Summer Soiree

After returning from Italy, Ballet Fantastique quickly prepared for its annual Summer Soiree this past Thursday at the beautiful Domaine Meriwether!

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(PHOTO CRED: Jared Mills)

With live music from Gerry Rempel Jazz Syndicate, and special performances by company dancers Hannah, Krislyn, and Alanna (“Illumination”) and Justin and Leanne (“My Ghost”), it was lovely evening for BFan’s supporters to get together and celebrate its fabulous Italy tour— and the upcoming NEW LEGENDS Hult Center season!

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(PHOTO CRED: Jared Mills)

Every one enjoyed complimentary wine tasting; yummy hors d’oeuvres, and no one could stop talking about the dessert! Larry’s Cupcake Café blew us away.

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We also took this evening as a chance to say farewell to one of our beloved company dancers, Alanna Fisher, whom we wish the best of luck to all of her future endeavors as she moves back to California to be closer to family. We will miss her so much.

Also happening this week, our trusty interns have been working hard at preparing BFan’s season brochures! Keep an eye out for one in your mailbox, or double-check to make sure you’re on our mailing list– subscribe here!

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See more photos from the Soiree on our Facebook page!

Thanks from all of us at BFan and happy end of summer!

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Italy Tour Travel Journal Days 5-6 (Thursday/Friday)

We’re so sorry that this took us so long to post–Thursday and Friday of show week were absolutely FULL with final show preparations, and after leaving San Benedetto first thing Saturday morning, we had very little internet. What an incredible, formative experience this was!

Here’s how Thursday and Friday shook out:

THURSDAY

We start the day with our new favorite: cappuccino makes my job of re-editing the soundtrack, typing up cues, and burning new CDs MUCH more enjoyable. Antoinella and the amazing hotel staff at Hotel Paneta spoil us rotten, as has become their norm. Alberto’s brother, Antonio, is a total sweetheart and drives to the hotel just to help Donna and me load up our suitcases of sets and backdrops (brought all the way from the US, of course). The car is too small to hold both the suitcases AND us, so we we walk the sunny sidewalks to the Palariviera, a walk to which we’re becoming well-accustomed. Leanne comes along so that we can space the wedding scene from Act II with the students from the Prima Musa Scuola Professionale di Danza. The students, six girls age 9-12, are beautiful and wide-eyed. We do our best to set them at ease as we coordinate the scene we’ve each been working on for the past few weeks, albeit an ocean apart. Meanwhile, the other BFan dancers explore the city a bit and Adam enchants the little Italian kids at the hotel with his cat marionette on the patio (we’ll try to get our hands on his video to share–it’s absolutely adorable and a testament to the fact that art transcends spoken language).

After the wedding spacing rehearsal, Donna and Hannah set to work programming the lights. The LED system is very different from working with gels, which is what we typically use at most theaters in the States. On one hand, they’re faster, because everything is programmable digitally and requires very little manual maneuvering. BUT the colors are all super-saturated and “hard,” either RED-red, YELLOW-yellow, BLUE-blue (Smurf Blue, as Justin says), or GREEN-green…and of course we are doing a classical ballet, not a rock concert. Again, we’ve got the language barrier to deal with as well–so we do our best to set looks that will set the show off. We don’t want the dancers to have to stand around while we program looks, so my job is to keep jumping on stage to show what the lights look like on skin, then down to discuss. (At least I’m burning off the delicious pasta that keeps appearing at every meal–happy sigh…)

The rest of the BFan dancers arrive to take photos with the Academy students and then start to warm  up. We proceed with what was intended to be a cue-by-cue. But as is always the case in the performing arts world, things never go as planned. Chiefly: 1) The lights we had hoped we’d designed to look gorgeous on the dancers don’t look so hot. 2) The tech crew doesn’t know the show and they don’t speak our language, so cues are tricky. 3) We have dancers, but no stage manager, so no one can call the cues to help the tech guys know what’s supposed to happen when.

Solution time. Alberto is a gem and translates like crazy. Justin, who has a degree in theater production, steps in and helps to re-program lights to Donna’s satisfaction. And BFan’s dancers step up to the plate as we divvy up the show: Justin will call cues 1-3, Hannah 2-4, Alberto 5-8, Caitlin 12, Hannah again on 13-14, Krislyn on 15, Hannah on 16-17, Caitlin on 18, and so on. We can do this! We proceed to dress rehearsal like the honorary Italians we’re becoming–about 3 hours behind schedule. Act I runs pretty darn smoothly with our new game plan, but it’s all we can do to make it through this much of the show before we’re to be at the official sponsored dinner at the Excelsior. And we’re sweaty as all get-out. We run the six blocks back to the hotel, take the fastest showers possible, and try to look presentable. The dinner is delicious (of course) and we try to stay awake for all five courses…it’s going to be a long day tomorrow.

