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4/29/2016 - Dan Duell's Blog - Square Dance





Balanchine's Square Dance
A Classic Cultural Blend




We are honored to bring Square Dance to the stage of the Harris Theater for the very first time, performed by our acclaimed Ballet Chicago Studio Company. Last performed by Ballet Chicago before we opened our School, it is another of Balanchine's great works that is too rarely seen by Chicago audiences.

New York City Ballet's published text introduces this work as follows: "In Square Dance, George Balanchine joined the traditions of American folk dance with classical ballet. He felt the two types of dance, though widely different in style, had common roots and a similar regard for order. He wrote, 'The American style of classical dancing, its supple sharpness and richness of metrical invention, its superb preparation for risks, and its high spirits, were some of the things I was trying to show in this ballet.' In the original 1957 version, the musicians were placed onstage, and a square dance caller was brought in to call out the steps. Square Dance was revived in 1976 without the caller, with the orchestra in the pit, and with an added solo for the principal male dancer."



As a New York City Ballet company member back then, I witnessed and shared in the excitement of the 1976 revival, which opened up the full stage to Mr. B.'s choreography, expanding and enhancing the floor patterns and flow of movement. It is the 1976 version we present to our audiences this season.

School Director Patricia Blair brings a wealth of knowledge and deep commitment to the staging of the work. Indeed, she has long experience with Square Dance, as she performed it many times with the Eglevsky Ballet under the direction of NYC Ballet star Edward Villella. "Words can but hint at the joyful experience of learning and performing such musical and beautiful choreography, and it is an honor to be passing this experience on to a new generation of dancers." says Ms. Blair, "and the excellence of our young artists will be inspiring and moving to their audiences."



In a very special sense I view this work as quintessentially American: here is choreography by a transplanted Russian classicist, set to music of two Italian baroque composers, inspired by an American folk dance form...a jewel forged in a cultural melting pot. Its result is a timeless masterpiece to be enjoyed by artists and audiences of every race, creed, and culture; how more deeply American can one get?

Come join us on May 14, and see this beautiful ballet grace the Harris Theater stage for the very first time!

Sincerely,


Dan Duell
Artistic Director


Take Flight
Saturday, May 14th, 2016
2:00 PM & 7:30 PM




Harris Theater for Music and Dance
HarrisTheaterChicago.org / 312-334-7777 / 205 E. Randolph Dr.

4/22/2016 - Dan Duell's Blog - Stars and Stripes





Stars and Stripes
A Campaign for the Ages




As America wades through the 2016 Presidential campaign, this May we offer a campaign of an entirely different sort, the Grand Pas de Deux from George Balanchine's ballet Stars and Stripes.

Choreographed in 1957, Stars and Stripes is Balanchine's tribute to America's love of parades. Set to a series of John Phillips Sousa's marches, the ballet consists of five "campaigns", three of which call for an ensemble of twelve dancers led by a soloist. The fourth campaign is a virtuosic "grand pas de deux" for a ballerina (Liberty Bell), and her partner (El Capitan), and the fifth campaign, a grand finale for all forty-one dancers.




As a concert piece that stands superbly on its own, the "Liberty Bell and El Capitan" duet was performed for many memorable occasions, including Nelson Rockefeller's inauguration as governor of New York, tributes to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and the opening ceremonies for the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. Rarely seen in Chicago, it is with something akin to patriotic pride that we present it this season on the stage of the Harris Theater.

After learning and performing this duet many times as a student at Balanchine's School of American Ballet, I eventually had the privilege of performing this wonderful duet myself as one of Mr. Balanchine's principal male dancers at New York City Ballet, as well as in independent concerts nationally. My knowledge of it runs deep!




The duet and solos are marked by technical brilliance, high precision, cheeky charm, and casual bravado. The way in which Mr. B. transmutes the classical vocabulary to evoke the ebullient character of an American parade is a marvel of stylistic ingenuity and sheer fun.

Along with Stars and Stripes, Ballet Chicago's Spring Series, Take Flight, features George Balanchine's spirited Square Dance. Also on the program are Resident Choreographer Ted Seymour's nebula-inspired galactic odyssey Celestial Rites, and a World Premiere, Secrets de Printemps, a full company work choreographed to the elegant music of the impressionist French composer Maurice Ravel. Stay tuned for blogs featuring the remaining pieces.

Don't miss this exciting program on May 14 at the Harris Theater!

Sincerely,


Dan Duell
Artistic Director


Take Flight
Saturday, May 14th, 2016
2:00 PM & 7:30 PM




Harris Theater for Music and Dance
HarrisTheaterChicago.org / 312-334-7777 / 205 E. Randolph Dr.

 

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