Tag Archives: Nelly van Bommel

Hansel and Gretel – Dancer Preview #2

Ballet Austin II dancer Sarah Hicks lets us into the world of  creative “workshopping”.

As a young dancer, you don’t often have the privilege to be choreographed. The opportunity to have a completely new work of art created for you is perhaps one of the most exciting parts of being a dancer. The fact that I have experienced this with Nelly van Bommel’s Hansel and Gretel is absolutely thrilling, to say the least.

Every choreographer works and creates movement differently. In Nelly’s case, we went through an exhilarating, entertaining and, at times, completely hysterical process we called “workshopping.” In these creative brainstorm sessions Nelly would give us a simple idea, such as pretending to run through a room full of shattered glass, and have us show her our physical interpretation. From there, she would take the movement we gave her and morph it into something quintessentially “Nelly.”

After much manipulation and innovation on Nelly’s part, we ended up with movement that could easily be described as playful, energetic and even mischievous. Her choreography is largely based on a tribal-like community feeling in which moving as a group and being comfortable with your fellow dancers is crucial. She challenged us to create games, to be shamelessly verbal while dancing, and to spend a lot of time rolling, stomping, scooting and crawling on the floor (activities we “bun-heads” generally find mortifying!).  Despite all this, the challenges paid off and we ended up with a piece that is funny, charming and truly unique.

Another notable quality of Nelly’s work is her use of props. As an audience member, you will quickly find yourself thrust into a world of spinning tables, four wheel drive shopping carts, and velcro cupcakes.  Nelly created a full sensory experience in her fabulously comical interpretation of a fairy tale classic.

Hansel and Gretel is entertainment for the whole family, sure to please audience members of all ages. Don’t miss it!

Hansel and Gretel opens Feb 25. Tickets available here.

Hansel and Gretel – Artistic Preview

Associate Artistic Director, Michelle Martin, discusses how one choreographer’s personality, background and constant curiosity combine to make Hansel and Gretel a ballet you won’t forget.

Nelly van Bommel’s Hansel and Gretel, is one of those rare examples of a work that appeals across generations, and its success is as much a reflection of her energy and sense of humor as it is of her choreographic talent. Nelly’s curiosity provides her with a limitless pool of inspiration, and she draws on her background in street theater, and modern dance technique to express her discoveries.

I came to know Nelly through Ballet Austin’s biennial choreographic competition, New American Talent/Dance. She was one of the three finalists in 2010 and I spent two weeks in the studio with her as she created a new work, Fanfarneta, for our main company.  As she worked, I was fascinated by her interest in human interaction and her eye for nuance, particularly within interpersonal  encounters. I thought her highly theatrical aesthetic would be a wonderful match for a narrative work, and her collaborative approach would provide a rich experience for the dancers in Ballet Austin II. I was thrilled when she accepted our invitation to create Hansel and Gretel.

Nelly’s work on Hansel and Gretel began with a series of facilitated games for the dancers. Some were based on movement and others involved vocalization. Through this process she began to know the dancers as individuals, in terms of both physicality and personality; and from this foundation, she matched each dancer with her ideas of the characters from Hansel and Gretel.  Using the movement from her games, she crafted the dance portions of the piece first. Set to a series of traditional German folk songs, they’re high energy and playful, establishing her whimsical perspective on the story and its characters. The narrative scenes, particularly with the Witch, Hansel and Gretel, and their parents, were made in a very collaborative way – the dancers contributed to the development of the characters and the progression of the story. Nelly’s unique perspective is interspersed throughout the ballet with quirky interjections of props that are brilliantly out of context and absolutely hilarious – a wildly retro vacuum cleaner, baskets of apples and mountains of marshmallows .

New American Talent/Dance Recap

Nelly van Bommel’s Fanfarnèta. Photo by Tony Spielberg.

Thanks to everyone who joined us for New American Talent/Dance, our biennial choreographic competition, over its two week run. It was an incredible experience showing three world premiere works from three immensely talented choreographers (KT Nelson, Nelly van Bommel, and Dominic Walsh). I was behind the scenes counting the audience votes and it was riveting every time—hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! And if you weren’t able to join us, check out more pictures below.

This year’s judges (Alicia Adams—Vice President of International Touring, Kennedy Center, Julie Nakagawa—Artistic Director/Co-founder, DanceWorks Chicago, and Paul Vasterling—Artistic Director, Nashville Ballet) joined us Saturday, March 27 to cast their votes, divvying up the $15,000 purse with equal $6,000 prizes going to Nelly van Bommel for her piece Fanfarnèta and to Dominic Walsh for his The Whistling. KT Nelson rounded out the winnings, receiving $3,000 for her work When Love is Hard.

But the audience had the final say each night, texting votes to decide the winner of a nightly $500 audience prize. For the first time in New American Talent/Dance history, all three choreographers won at least once. Here are the winners of the audience vote from each night:

Thursday, March 25, 7pm Dominic Walsh
Friday, March 26, 8pm Dominic Walsh
Saturday, March 27, 8pm Nelly van Bommel
Sunday, March 28, 3pm Dominic Walsh
Thursday, April 1, 7pm KT Nelson
Friday, April 2, 8pm Dominic Walsh
Saturday, April 3, 3pm Dominic Walsh
Saturday, April 3, 8pm Dominic Walsh
Sunday, April 4, 3pm Nelly van Bommel

KT Nelson’s When Love is Hard. Photo by Tony Spielberg.

Dominic Walsh’s The Whistling. Photo by Tony Spielberg.

Dominic Walsh’s The Whistling. Photo by Tony Spielberg.

Nelly van Bommel’s Fanfarnèta. Photo by Tony Spielberg.