Cinderella Through the Years

Ballet Fantastique is doing it again… For the first time, we’re bringing back our inimitable, all-original rock opera ballet Cinderella, where the year is 1964, the ball is prom, and the dance moves are the Twist and the Mashed Potato…on pointe.  Straight from the imaginations of Ballet Fantastique mother-daughter producer-choreographers Donna and Hannah Bontrager (premiere 2012), BFan’s Cinderella is back at the Hult for its homecoming run!

For centuries this enchanting tale of a young peasant girl getting her dream come true of becoming a princess has inspired numerous adaptations. As we get ready to perform our own adaptation of the beloved classic we have looked back at some of the past takes on Cinderella. From the more widely known Walt Disney screen variation to one of the early French theatre adaptations, this story continues to capture the attention of audiences young and old for years to come.
For more information regarding the performance and to purchase tickets visit us at http://www.balletfantastique.org/company/event-cinderella.php

1810

One of the early adaptations of Cinderella was a French opera titled Cendrillon (Cinderella in French) by composer Nicolas Isouard. It was performed as an opera with spoken dialogue between numbers. It was first performed by the Opéra-Comique at the Salle Feydeau in Paris on February 22,1810 and was a success throughout Europe at the time.

1899

One of the early film adaptations is the 1899 film by Georges Melies, Cendrillon, which was based on the fairy tale by Charles Perrault. This version by Perrault is one of the more popular interpretations as it introduced the additions of the pumpkin, fairy-godmother, and the glass slipper into the story.

1950

This animated feature length musical by Walt Disney is one of the more iconic movie adaptations. Produced by Walt Disney in 1950, it is also based on the fairy-tale by Perrault. Some hit songs from the movie include “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”.

1956

In 1956 Rogers and Hammerstein introduced a musical written for television version of the classic fairy-tale. It was originally broadcast live on CBS on March 31, 1957 and starred Julie Andrews as Cinderella. The broadcast was viewed by more than 100 million people.

1976

The Slipper and the Rose is a 1976 musical film of the Cinderella story by the Sherman Brothers. They were nominated for several awards following the musicals success.

1987

This Russian ballet was composed by Sergei Prokofiev and is considered one of his most popular and melodious compositions. It was composed between 1940 and 1944 and has been adapted by many ballets such as with this 1987 Russian ballet.

1998

In 1988 the classic inspired an American romantic comedy-drama titled Ever After directed by Andy Tennant and starring Drew Barrymore. It is adapted as a historical fiction story, set in early Renaissance era France and is often seen as a post modern feminism interpretation.

2008

The Paris Opera Ballet performed the 1987 version of Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet in 2008. It was adapted by choreographer Rudolf Nureyev to reflect the art deco style and temperament of the 1930s.

2013

The San Francisco Ballet performed an adaptation of Cinderella for their 2013/2014 season. Choreographed by the sought after Christopher Wheeldon it was hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “utterly alluring” and “ravishing.”

2015

The newest film adaptation of the classic fairy-tale comes again from Disney. Although not a direct remake, the film borrows many elements from Walt Disney’s 1950 animated musical film. It was released on March 13, 2015 and stars Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, among others.

http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?orgid=39749&schedule=list&group_id=483440

The Odyssey: Meet the characters + costume inspiration!

MEET THE CHARACTERS OF THE ODYSSEY

ACCOMPANIED BY COSTUME INSPIRATION PHOTOS FROM OUR BFAN PINTEREST PAGE!

Odysseus Costume

ODYSSEUS (Danced by Fabio Simoes): Strong, courageous, noble, and thirsty for glory, Odysseus must fight a slew of angry Gods on his return trip from the years-long attack of Troy. King of Ithaca, Odysseus misses his Queen, Penelope, back home. Odysseus’s long journey back teaches him the value of patience and the dangers of pride.

 

 

Penelope CostumePENELOPE (Danced by Krislyn Willes): Odysseus’s wife and the Queen of Ithaca, Penelope is the ideal depiction of a perfect mother, wife, and Greek woman. She’s also the perfect match for Odysseus because she’s smart and witty. Penelope is faithful to her husband during his time away. Even though everyone is convinced Odysseus is dead and Penelope should remarry, she tries her best to keep the suitors at bay while she awaits her husband’s return. She uses the excuse of finishing Laertes’ funeral shroud and unraveling it every night to make them wait, because she knows that her husband will eventually return and her destiny will be fulfilled.

