Checking in with Charlottesville Ballet: VDay Edition

Posted on February 12, 2014 by

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MS2 Image (Photo by Thomas Giroir)Once upon a time, there was a beautiful ballet filled with cherubs, chiffon, and chassés. Oh wait, that’s this Friday!

Enjoy a night at the ballet featuring the only full-time dance company in the area – Charlottesville Ballet. From the classic balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet to the contemporary piece “For Now I Am” by choreographer Jason Ambrose, Charlottesville Ballet’s Mainstage Two Performance is a guaranteed night of beauty and grace.

Grab tickets to Friday night’s Valentine’s Day show for a special 2-for-1 (or 50% off) online ticket order! Use discount code “Love214” for the special.

Emily Mott, Co-Director of Charlottesville Ballet, shared the latest on the ballet’s new location and growing company, trainee program, and student body at their academy.

Q&A with Emily Mott

Since I last checked in with you all, Charlottesville Ballet has a new location and a whole crew of new company dancers. Talk about the changes you’ve seen over the past few years.

We’ve expanded a great deal since opening our new facility on Route 29 and Woodbrook Drive last year! We have 7 company dancers who hail from all over the world– from Maryland to Montana to the Republic of Moldova in Russia! We also have a brand new trainee program with 7 dancers who work alongside the professional company. Our new facility boasts 3 state-of-the-art studios and a studio theatre where we can host informal showcases and workshops for the community. Charlottesville Ballet Academy, the official training school of the company, now has over 250 students enrolled– we have nearly tripled in size in only a year!

Company + Trainee CB Sign

Photo Credit: Andrea Shirey Photography

The Mainstage Two Performance is a guaranteed night of grace, beauty, and passion. What could be more special than a night at the ballet on Valentine’s Day?! Share a few moments or pieces in the show you are looking forward to performing/seeing in front of a live audience.

As Co-Director, I have staged a version of the Balcony Scene from Romeo and Juliet, which will be performed by company artists Vadim Burciu and Caitlin Lennon. I think I’m most excited for this piece (which opens the performance) because the Prokofiev score is breathtakingly beautiful and the piece sort of “sets the mood” for the concert and for the whole Valentine’s day weekend.

As a dancer, I am really excited to perform in two new commissioned works by guest artists– it’s always amazing to have movement created on you as a dancer and to share the premiere of a piece with an audience for the first time.

Cristina Chopiniana FB pic

Dancers Cristina Page and Vadim Burciu (for Chopiniana)

Charlottesville Ballet’s performances always masterfully combine classical ballet pieces with new contemporary ballet works. How do the shows come together, from choosing the pieces, the order of the pieces, the sets, and, of course, my favorite – the costumes?

Because we have so many guest choreographers generating brand new pieces, a lot of our “grand programming plans” tend to morph and change as the season progresses. A choreographer may suggest a balletic piece to classical music in the summer planning session, but then find inspiration in a beautiful piece of contemporary music and take his or her piece in a totally different direction by the time they get in the studio to work with the dancers.

At Charlottesville Ballet, we don’t want to stifle creativity and inspiration, so we use video interviews to create flexibility within each Mainstage program. That way, the audience gets a chance to “meet” the choreographers, the casting can be more flexible, and the order of each program can allow for the dancers to change into different costumes and prepare the various piece…all in an order that’s pleasing for the audience.

Talk about working with guest choreographer Jason Ambrose for this Mainstage Two Performance, and the premiere of his piece For Now I Am.

Jason Ambrose is an extremely talented artist (he’s a name to watch in the future!) and most of his experience was working with top-notch professional dancers in New York on a per-project basis. Jason traveled to Charlottesville for a week in August, which was his first time working in residence with a professional company. I think Charlottesville Ballet was a great place for him to play with dancers who worked so well together as a group and also to experiment with new choreographic elements. His piece has beautiful contemporary movements (a very “dance-y” feel) that I really enjoy. We’re also using mirrors that roll around the stage at PVCC, which creates some stunning visual effects on the stage.

What other guest choreographers have you enjoyed working with at Charlottesville Ballet? How does it not only expand the repertoire of the company, but also challenge and inspire the dancers?

I love working with Ty Cooper, who was a founding member of Charlottesville Ballet in 2007 and is now teaching at CBA and choreographing works for the Charlottesville Ballet repertory. We have known each other for so long and danced together in the past, so I feel like I can really imitate his movement quality and bring out the style that he wants as the choreographer.

I also get to work with Liz Reynolds in her cast for a re-staging of a modern dance work called “heeled.” The piece is hilarious and we wear 3-4 inch high heels in the show! Liz was so awesome to work with and was always pushing to see what kind of movement we could create with the boundary of the shoe…nothing like head-tail modern dance movement in stilettos! It’s a real challenge going from pointe shoes to high heels to modern floor work, but I love the complexity of the program and getting to work with these diverse choreographers.

In your opinion, what makes dance so powerful to any person, in the everyday? How does it so swiftly transcend words and evoke pure emotion? And as a dancer, what do you hope the audience takes from these performances?

In terms of transcending words; unlike opera, theatre, etc., it doesn’t need translation. You don’t have to know any given language or even be verbal to appreciate dance. Most of us dance before we can talk.

We hope the audience has an experience that transcends the everyday; that they can forget their troubles, see something that resonates with them, connects with them on a visceral level that they may not be able to verbalize. More than entertaining, although that is important, dance is about the human experience.

ballet collage

Photo Credit: Andrea Shirey Photography

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Posted in: dance, {art}