more than 4,000 words long, and takes over 4 hours to deliver.

William Shakespeare’s The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, 1604

William Shakespeare’s The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, 1604

2. The first ballet version of Hamlet was choreographed by Francesco Clerico in Venice in 1788.

2.Francesco Clerico, 1795

Francesco Clerico, 1795

3. The most famous ballet version of the play in the 1900s was choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska, who also danced the title role in her Hamlet in 1934 at the Paris Opera Ballet.

3.Costume designs by Georges A. de Pogedaieff for the queen, Hamlet, and king in Nijinska’s ballet, 1934. From the Harvard Theatre Collection.

Costume designs by Georges A. de Pogedaieff for the queen, Hamlet, and king in Nijinska’s ballet, 1934. From the Harvard Theatre Collection.

4. Stephen Mills was inspired to choreograph a contemporary ballet version of Hamlet by Franco Zeffirelli’s 1990 movie version of the play.

5. In his version of the ballet, Stephen originated the role of the Ghost in 2000, reprised it in 2009, and will once again dance it in 2015.

The Ghost played by Stephen Mills and Hamlet played by Paul Michael Bloodgood (Photo credit Tony Spielberg)

The Ghost played by Stephen Mills and Hamlet played by Paul Michael Bloodgood (Photo credit Tony Spielberg)

6. Company dancer Frank Shott originated the role of Laertes in Mills’ Hamlet, and is responsible for coaching fellow dancers in the fencing sequences each time the ballet is staged.

Fencing rehearsal (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Fencing rehearsal (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

7. After dancing the role of Laertes in Mills’ Hamlet in 2000 and 2004, Frank was cast in the title role of Hamlet in 2009 and will dance that role again in 2015.

Frank Shott as Hamlet and Johnstuart Winchell as Laertes in Ballet Austin’s Hamlet, 2009. (Photo credit Tony Spielberg)

Frank Shott as Hamlet and Johnstuart Winchell as Laertes in Ballet Austin’s Hamlet, 2009. (Photo credit Tony Spielberg)

8. Frank’s wife, company dancer Jaime Lynn Witts, is dancing the role of Ophelia for the first time in 2015; however, her Hamlet will be fellow company member Paul Michael Bloodgood.

8.Ballet Austin Hamlet rehearsal with Paul Michael Bloodgood as Hamlet and Jaime Lynn Witts as Ophelia, 2015.

Ballet Austin Hamlet rehearsal with Paul Michael Bloodgood as Hamlet and Jaime Lynn Witts as Ophelia, 2015. (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

9. The first time Paul was cast as Ballet Austin’s Hamlet in 2009, his onstage love, Ophelia, was danced by his wife, Anne Marie Melendez.

9.Real life husband and wife duo Paul Michael Bloodgood and Anne Marie Melendez as the lovers, Hamlet and Ophelia in Ballet Austin’s Hamlet, 2009. (Photo credit Tony Spielberg)

Real life husband and wife duo Paul Michael Bloodgood and Anne Marie Melendez as the lovers, Hamlet and Ophelia in Ballet Austin’s Hamlet, 2009. (Photo credit Tony Spielberg)

10. Ballet Austin’s Hamlet will feature live musical accompaniment by the Austin Symphony Orchestra for the very first time in 2015.

Join us for Hamlet September 4-6!

Meet the Mad Men and Women of Hamlet

By Molly Morrow, HR & Accounting Associate

Famous for the skull, the bloodshed and those six little words “to be or not to be,” Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been revamped and re-imagined by countless artists over the centuries in a hundred different mediums, including dance.

Ballet Austin’s production is a gorgeous modern interpretation that uses the body to soliloquize and prefers the sound of water to the sound of words. We thought we’d give you a little background on the characters of Hamlet to help you translate Shakespeare into ballet this Labor Day weekend.