 

Athena CostumeATHENA (Danced by Jocelyn Wright): As goddess of wisdom and battle, Athena is confident, practical, clever, a master of disguises, and a great warrior. Athena naturally has a soft spot for the brave and wily Odysseus. She helps him out of many tough situations–including his shipwreck–and guides him back home. Athena is a guiding light for Odysseus and impacts the safety of his travel and takes an interest in Odysseus for the talents he already has and actively demonstrates. Although she reassures Odysseus during the battle with the suitors, she does not become fully involved, preferring instead to watch Odysseus fight and prevail on his own.

Hermes costume

 

Hermes (MERCURY in BFan’s telling; danced by Leanne Mizzoni): Messenger-god. Saves Odysseus from Calypso and is Zeus’s right hand.

 

 

 

Kalypso Costume

KALYPSO (Danced by Hannah Bontrager): The nymph and purveyor of Ogygia, the island where Odysseus is stranded at the start of the epic. Kalypso is an egocentric, dominating goddess who holds Odysseus captive for seven years in hopes of marrying him. When he resists and is liberated under orders from Zeus, Kalypso offers him immortality if he will stay. When he declines even that offer, Kalypso leads Odysseus to believe that letting him go is her idea, while it is not. While we may admire Kalypso’s spunk and wit, her possessive obsessions make her more trouble.

naussicacostume

NAUSICAA (Danced by: Ashley Bontrager): As the Princess of the Phaeacians, Nausicaa is the one who finds Odysseus when he shipwrecks on Scherias. She ensures that he is welcomed by her parents and helped after he gives his story. Also, Nausicca develops a huge crush on Odysseus and wants to marry him, which is unfortunate because Odysseus is already married. Oh well, better luck next time.

 

 

Cyclops Costume

 

Polyphemus (aka the CYCLOPS; danced by Justin Feimster/Lydia Rakov): Shortly after leaving Troy, Odysseus arrives on the island of Polyphemus, is a Cyclops and son of Poseidon. After he tries to capture Odysseus and his crew and eat them, Odysseus is able to trick and blind the Cyclops, enraging Poseidon and causing the explanation for Poseidon’s outrage and need for revenge toward Odysseus.

 

 

zeus costume

 

ZEUS (Danced by Justin Feimster): As the King of the Gods, Zeus is the mediated voice of Olympus and must ultimately decide whether Odysseus shall be permitted to return. He occasionally allows such help by Athena, for Odysseus’s {semi-}safe travel back home.

 

sirencostume

 

SIREN (Danced by Lydia Rakov): The Siren is a dangerous woman who lures men to their death with her voice. Odysseus becomes the first mortal who was lured by the Siren to live to tell the tale, because he has his men tie him to the mast as they sail by while he plugs his ears to drown out the luring voice.

 

circecostume

 

CIRCE (Danced by Hannah Bontrager): The witch of the sea, Circe is fierce. She transforms Odysseus’ men into swine. In the end Odysseus gets friendly with Circe (like really friendly), and the sea witch transforms his men back, gives them directions to the Underworld, and sends them on their way.

suitor costume

 

ANTINUOUS (Danced by Justin Feimster, with suitors Jim Ballard + Adam Haaga): The figurative leader and most obnoxious of Penelope’s suitors, ultimately plotting to have Telemachus killed. He is the first and most angrily killed when Odysseus takes his revenge.

 

 

 

The Odyssey: The Ballet premieres Feb. 27 – Mar. 1 at the Hult Center! Make sure to get your tickets before they’re all gone by clicking on the button below!

Odyssey Ticket Button

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.

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

Male Dancer Auditions

ballet fantastique male dancer audition flyer

Photo: Mikael Krummel and Greg Burns

Job opening: Male contemporary ballet dancer for Ballet Fantastique

Ballet Fantastique Contemporary Chamber Company is hiring a male soloist dancer beginning as early as January 2013 and as late as July 2013 (start date negotiable) for a full contract of 30 weeks of paid work including three new contemporary ballet premieres plus national/international touring as scheduled, with competitive pay by the week and benefits, including shoe allowance, physical therapy and massage assistance.  Contract also includes additional opportunities for paid outreach and teaching work.

We seek a new company member with talent, strength, artistic voice, a great work ethic and sense of humor, personality, and an insatiable appetite for what’s next.  Competitive applicants will have strong classical and contemporary vocabularies, and confidence with pas de deux work.  Applicants must be a US citizen (or hold a green card or work permit), and are preferably 5’9” and up.

Additional skills of interest (desired but not requisite): Choreography, arts education, arts administration, dance instruction (ballet, contemporary, modern, jazz, pas de deux, and/or hip-hop).

