By Stephanie Wilks
September 6, 2012
We often define the ballet as a feminine aesthetic. Our memories transport us to scenes of graceful ballerinas dawned in pink leotards, tights, and tutus. We imagine the ladies who gasp at the dainty, vulnerable Odette of Swan Lake or the beautiful, yet tragic Juliet in Romeo & Juliet. And then, there are the husbands, checking football scores on their smart phones during intermission.
That’s why I was surprised when Cincinnati Ballet Artistic Director & CEO Victoria Morgan informed us that in the 2012-2013 season, American ballet companies across the country will present 290 ballets and only a mere 25 of them will be choreographed by women. Contrary to the stereotypes, it’s mostly men who dominate the orchestration of ballets.
What’s even more remarkable is that, for the current season, seven of the 25 females mentioned are working at The Cincinnati Ballet. Then again, if you’ve had the pleasure of meeting the charismatic Victoria Morgan, this should come as no surprise. She’s responsible for attracting world-class talent to our city and expanding the cultural window with which we take in the ballet.
Speaking of talent, the Kaplan New Works Series premieres tonight featuring four distinct ballets, each designed by female choreographers. Three of the four performances are never before seen world premieres. But don’t worry, aside from the choreographers’ gender, New Works is far from “girly.” As Selahattin Erkan (member of the Corps de Ballet) explained, this is the most original show of the year. It’s fun. It’s exploratory. And it’s modern, too.
Liang Fu and Maizyalet Velázquez in Amy Seiwert’s I Think Of You Often
New Works is a collection of performances that takes risks. It’s not a ballet you attend just to check it off the old “to do” list. This isn’t The Nutcracker. The Kaplan New Works Series is interpretive. It’s spiritual. Most of all, it’s introspective. You won’t find a defined plot here, and these are pieces with few words, so most of how you interpret them will depend on your own experiences and opinions.
Opus 5.5 opens the night with a particularly clever original score composed and recorded by Peter Adams. If you like the sounds of alternative pop you’ll probably love this piece. The fresh music sets a trendy tone with different percussion instruments and varying baselines.
The choreography by Heather Britt told some of the most thought-provoking stories of the night. After reading City Beat writer, Kathy Valin’s interview with Britt on her personal blog, I surmised that Britt relinquished significant control to the opinions of the dancers. Opus 5.5 is a raw look into what relationships and movements on the dance floor came natural to the performers themselves.They were short stories about men and women co-existing in society, detailing that delicate balance between friends. I so can relate.
The second ballet Without Consideration is an interpretation of individuals struggling to live their lives with technology. One ditty you might recognize from the ballet is a song by The Black Keys.
Happier, lighter, and sexier describes the next performance, I Think Of You Often. You won’t be able to take your eyes off lead Sarah Hairston as she passionately solos in a jazzy Mediterranean scene. Blissful waves break on the shore while a man longingly writes to her.
Finally, La Belle Danse, choreographed by Jessica Lang, tops off the night with a classical, albeit playful performance reminiscent of an Elizabethan Waltz. Perhaps the music by Handel and Mozart and the corset-like chiffon dresses will tip you off. This is the only piece of the series not new to the Cincinnati stage, but it’s polished and a perfect note with which to end your evening.
Some will attend The Kaplan New Works Series for the love of ballet; others will attend because they’ve been dragged along. I predict, however, it will be the audience members who least expect to enjoy this show who will get the most out of it. Dare I say it but men may even walk out of the Cincinnati Ballet Center and reflect upon this performance with their wives.
On second thought—maybe you should just bring the girls. It is the ballet, after all.
*To find a list of performance dates for the Kaplan New Works Series visit the Ballet’s website: http://www.cballet.org
Photo credits: Peter Mueller, All Rights Reserved.to top ↑