The Ghost

The Ghost played by Stephen Mills and Hamlet played by Paul Michael Bloodgood (Photo credit Tony Spielberg)

The Ghost played by Stephen Mills and Hamlet played by Paul Michael Bloodgood (Photo credit Tony Spielberg)

The Ghost sets the story in motion. As soon as the Ghost is alone with Hamlet, he drops a pretty heavy bomb on our leading man: he was murdered by his own brother, Claudius, who is now married to Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. Logically, the Ghost charges Hamlet with avenging his death.

Fun fact: It is frequently written that Shakespeare himself played the Ghost in the Globe’s productions of the play. Stephen Mills carries on that tradition and will play the Ghost in Ballet Austin’s production.

Hamlet

The poster child for Prozac in the Elizabethan age, the Prince is also a comedian: playful, clever and full of wit. In the text, Hamlet’s first line even contains a pun – “A little more than kin, and less than kind.” Less than kind is right: Hamlet proves Claudius’ guilt by reenacting the murder with a troupe of traveling actors, accidentally kills Ophelia’s father (maybe check behind the curtain next time,) eventually returns home to confess his undying love for the now-conveniently-dead Ophelia and murders Claudius.

In Ballet Austin’s production, Hamlet’s conflicting desires and descent into madness are expressed through three alternate Hamlets that appear to him as visions. Hamlet will be played by company dancers Frank Shott and Paul Michael Bloodgood, and Hamlet II-IV will be played by James Fuller, Oliver Greene-Cramer and Orlando Canova.

Both Hamlet and Ophelia casts in rehearsals. (Photo Credit Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Both Hamlet and Ophelia casts in rehearsals. (Photo Credit Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Claudius

Claudius is a man of pure and unspeakable evil. He murders Hamlet’s father, marries Hamlet’s mother, and then, like any good sociopath, convinces everyone that Hamlet himself is to blame for all the dying and suffering. Lucky for us, Shakespeare’s sense of justice and blood-lust is dead on, and Claudius ultimately gets what’s coming to him. Claudius is played by Ballet Austin company dancer Edward Carr.

Gertrude

Gerturde and Hamlet dance by Aara Krumpe and Paul Michael Bloodgood. (Photo credit Tony Spielberg)

Gerturde and Hamlet danced by Aara Krumpe and Paul Michael Bloodgood. (Photo credit Tony Spielberg)

The woman who brought Hamlet into this world is of course complex, heartbreaking and infuriating. Once married to Hamlet’s noble father, she chooses with inexplicable and breathtaking speed to marry her dead husband’s brother, who is also her dead husband’s murderer. Her failed attempt to explain herself and her actions to Hamlet inadvertently leads to Polonius’s murder. Gertrude dies, as does most everyone in this play, from being poisoned. She is played in this production by Aara Krumpe and Rebecca Johnson.

Ophelia

Ophelia is a doomed woman if ever there was one. In love with a man who is existentially preoccupied at best, and suicidal at worst, she is driven mad with grief from the news of her father’s death and drowns herself. Ophelia’s drowning is a scene of surprising beauty in Ballet Austin’s production, as Ophelia dances in a track of real water on stage. This fall she is played by Ashley Lynn Sherman and Jaime Lynn Witts.

Polonius

Brian Heil as Polonius and Frank Shott as Hamlet during rehearsals. (Photo credit Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Brian Heil as Polonius and Frank Shott as Hamlet during Hamlet rehearsals. (Photo credit Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Polonius is the pompous, long-winded armchair poet of this tragedy (there’s at least one in every Shakespeare play). Ironically, for all his advice on being true to one’s self and having a method to one’s madness, Polonius is a coward: he hides behind a curtain when Hamlet confronts his mother Gertrude about her marriage to Claudius, thus sealing his own fate. Polonius is played by Ballet Austin II dancer Brian Heil.