More information/full audition requirements

Please send DVD, resume and photos to:

Hannah Bontrager, Executive Director

Ballet Fantastique | 960 Oak | Eugene, OR 97401

or email info@balletfantastique.org

Feel free to pass this post/opportunity along!  Thanks a million.

Our Cinderella Tour Experience!

Dearest BFan fanatics,

Last weekend was one of the best whirlwinds of my life. Touring Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet to three towns in three days was intense, but well worth the exhaustion. I feel that the whirlwind began when James Fuller, a company member with Ballet Austin, arrived in Eugene to learn the role of the Prince. James was such a trooper! Learning such a demanding role in less than one week is no easy feat, and a special thanks must go to his incessant smile. There was literally not a single moment in which Mr. Fuller had a straight face, let alone a frown.

 

James Fuller as Prince Charming and Alanna Fisher as Cindy (Photo: Yin Yi)

Last Thursday we had our first run through of the show with the band since our performances at the Hult back in May. I felt, that considering James had just learned his part, and we were all a bit frazzled, that the run went swimmingly. There is something truly magical about performing to live music, and I personally feel that it allows me to throw away my inhibitions and just get into character. After rehearsing with Shelley and Cal and their band, I felt ready to tackle three towns in three days.

First stop: Florence, Oregon! We arrived in Florence knowing the environment- we had performed Beatrix Potter at the Florence Event Center during the holiday season. We marked through all of the pieces, warmed up, and became situated with the stage. We had such a receptive audience! Nothing makes me happier than the laughter of an audience while portraying a comedic character. Thanks for laughing, Florence!

The ride back to Eugene that evening seemed to last forever. We were all exhausted, and could barely keep our eyes open by the time we arrived home. The BFan dancers and crew quickly fell asleep and recuperated as much as possible before our warm-up class at 9am the next day. I’m not going to lie, I could hardly move during that class. I can’t attest for everyone, but I think that the majority of the BFan dancers were hurting that morning. Our bodies were tired. After class, we packed up, grabbed a cup ‘o’ jo, and headed to our second stop: Noti!

Noti was certainly a smaller venue, but with a lot of heart! Everyone there was so immensely friendly. They provided us with delicious fresh fruit, snacks full of protein, and ice cold bottles of water. This was also the sweatiest show of the weekend! It was about 100ºF outside. We performed in a gymnasium, which had our marley floor laid out (thanks to many of the BFan boyfriends). We had to accomodate ourselves to the new layout, which surprisingly took no time at all. I literally saw Ballet Fantastique become a versatile touring company right before my eyes! Noti also provided us with a delicious bbq chicken feast! I would use the word “taste-tastic” when describing that meal! Thanks for your hospitality, Noti!

Most of the BFan crew left for Portland that evening after the Noti show around 9pm so that we wouldn’t be stiff from a morning car-ride right before the Sunday show. We had some very hospitable friends and family in Portland who were willing to house us for the evening. Arriving at Lincoln Hall on Sunday morning was fantastic! We had an enormous amount of space in the dressing room backstage, and the theater was just beautiful in general. I felt quite relaxed and ready to give it my all that day. However, about two hours before the show, I became jittery. I think it was just the thought of performing in my hometown, where I had no idea who might be out in the audience. After the first couple of pieces though, I realized that it didn’t matter who was out there- I’m dancin’ ’cause I love it! In the end, the Portland show was amazing! The viewers seemed to really enjoy the performance, and everyone was incredibly receptive!

Whew! What an experience! Now, I sit in my room up in Portland, writing this blogpost, still recuperating from the tour, and thinking to myself, “Where will BFan go next?!”
Love,
Amelia (a.k.a. Meelz)

 Hello all–th…

Aside

 

Hello all–this is Nicole, media intern with Ballet Fantastique.  I’m here to do a little debriefing about Arabian Nights, my first performance experience with BFan.

 

On January 28th, Ballet Fantastique transported audiences to a mystical land in their premiere of Donna and Hannah Bontrager’s Arabian Nights. With the Hult Center house completely sold out well over a week before the show opened and a splashy front-page Register Guard cover story hyping the all-original production, BFan told six ancient tales full of fantasy and adventure through story, dance, and music.  The performance did not disappoint these high expectations–it was absolutely captivating.

Image 

But while the show went off without a hitch, it is only because of the hours that cast and crew spent rehearsing and preparing.  I wanted to do a little behind-the-scenes research into the process of making it all happen here, in my first BFan blog post.

