The Bach Project
Choreography by Stephen Mills
Photo by Tony Spielberg
Here at Ballet Austin, we’d like to extend a warm congratulations to both Elise Pekarek and Michael Burfield, who will both be joining the company for the 2011/12 Season. Both Michael and Elise just finished the 2010/11 Season as members of Ballet Austin II. Scroll down to find out a little bit more about each of them. Congratulations to you both!
Originally from the Chicago area, Elise began her ballet training with Judith Svalander in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Elise attended summer programs at Ballet Austin and Pacific Northwest Ballet, and in 2007 was accepted into Ballet Austin’s Trainee Program. Elise spent two seasons as a Trainee, followed by two seasons as an apprentice in Ballet Austin II. She teaches classes for Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School and Pilates studio.
Michael is originally from Lubbock, Texas where he studied at Ballet Lubbock under the direction of Yvonne Racz-Key. After graduating high school Michael went on to the Pacific Northwest Ballet on full scholarship as a Professional Division Student, and got to perform with the PNB Company in Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Coppelia. Michael was a part of Ballet Austin II for the 2010/11 Season, before being invited to join the Company.
Aara Krumpe, a Ballet Austin company dancer, reflects on the innovative nature of The Magic Flute, as well as her experience in preparing for it. The production premieres this weekend, May 6-8, at The Long Center.
This weekend will be the world premiere of Stephen Mills’ The Magic Flute. I have worked with Mr. Mills for twelve years now and I think this production is his most complex and elaborate full-length ballet. It has been a very unusual process for the dancers because there are so many elements involved: choreography, music, props, costumes, and of course, the shadow puppets.
In this production I will be dancing the role of Queen of the Night, a strong and powerful woman who is also manipulative and evil. Typically to prepare for a role, I study films and books to develop inspiration for my character. Original ballets, however, are a special treat for the dancers. A simple look or a hand gesture can define a role, and everything is magnified in shadow for this piece, so I restrained myself until Mr. Mills choreographed the ballet in its entirety to decide how to augment his steps with my interpretation of the character.
For the past two weeks, the dancers have rehearsed in the morning at the studios then headed over to the warehouse to work with the scenic elements. The shadow puppets are incredible! The simplicity of light creates a magical world of larger-than-life imagery. Our costumes were designed by Susan Branch-Towne to be very elaborate and distinct so the audience can distinguish which character is in shadow. I particularly love my costume! I have an exquisite dress with an amazing cape and a six-inch-high white wig (which I have yet to rehearse in) created by Allison Lowery.
As we head into the theatre this week, we will add a new element of the ballet with each rehearsal, the most challenging of which will be the music. We have been rehearsing with a recording of the opera but we will dance to an instrumental rendition performed by The Austin Symphony. Although I am anxious about the absence of vocals in such a powerful score, I like that Mr. Mills chose to tell the story primarily through dance.
I am very excited to see this ballet come together! I constantly marvel at Stephen Mills’ vision, and this ballet is shaping up to be a masterpiece. I hope you come to see for yourself!
The Magic Flute – World Premiere
8pm | May 6 & 7
3pm | May 8, Mother’s Day
The Long Center
Ballet Austin’s The Magic Flute hits the stage a little over a week from now (Mother’s Day Weekend, May 6-8), and our production and artistic staffs are hard at work producing all of the elements that will come together to create this innovative, world premiere. Today you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the world of The Magic Flute, whose scenic elements were masterfully created by local scenic designer, Michael Raiford.
Ballet Austin is working with the New York-based company RoseBrand to develop and produce several sets of “Portals” and “Legs”, which will form the different layers of the scenery. Portals hang in front of the background, which in our case is created by rear-projection of images, and help frame the scenery. Legs are similar to your standard “wings” on a stage, and in the case of The Magic Flute, form tree patterns. You can see the way all the elements come together in the rendering below!
RoseBrand creates these scenic elements through a system known as “precision cutting.” In other words, they receive electronic images or patterns of what each element should look like, and then they are created and cut out with a laser. You can see a life-size version of Portal #1 below:
After the portals are printed and cut out, they are mounted onto mesh to make them more sturdy and prevent them from tearing during use. Below is part of Portal #2, the grey vines. This portal was actually produced in TWO parts, which will hang side by side, to make future traveling, storage and touring easier.
Separate elements have also been designed and created for different parts of the production. You can see the changing stage scenery in the renderings below. As the creator of The Magic Flute, Ballet Austin owns all of the scenic elements, allowing us to store them for future productions, rent to other ballet companies and possibly tour to other cities!
Note: All image credit, including those of the Rosebrand workshop and the stage drawings / renderings, is given to Michael Raiford. Mr. Raiford, a local scenic designer, created all of the scenic elements for The Magic Flute. You may view a Flickr portfolio of his work here.
Well, ladies and gents, here we are in the final phase of our bird adventure. I have all but one bird to show you as we have not had time to schedule another fitting for her before today, but I’m sure 5 other beautiful birds will be just enough excitement for the day!
I would like to say thank you to designer Susan Branch-Towne for creating such lovely renderings for me to build from and to Class Act Tutu for the fantastic tutu bases they sent us. Thanks to you for taking this journey with me! It has been a pleasure sharing with you.