Laertes

Fencing rehearsal (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Fencing rehearsal (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Laertes is vengeance personified. His whole reason for being is to rain on Hamlet’s parade, just because Hamlet may or may not have killed his sister and his dad. Laertes also happens to be quite handy with a sword. Claudius poisons the sword, of course, and then – just for good measure – poisons a goblet of wine as a kind of Shakespearean Plan B, because you can never have enough poison. Ballet Austin brings the magnificent swordfight to life with a fencing match that dances across the stage, an unusual and distinctly inspired element of this ballet. Laertes is played by Christopher Swaim and Jordan Moser.

Purchase tickets today to see Stephen Mills’ modern interpretation of Hamlet, guaranteed to leave you thankful for your seemingly undramatic family drama.

Swan Lake: Then and Now

We’re all familiar with some version of Swan Lake. But there is so much more to this timeless ballet than the inner angst portrayed in the most recent pop-culture rendition, Black Swan. The Swan Lake that we all know and love, choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, initially had a rough start. Let’s take a look at where it began how we arrived to the acclaimed ballet of today.

The World Premiere in 1877

The first premiere of Swan Lake was actually choreographed by Julius Reisinger, ballet master at the Ballet of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatre (now the Bolshoi Ballet.) “When the premiere of Swan Lake took place, it was a disappointment to everybody, especially its composer [Tchaikovsky].” famed choreographer George Balanchine comments. “The choreographer was a hack ballet master who possessed neither the talent nor the taste to choreograph a work to the music of a major composer.”

Anna Sobeshchanskaya

Anna Sobeshchanskaya

The Russian ballerina intended for the role of Odette, Anna Sobeshchanskaya, was replaced by Pauline Karpakova. “Karpakova was a run-of-the-mill dancer past her bloom, who insisted upon interpolating sure-fire ‘numbers’ from other ballets in her repertoire to replace some of Tchaikovsky’s music which she could not appreciate, understand or even count,” Balanchine continues.

It wasn’t until 18 years later when the famed choreography of today was pieced together.

The 1895 World Premiere

In November 1894 Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov agreed to work together to revive Swan Lake. Petipa choreographed the acts that took place in the castle and castle garden, and Ivanov choreographed the lakeside acts, including the corps de ballet of swans.

Ivanov was the first to base his choreography on the structure and emotional content of the music, rather than displaying how technically brilliant his lead dancers were. Ivanov also was one of the first to use the corps de ballet to its fullest potential and to help tell the story of the ballet. He excelled in making patterns and shapes on the stage with the corps as shown in the lakeside acts in Swan Lake, as well as the snowflakes’ dance in The Nutcracker.

The premiere of this new work took place at the Mariinksy Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia on January 17, 1895. Unlike the Moscow premiere in 1877, it was a huge success.

Pierina Legnani

Pierina Legnani

The occasion was also a testimonial gala for Pierina Legnani, who danced the double role of Odette/Odile and could not restrain herself from injecting her 32 fouettes from Cinderella, this time as the coda of her black swan pas de deux in the ballroom scene.

Swan Lake of Today

Since then, over 155 versions of Swan Lake have been performed by at least 115 companies based in 25 countries. Few other ballets from the 19th-century have had such lasting and widespread popularity.

The Petipa-Ivanov production has formed the basis of most subsequent stagings around the world. Most current versions of Swan Lake retain the core of what is considered the original Petipa-Ivanov choreography, though with some new choreography added.

Ballet Austin prepares to perform the famed ballet once again Mother’s Day Weekend, with the Austin Symphony Orchestra with live accompaniment. Join them as they close the 2014/15 season. Now is the time to check off that box on your “ballet bucket-list.”

Reference: Balanchine, George, and Francis Mason. 101 Stories of the Great Ballets. New York, NY: Doubleday, 1989. Print.

 

Ballet Austin Premieres Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project at the Acco Festival in Israel

The Light International Premier filled the auditorium and the energy and excitement were large. Our Austin delegation took up most of the entire 8throw, so we had a great vantage point for the performance. There were welcome addresses by Albert Ben-Shloosh, the Director of the Acco Festival; Raya Strauss, one of the leaders in the region and Steve Adler, a Ballet Austin Board member and a leader in Austin responsible for the arrival of the Light project at Acco.