FRIDAY

There’s stress in the air—we really, really want to do our best and we’ve not yet had a chance to run the whole show. We head to the theater, warm up (it doesn’t take long in this heat), and leap into our dress rehearsal. The show runs quite well, but again takes longer than planned. Two hours til showtime! And it’s a 4-5 shower day. We race back to the hotel—getting good at this trek—to shower again, refresh hair and makeup, and put on our eyelashes. Then back to the theater. We discover that it’s getting dark and that the lights don’t work in one of the dressing rooms, so we all gather in one at the end of the hallway. The students who will open the show with their “Welcome, America!” suite are already there, in costume and ADORABLE. We’re floored that they’ve visited the Ballet Fantastique website, printed our photos and bios, and are begging for autographs and photos with us. I give the pep talk to the dancers that I’ve been prepping, and we’re ready and excited.

But we have to wait–Alberto explains that in Italy, shows say that they start at 8:30, but that really means 9:00.

The gorgeous red curtains finally open at 9:15 to thunderous applause as the students begin their opening pieces. Backstage, things are a little crazy because there’s a connection problem with the projector, which makes us nervous about our silent film presentation (which opens the show and features Italian subtitles to help our audience understand Shakespeare’s twisty plot). Frederico is dictating button-pressing like mad while he holds the cords together manually and we all cross our fingers and toes. Relief: the film miraculously plays without a hitch. Scene 1 begins with already shouts of “bravo” from our warm audience (what else could we expect from this breathtakingly hospitable city?), and before we know it, Act I is already over. We’re pouring sweat and dash up the flights of stairs to change for Act II. Preston finds me a bazillion ibuprofen (you should see the silly pantomime he does to help the Italian student understand what he’s asking to borrow) because the raked stage sure hurts your joints every time the adrenaline wears off. And…Act II is suddenly here and gone, too. We’re so sticky that the rose petals that conclude the show are plastered to everyone! We take our curtain calls and sign more autographs, then get to the work of packing up our myriad set and backdrop pieces. Justin watches over the folding of the backdrops with our Italian volunteers and I traverse the theater for left-behind programs so that I can bring them home for our wonderful donors and sponsors (these programs are GORGEOUS–Alberto and Adrianna have done an incredible job). It’s 11 pm by the time we limp back to the hotel, exhausted and SO happy.

And the hotel has a midnight “snack” (read: feast) for us.

We love Italy.

We’re on a Billboard!

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It’s happening! Kicking off the ’13-’14 Season: NEW LEGENDS is BFan’s premiere of As You Like It: A Wild West Ballet in San Benedetto, Italy!

“It’s a little bit terrifying!” says Hannah Bontrager, but the company is excited and running around like crazy, preparing to leave this Sunday bright and early at 5 a.m.!

Keep checking back for day-to-day updates as the company embarks on their first international tour this next week!

Backstage with Hannah: Casanova is coming…

Well, we’re in the throes of Casanova (T minus 8 days to opening night).  And ohmygoodness, this is FUN.

As a dancer and co-choreographer/producer, I’m feeling beautifully steeped in this decadent era (18th-century Venice).  It’s just so full.  

Casanova

The words: In the process of creating this new ballet, Donna and I have been reading biographies of Giacomo Casanova—as well as his own writings, of course.  (Aside: Cad, yes—as mum says, “sometimes I feel like I need to take a shower after I read this stuff!”—but the man was a charming and intelligent writer.  In fact, some of his lines were just so good that they inspired us to add a bit of narration in the “voice of Casanova” to the ballet, threading through his misadventures.)  We’ve been reading about Venetian customs and Carnival, and dear friend and history buff Genna Speer also insisted that I read a slim little novel by Georgette Heyer, Powder and Patchto pick up on some playful period details (highly recommended to our more serious audience members).