Please join us at the Long Center on Mother’s Day weekend to see the rest of our stunning costumes (and that elusive sixth bird) be brought to life by our dancers in The Magic Flute!
As Community Education Director at Ballet Austin, enhancing the education and experience involved with our productions is number one on my list. There is so much more to learn about one of our ballets beyond just seeing it on opening night. This is why I love being in the studio when the dancers are rehearsing – it is an awe-inspiring experience! Better yet is when Artistic Director Stephen Mills and Associate Artistic Director Michelle Martin share the history and context of the work, and how it came to be. Not everyone is lucky enough to get the chance to experience this except during Studio Spotlight, a rehearsal that is open to the public the week before we head to the theater to open the show.
During Studio Spotlight for The Magic Flute, you’ll not only see the dancers up-close and personal, you’ll also get a behind-the-scenes look at the costumes, which are really intricate and fantastic, and the shadow work, which lends a mystical air to the entire production.
Stephen and Michelle will be on-hand to answer questions and to tell a bit about the process of creating the ballet, and they’ll also be happy to answer your questions about the work and about ballet in general.
Sign up now if you haven’t already! You’ll be completely amazed!
Wednesday April 27
11:45am – 12:45pm | 5:45pm – 6:45pm
More information on The Magic Flute, including tickets, here.
Here we are, close to the finish line with our birds! When last we left off, I was patterning out the tail piece. Now, we build!
I stitch the pieces cut from the tail pattern together.
Before I add any feathers or embellishment, I pin it to the dress form to make sure it doesn’t need any adjustments.
It is important for me to ensure that the center back seam falls on the center back line all the way down the tail.
Now that I know everything lines up as it should, I decorate the tail piece with the same technique I used on the front.
Then, I connect the backs to the front….
…and add a zipper to the back seam!
The dancers will come in for fittings at the end of this week in order for me to make sure everything fits just right. After all, no body is exactly the same shape as a dress form and a few things may need to be tweaked for a perfect fit. We will then make the final adjustments and send our ladies on their way to the stage.
Join me next week when I unveil the birds of The Magic Flute!
As Ballet Austin’s 2010/11 season draws closer to an end, we dancers are actually busier than ever before. Not only are we rehearsing for The Magic Flute, set to premiere May 6th during Mother’s Day Weekend, but Ballet Austin II is also excitedly preparing to once again perform Thang Dao’s Quiet Imprint at the Hobby Center in Houston, Texas this weekend.
Quiet Imprint, set to live music performed by Khanh Ly, tells the story of the many Vietnamese that were displaced during the Vietnam War. Dao created the piece on Ballet Austin II last season. After a great response from not only Ballet Austin patrons but also the Vietnamese community, we were fortunate enough to perform it again last October.
I had the honor of being part of the original cast of Quiet Imprint and saw it evolve from an idea into the inspirational and moving piece that it has become. When Thang Dao first created this work, we spent eight weeks of intensive work-shopping trying tons of different choreographic material – most of which did not even make the final cut – and becoming comfortable with Dao’s movement quality. Conversely, when the ballet was reset on the new members of Ballet Austin II this season, we only spent about a month preparing. Our focus shifted to joining dancers from the original cast with those who were completely new to the choreography and, from there, learning how to make the movement flow as if it had been created specifically for this new cast.
This time, we’ve only had roughly two weeks to rehearse for our performance in Houston. Originally, we were all a little nervous about taking such a long break from this material and then performing it for a whole new audience in such a short amount of time. However, rehearsals have been going much smoother than I could have ever anticipated. In fact, it is almost as if we never stopped rehearsing the piece. The choreography has become ingrained in our bodies, and there is even a new life being brought to steps I though I had already mastered. For example, while working with one of my close friends, Kody Jauron, we danced a partnering section almost effortlessly, despite the same material being challenging to coordinate back in October.
Even with a short amount of time to prepare, Ballet Austin II is eagerly looking forward to this weekend’s performances. It is so exciting to not only tour and bring this piece to a new audience, but to also return to a work that helped to bond our group early in the season.
To read more on Ballet Austin’s previous performance of Quiet Imprint, please click here.
For more information on the work, click here.
To buy tickets, go to The Hobby Center’s website.
So far in this bird series, I have shown you how the tutu base is finished for wear and how the bodice fronts are patterned and feathered. Today we will be looking at patterning the tail piece with the tutu that will be worn by Emily Cloyd as our example.
I first assembled the tutu onto the dress form according to the dancer’s measurements and attach the feathered front.
For patterning, we like to use this plastic sheeting that is similar to a plastic party tablecloth. It is durable, flexible, see-through and easier to work with than other patterning mediums.
This is a basic pattern for the bird tail that was created earlier. You can clearly see all the notes I have taken on it through the different drafts I made. I will lay a clean sheet of pattern plastic on top to trace and create a rough draft for Emily’s tutu based on this.
After I have cut the pattern draft, I will apply it to the tutu to see where I need to make changes that are specific to this dancer and the shape of her costume.
Now that I have checked this draft and made the appropriate notes, I will make a final draft of the pattern and then cut the fabric.
Please check in next week for the assemblage of the tail and not long after that I will share with you the big reveal of all our lovely birds!