Steve shared some background information on Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project and the importance of communities engaging in dialogue around hate, prejudice and bigotry. He also described the importance of both what is seen in the ballet, and what is not seen in the ballet. Artistic director Stephen Mills wrote a story based on the experience of Holocaust survivor and Houston, Texas resident Naomi Warren.

Albert presented Steve with the Guest of Honor Acco Festival trophy, given to one act at each Festival that represents a center point of the festival. It was quite an honor for the Light project.  Steve gave the trophy to Cookie Ruiz, and here’s a photo of her with it.

IMG_2511

The lights dimmed and the performance began. Flawlessly done, the dancers danced the 5 acts of the ballet. As expected, it was powerful and moving. Words don’t describe the feeling this ballet gives the audience. The big question prior to the performance was how it would be received by an Israeli audience. The answer:  they loved it. In a country that deals with the issues of the Holocaust regularly, the combination of precisely executed dance elements by accomplished and professional dancers like those in the Austin Ballet and the subject material built into the story of the Light project was extremely well received by the Israeli audience. Even our tour guide, Dani, commented on how wonderful the performance was and how deep and thought provoking it was for him. But the confirming sign of success was the clapping at the end of the show. It started out as any audience, with wild applause, but very quickly the clapping morphed into a rhythmic, synchronized clapping that went on for several minutes. Our Austin delegation was somewhat surprised, not knowing what the synchronized clapping meant, but we were then told that it was a high form of praise and acceptance in Israel, and common after a successful performance.

Light Performance 1

After the show, Stephen Mills came onstage to answer questions from the audience. He was asked about the symbolism of some of the elements in the ballet, and he described what his vision was. He was asked about the story and he shared some of his experience with Naomi Warren. He also was asked about the ending, and he let the audience know that Naomi’s wishes were for a positive, survivor ending, since she was a survivor.

All in all, a fantastic (shabab) evening none of us are likely to forget.

– Keri Pearlson, a member of the Jewish Community Association of Austin (JCAA) Board of Directors.

(View Keri’s other blogs here)

Ballet Austin prepares for Opening Night

We had heard about the wonders of an Israeli breakfast. It comes with the price of the room. We went downstairs as usual to choose from yogurt, eggs, vegetables, hummus,  herring and a stunning assortment of bread looking things – pound cake, pita, rolls, etc.   We learned quickly that the shy go hungry in thionstages “buffet free for all.” As the dancers wandered in – slowly and a bit red eyed – they shared the stories of their evenings out.

It was a slow morning,  so we took a walk through the old city. The signage is in Arabic or Hebrew depending on the part of town. There are booths of everything you can  imagine including some inredibly fresh fish from the Mediterranean a few feet away. Most people know my mind goes blank when I am presented with too many options so I was unable to focus at all of the spices in burlap bags, clothing and toys that light up.

We walked the ancient tiny streets which were like the smallest Venice alleyways except,  there are cars everywhere. Acco has traffic circles instead of stop signs and lights. Pedestrians have the right of way but it takes a while to get comfortable with the near death experiences. Right of way does not mean that they won’t drive an inch away from you.

vip 1:00pm the dancers had their first chance to go inside the theater.  Bill Sheffield, the Ballet Austin crew and the local tech folks were working magic with the small space. I loved watching the spacing rehearsal. Listening to the strategies to make Light work in a new space is fascinating. It included Stephen’s vision with the collaboration of the company.We had coupons to eat dinner in the Acco entertainers garden.  We all walked over to the opening ceremonies where we were greeted by three rows of VIP seats marked with Ballet Austin signs. It is so odd. The only English in Acco are the words Ballet Austin. Albert has thought of every detail to make our stay amazing. We stayed for the concert as long as we could. Then we escaped early to go get some sleep.

 

– Barbara Shack