 

Here’s just a taste of what I uncovered:

 

Ballet Fantastique wanted to take these famous historical tales and add their own twist to the story. As Hannah Bontrager noted, “The most difficult part was to know where to start with so much material, and trusting our instinct to use all new music instead of the traditional Scheherazade score by Rimsky-Korosokov. I’m really proud of the unique way we interpreted the ancient stories to [create] a completely original ballet!” Dancers pushed themselves to physical and emotionally exhausting limits when they practiced six days a week (and 13 days straight in the week before the show) for as many as six to eight hours a day.Image

 

As I also found out, Donna decided to challenge the BFan dancers to try new feats. One of the dancers, Ashley, commented on the relatively new experience of performing an incredibly difficult pas de deux: “One of the lifts that we worked on that was the scariest was pretty much a hand stand in the air, when I was suspended upside down into the air on Adam’s shoulders. Any lift is hard because you have to be really aggressive and can’t hesitate. I don’t have a lot of prior partnering experience, so for me it was about letting go and trusting my partner.”

 Image

It seems evident from the success of the show that all of the dancers were indeed able to let go and completely immerse themselves in their characters.  The dancers had the task of combining their roles as an actor and dancer in this, BFan’s first full-length dramatic ballet (heretofore, BFan’s full-length narrative works have all been romantic comedies). As Amelia, who danced the parts of the Queen in the Scheherazade frame narrative and the Wise Woman in the Tale of Princess Parizade, related: “I absolutely love meshing my dancing and acting skills. In fact, I believe that as a dancer, you must be able to act and get lost in the role that you are portraying. Being the queen was a blast because Iable to be dark and mischievous, yet regal, when I wouldn’t usually describe myself with any of those words.”Image

 

Put all of this innovation, hard work, gutsiness, and drama together with costumes to kill for, incredible technique, and stunning creativity—and you get an absolutely mesmerizing performance that transported us all away from a gray January Oregon night into the exotic world of Ballet Fantastique’s Arabian Nights.

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Can’t wait for Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet this May!  I heard that Hannah and Donna are already working hard with musical collaborators Shelley and Cal.  More to come.  Hope you have your tickets before this one sells out! 

http://www.balletfantastique.org/company/events.php

 

Sincerely,

Nicole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ballet to break your heart: Getting inspired by the best

Well, Arabian Nights is just around the corner, and as one might surmise based on the fact that we haven’t posted in about a month, things have been pretty darn busy and crazy!  As is typical, we’ve got last-minute choreography to polish, bits of the story to weave together, costumes and jewelry and turban designs floating everywhere at home and in the loft of City Center for Dance (Artistic Director Donna Marisa Bontrager is doing a MIRACULOUS job of keeping our team of six costumers organized, with invaluable assistance from our lovely Eryn McNamara), backdrops set to arrive from across the country, and –if it wasn’t 4 am as I write this–I’d wager to say that set pieces (we’ve got lanterns, a dais, an awesome palanquin, tents–you name it!) were being erected as I type.  (Background secret: we’re being somewhat inspired in our Arabian Nights sets by Leon Bakst’s famous design for the ballet Scheharazade.  Thank heaven for Ida and Ken on our board and Joe Hoff for saying “YES, we can make that happen!” when we come up with some pretty ambitious ideas!).

We are so excited, nervous, and honored that we have just a few tickets left for this show–we’re almost sold out, and it’s still two weeks away.  (With the normal ticket-buying crowd in Eugene, folks are typically like me and wait until the last minute, but not so with this one.  We don’t know what’s going on, but we love it!!!)  In fact, since my job description usually includes Queen Marketer, I almost don’t know what to do with myself!  We’re only putting up 50 posters (norm: close to 200), sending out a handful of postcards (norm: 2,500 or more), and my sleepless nights and midnight lists are now comprised conspicuously of details related to our special outreach show for local schoolkids, tech schedules, and a million other things…that are NOT marketing.

But this expected attendance also means that we know our audience is as excited about this all-new ballet as we are, and the pressure’s on!  Arabian Nights ventures into dramatic new territory for Ballet Fantastique—literally.  Heretofore, we’ve made many forays into drama (our Red Violin series with violinist Matt Fuller, our “Love Lost” suite, St. Margaret’s Tears with Incendio, etc. etc.), but our full-length works have always been comedies.  I can say as a dancer, choreographer, and producer, that we’re living up to the season theme of DARING in challenging ourselves and our audience with a full-length dramatic work.  And we’re excited!