The music: We’ve been listening to endless concerti, both from composers we already knew and loved (e.g., the prolific Venetian Vivaldi is of course key to our ballet), and from those we were less familiar with, like Jean-Philippe Rameau.  Underpinning every decision was to choose music that would sound familiar, that would resonate, but that wouldn’t sound too familiar.  THERE IS NO RITZ CARLTON ELEVATOR MUSIC IN THIS BALLET.  A bit of my favorite discoveries: We stumbled in a You Tube search across this AWESOME version of his “Rondeau des Indes Galantes” by the Louvre Symphony Orchestra with authentic period instruments (WATCH—it rocks).  And some darn beautiful stuff that won’t make it into this ballet (e.g., the piano duo Anderson and Roe’s haunting arrangement of Vivaldi’s “Sento in seno ch’in pioggia di lagrime”/”A rain of tears“—if you haven’t listened to it yet, do), but that we’re filing away for a later project.  Even now, with our ballet score long-chosen, I’m listening to baroque music incessantly (e.g., literally right now), since I’m a snob about having perfect intermission music.  In short, the music from this era and from our Casanova score alike are so gorgeous that I can’t stop listening.  You just can’t get sick of it.  The downside is that this is our one ballet this season without live music, but the upside is that it would be a little hard to get the Louvre Orchestra or four harpsichords on stage at the Soreng; the experience we’re building is a total immersion in how stunningly lovely—and genius—music was during this time.

See the rounded shape of Alanna's arm in this shot from Giovanni Bruni's pas de deux with Paulina (Casanova has just swooped in and is plotting his next move.)

See the rounded shape of Alanna’s arm in this shot from Giovanni Bruni’s pas de deux with Paulina (Casanova has just swooped in and is plotting his next move.)  Photo: Steph Urso Photography

The movement: We’ve been studying baroque dance steps and watching authentic re-stagings of early ballet movement (recommended: Le Roi Danse).  We’ve enlisted the help of a number of experienced fencers for our dance-duel scenes with single rapier.  (Yes, I have BRUISES—this stuff is hard.)  Donna and I are fiercely committed to challenging the company to have exquisitely nuanced musicality and especially arms and hands, and she’s making explicit decisions about some of the aesthetics, for example, there is very little traditional elongee in Casanova (where the dancer extends his/her arm, palm down); instead, she’s having us invert all of these shapes with palms up in a more traditional baroque style.  There are cabrioles up the wazoo (this step was a big deal back then), and we don’t use as much epaulement with our feet, though there’s lots with our upper body.  The movement has twist and is all about arms, so as a dancer, my body is LOVING it.

Ok, so we probably can't get this kind of height, bu the idea is what we're going for...

Ok, so we probably can’t get this kind of height, bu the idea is what we’re going for…

The costumes/set: Then, there’s the costumes…we’ve been studying fashion of the time (see our Casanova Pinterest page to peruse the designers’ inspiration board).  The costumes are maybe the most gorgeous we’ve ever created (see a sneak peek on our Facebook page)—they are  a contemporary spin on “baroque.”  So, for example, we have these drop-dead cascading lace sleeves that fall from the elbow, but instead of connecting at the shoulder, they’re independent pieces that start at the women’s biceps so that we have more free movement.  Then the skirts are built on a basic tutu from our professional costumer in LA, Primadonna, which we decided to do in ivory as if it’s a petticoat.  Onto these tutu bases, demi-“bustles” are being overlaid, each woman’s slightly different, to get the dramatic curve out at the waist but without a floor-length skirt to get in the way of our dancing.  We’ve been on the hunt in Springfield antique stores for the perfect jewels for Casanova’s women, making our Casanova (Elijah Labay) practice in his wig to make sure that his new ponytail doesn’t get taken off in any of our lifts, and using our hair extensions that were the beehives for Cinderella to build the ladies’ hair higher in a style evocative of baroque, but again, still danceable.  All I can say is bless Allison Ditson, Rita Perini Vance, Katie Liane, and Beth Scott for their incredible, incredible artistry.

In sum, we’ve got gold paint on our hands (furniture that had to get taken up a notch), baroque music in our ears, and Casanova on our mind…

See you next weekend!

CASANOVA TICKETS/INFO

Our Holiday Gift Guide

Harvest Moon Photography Caitlin

Photo: BFan dancer Caitlin Christopher and Troupe Carnivale in “Seller of Dreams.” (Harvest Moon Photography; see more here)

It’s BFan Events Coordinator intern Kristen here.  Not sure what to get your loved one for the holidays this season? Look no further than your local contemporary ballet company, Ballet Fantastique for a gift that’s unique, fun, local, and a double-whammy…you get to give it now, and enjoy it later.  🙂

Here are my top five gift ideas to put a smile on pretty much anyone’s face:

  1. Tickets to The Misadventures of Casanova! Come see this new contemporary ballet premiere with lush costumes, decadent music, romance and intrigue making the way to the stage at the Hult center this coming February 2 and 3, 2013!  It’s two-in-one: holiday gift and Valentine’s event wrapped up in one.
  2. While you’re at it, you might want to consider making a bigger bang for your buck with a Ballet Fantastique Season Subscription for the rest of our 2012-2013: VENTURE lineup (The Misadventures of Casanova and Pride & Prejudice: A Parisian Jazz Ballet with live jazz!). Your pro-rated (read: discounted) season subscription will include tickets to the remaining two contemporary ballet premieres at the Hult Center, free Open Barre pass (for preview rehearsal/wine tasting reception at the City Center for Dance), additional savings from the community, and more VIP treatment!  BFan’s last three productions sold out, so a season subscription also guarantees that you’ll get seats.  These start at just $50 each, for all these goodies (and $24 for kids).  Read more about the perks and get ’em now here.
  3. Know someone who has always wanted to try something new—or who loved ballet and been wanting to get back into it?  Or been talking about whipping into shape as a new year’s resolution?  How about a Class Card for Ballet Fantastique’s hoppin’ Adult Drop-In Program?  Class times are convenient, class cards don’t expire for a whole year, and teacher Leanne Mizzoni from Washington, DC is rumored to be absolutely incredible.  Get a class card online for one, 10, or 20 classes and get the dance party started.
  4. Do you have a little one pulling on your heart strings? A daughter/son or niece/nephew? Try a gift certificate to our Young Dancer Program (ages 4+) or our Training Division (ages 7-preprofessional) as a gift.  Fill out this little form and Hannah or Emily will get back to you right away to get you outfitted with a pretty gift certificate to wrap up.
  5. Adopt a Dancer—give the gift of a scholarship to a young dancer giving him or her the opportunity to study professional dance right alongside his or her more privileged peers.  A certificate for your lucky recipient will outline the difference being made in the life of a youngster, thanks to you!

But above all, remember to enjoy this holiday season with the ones you love!  Happy holidays from our BFan family to yours.

—Kristen

The more the merrier, right?

This past weekend, I attended Ballet Fantastique’s second performance of Incendio. Instead of just going with one or two friends, I thought it would be fun to get a group together. We ended up going with six girls and had a great time.

It was such a fun experience, and we took up almost an entire side row at the Hult Center‘s Soreng theater. We had a group of past dancers, non-dancers and even someone who had never been to a ballet before. Maddie (pictured below with executive director and company dancer, Hannah) said she had an amazing time and was so pleased that this was the first ballet she saw. “I also loved that the band played on stage with the dancers — they were awesome.”

“Incendio was the perfect mix of passionate music and exquisite dance; I was entranced by a show that was truly fantastique!” -Amanda Knutsen, Freshman at the UO

Ballet Fantastique has a great group ticket ticket discount, which was perfect for us since the college budget tends to get a little tight. We are already planning on getting a group together to go see Arabian Nights in January, especially since there will be a $6 “Mango Magic Carpet” cocktail special in the lobby during intermission!

–Maggie, BFan Intern

Incendio frenzy!

The weather may be cold outside, but inside the City Center for Dance things couldn’t be hotter! As Incendio draws closer, the BFan ballerinas commit to practically living at the studio, spending long hours perfecting timing and choreography.

(There are also, of course, discussions over the benefits of white over black gloves, and talk of beautiful bejeweled corsets to come 🙂 )

So, in the spirit of Incendio… here’s a tapas recipe!!

PATATAS BRAVAS:
Roasted potatoes complemented by a spicy red sauce
( Serves 8 )

From Martha Stewart's "Whole Living"

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • One 14-ounce can low-sodium chicken stock, or homemade, skimmed of fat
  • One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with flour, and stir to coat. Add chicken stock, tomato sauce, vinegar, paprika, and red-pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Let cook until slightly thickened and aromatic, about 30 minutes. Set aside, and keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Toss in a bowl with remaining teaspoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  3. Place the coated potatoes cut side down in a single layer on a large cookie sheet, and bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven, and serve with reserved warm tomato sauce, garnished with chopped oregano.
  4. Enjoy!

And don’t forget: Purchase your Incendio tickets early and receive a free tapas plate! Advance buyers receive a coupon for a free tapas plate at Red Agave.

To receive the coupon, you must purchase tickets before 10/20 in person at the Hult Center Box Office (you can also receive the coupon if you have your tickets mailed to you, e.g., as a season subscriber).