If you know anything about ballet dancers, it’s that we continuously engage in the masochistic practice of watching the best of the best of the best.  YouTube and social media where our ballet friends across the country and the world share videos of these world-famous dancers makes it easy to find these folks, and one can’t help but be inspired.  And holy cow, I hit the jackpot this morning.  So, in the name of getting inspired by some dramatic performances by one of my personal current favorite dancers, Polina Semionova, here is some dramatic ballet you HAVE to see:

  1. Polina in La Bayadere
  2. Polina in Manon (this is for BFan ballerina Leanne Mizzoni–Manon’s one of her favorites and now you know why)
  3. Polina is even expressive when you can’t see her face in this rehearsal video (this is something we need to remember as dancers).  We will not say anything about her coach, Mr. Malakhov’s, outfit.  🙂

Oh my heavens, she just mesmerizes you.

In Arabian Nights, we will aspire to do the same.

To the dance,

Hannah

NOTE: We do still have student outreach matinee tickets available for the Thursday, January 26 at 10 am show, so please contact us if you’d like to come!

The Dancer Says: 6 Reasons I’m Not Ready to Retire Today, Wednesday Dec. 7, 2011

You’ve prolly heard it, and it’s true: the ballerina’s shelf life is shorter than those of many other careers.  And as we “age” (i.e., approach numbers that don’t start with “2”) we/I find more and more that this sport-art is increasingly hard on our bodies–and accordingly wonder if it’s about time to call it quits and train the Next Generation.

Add to these emotions that Wednesdays are our late night rehearsal night at the studio…

Aside: About Wednesday

Wednesday means that after we work our Normal Person jobs (which we almost universally love, but which do take a lot out of us), we forgo the after-work cocktails with friends or quickie fabulous 20-minute workout at the gym, and instead trek on down to our beautiful studio and get down to business for four hours.  Yes, this is a long time, but it’s never long enough to do what we need to do; Wednesday also means that instead of the regular five or six hours of studio time (including Ms. Donna’s Crazy Hard Class) we have on a normal rehearsal day, we have much less–and we’re tired to boot.  In short, we have a lot to get done in an impossibly short period of time, and we might not always be quite as chipper as we’d like to be whilst this rehearsal occurs. Let’s just say that Wednesday is the kind of day where you get home at 10 pm and you still haven’t decided what you might eat for dinner and you are berating yourself for not having done your dirty dishes that morning or having put away the leotards you just washed, and you decide to eat random things like carrots and pretzels because the thought of standing to cook is absolutely horrifying.  THEN–spoiler alert–if you’re Hannah, you also start freaking out in the midst of your exhaustion about the fact that you have so many things to talk to Donna about: the sets, the costumes, the guest dancers, the press release, yada yada, yada.  Should you sleep so that you can somehow do better tomorrow?  Should you get work done so that you CAN sleep (those middle-of-the-night stress demons can only be cured with iPhone notes about lists)?

And these Wednesday nights, my friends, it is even more important for the Ballerina to remember why she loves what she does.  And even though 15 reasons would be better than six, we’re going to keep it simple.  (This is early practice for what is to become a New Year’s resolution, I am sure.)

The Dancer Says: 6 Reasons I’m Not Ready to Retire Today, Wednesday Dec. 7, 2011

*In no particular order of importance

1) It moves me.  Let’s face it.  After working in service or sitting in a cubicle all day, it’s pretty awesome to whack your body into shape(s).  We’re challenging our brains and our bodies.  It’s pretty unique, and pretty awesome.

2) It keeps me clean. I would probably be one of those slackers who never does laundry (I don’t know WHY I hate it so much!), but it’s Improper to wear the same leotard more than once in a two-week span, so ballet literally gives me an incentive to keep my stuff/myself clean.

3) I get to hang out with some pretty amazing people.  I love these peops.  Instead of retreating into self-loathing related to my inability to maintain control of my to do list, I get to hang out and work hard with my awesomely talented mom, sister, and best friends.  We keep each other honest, and we do laugh a lot.

4) It gives me nice gams.  Supposedly, tights help keep varicose veins at bay.  Since we wear tights all the time, we are likely to keep our legs in good shape.  Right?!

5) See the rain, don’t feel the rain…  I will admit that even though ballet is Crazy Hard, I would really rather be dancing than running, for example, in mud and freezing rain.  Kudos to my marathonning and soccer-playing friends.  I am not among you.

6) I do what I love.  When it all comes down to it, even though this is so often a labor of love, I get to DO WHAT I LOVE.  How many millions of people do not have this privilege?  Yes, I’m tired, but I am also proud and happy of this little ballet company that’s becoming.

I guess I have a few more years left in me.  Good thing, since now it’s Thursday morning.  🙂

Goodnight and thank you so much for your support,
Hannah