Friday, September 30, 2011

American Cancer Society Holds 5K Walk at the Center Oct. 9

On October 9, the American Cancer Society will hold its second annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K walk at Segerstrom Center. The Orange County community is invited to take part in the noncompetitive walk, which was created to celebrate survivors who have battled the disease and raise funds to fight against breast cancer. Last year, more than 80,000 people participated and raised more than $2.6 million in California. During this year’s walk, KCBS-TV anchors Paul Magers and Paul Harvey will be on hand to lend their support. To sign up or learn more about the walk, please click here.

We hope this year’s walk is the most successful yet!

Photo is from last year's walk, which was held at the Center.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Process: Jorma & Marcelo

This is the last week of rehearsals for the Kings of the Dance. The show will open in Moscow in just seven days before the production comes to the Center for its American premiere. While many of the pieces are already set and being polished in rehearsals, today's focus is in on a completely new work being created by Jorma Elo for Marcelo Gomes. Elo, the Finnish-born resident choreographer of Boston Ballet, has set his new dance, Still of King, to the first movement of Franz Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 100 in G major. Elo cues the music and Gomes walks slowly to the center of the room. The dancing that follows is brilliant, full of mercurial shifts of mood, fluid, modern and expansive.

Elo and Gomes have been working for the past four days, but there is still a section of music that needs to be choreographed. They move silently to a far corner of the room, and Elo remains motionless for some time, his head bowed slightly. The dancer watches for what's to come. Throughout the rehearsal Elo hardly speaks and when he does, it's so softly as if to himself. Finally he turns to face the mirror and bourrees in 6th position back to the center of the floor. He pauses contemplating his shape in the mirror, then a shoulder wave ripples through his body. He marks the sequence again with Gomes following closely. “Ok, let's see what this looks like,” Elo says in his characteristic hushed voice.

Elo seems to be that rare choreographer who creates directly on and in front of his dancers. Before setting each phrase he assumes the last pose of the preceding movement and remains completely still in a deep inner space until he knows exactly what the next steps will be. It's a zen-like process. He signals a jump, and as Gomes vaults into the air, Elo softly exhales, “Jesus, you are so good at it.” Gomes smiles warmly. His ability to immediately interpret the outline of movement indicated by the choreographer, giving it full weight, emotional color and life, is astonishing to watch.

“Will I survive this?” asks Gomes. “You'll die,” says Elo in a reassuring tone. “Good!” is the dancer's breezy reply.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

A King Makes Music and Dance

Guillaume Côté returns to the Center as part of our upcoming Kings of the Dance.  The star of The National Ballet of Canada will not only display his amazing prowess as a dancer, but he'll also compose one of the scores to be heard in this program of new ballets.  Côté talks about music and dance coming together for him in Kings of the Dance 2011.

How did it happen that your music became part of the Kings of the Dance?

One of the most wonderful things about Kings of the Dance project is that (producer) Sergei Danilian is always eager to do something different. His choice of repertoire is always a very thoughtful process. He asks for our opinion every step of the way and makes sure we are involved and happy with what we are dancing.

In this circumstance, Sergei saw Marcelo's choreography last year in New York and asked him if he could create for this year's galas. Marcelo and I have collaborate as 'composer/choreographer' on couple of different smaller projects and he jumped at the opportunity to get me involved with Kings. As soon as Sergei, Marcelo and I started brainstorming we thought this would be perfect. It would not only be a very inspiring process for us but we think that being part of the show as creators would also add a little different dimension to the evening.

Did you compose the music specially for the project or had you made it before and it was just waiting for the right moment?

This piece was created specially for Kings of the Dance. I have written many different styles of music in the last years. From electronic soundtracks to classically driven work. After having many conversations with Marcelo about the direction we wanted to go, we decided to go as grand and melodic as possible. In a way I've always stopped myself from writing a piece that fell into a 'romantic' category, but for this project I let myself go.

How did it feel when you got the proposal to be a composer for one of the pieces in the Kings of the Dance?

I was thrilled! I love working with Marcelo and I know that no matter what happens, the process of creating this will be truly wonderful.

How does the music reflect the dancing and vice versa, how does the dance reflect the music?

I approached this creation as an opportunity to make a tribute to the Russian romantic composers. I've always held composers such as Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and other close to my heart, so I wanted to try capturing the feel of their music. I've always felt intimidated to try this but I thought, what better time than now.

Once I found the themes for the piece, I started thinking about the Kings involved in this year's project. I tried to split the sections in what I thought was 'personality' influenced. Knowing all the guys pretty well I wanted to personalize it a little.

Also, for the recording of the final score, I collaborated with a fantastic virtuoso pianist. His name is Andrei Streliaev. His incredible artistry was a great influence as well.

How does it feel to have these two parts of your life come together?

I am thrilled that I get the chance to display both my passions in this year's Kings of the Dance. I've been a composer all my life, but this project will have my two true loves come together: dance and composition. It'll be a very exciting evening.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Paper Cranes Reach Japan

One thousand paper cranes folded by the local community to help raise hope and spread awareness for the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami are now being displayed in Japan as a symbol for revitalization at the Fukushima Cultural Center. Currently, the Fukushima Cultural Center is not fully operational but they hope to be very soon. (The photo above shows the display in their lobby along with the letter we sent.) Paper cranes were also sent to the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra.

Several months ago, the Center and the Philharmonic Society of Orange County hosted an event to fold paper cranes. In Japanese culture, cranes are a symbol of hope and prosperity and folklore says the act of folding 1,000 cranes grants a wish. The event was a huge success and more than 2,000 cranes were folded and sent to Japan.

It was a very special day and we want to thank everyone again for their participation in this extraordinary effort.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Our Kings are Hard at Work

Sept 18.  The first full week of rehearsals has just ended and looking back, it's amazing how much has been accomplished in such a short time.

Mauro Bigonzetti has made remarkable progress on the opening ballet of the program, Jazzy Five. The music is by Federico Bigonzetti, the choreographer's son, and its sometimes soulful, sometimes playful, rhythmically incisive sound lends the ballet an easy-going, but earnest quality. The introductory dance begins as the five men in the cast move slowly downstage holding on to each other as if they were syrtaki dancers. The image is one of communal coming together. Suddenly they break apart into a pair of brief but strikingly different duets for Sarafanov and Coté, and Gomes and Hallberg, interrupted by a brief solo by Vasiliev who comes ripping down center stage in a huge heal slide before settling in a side split on the floor.

The opening section is followed by solos for each of the men, and although these brief dances are very different from each other in mood and quality of movement (reflecting the individual qualities of the artists they are meant to present), there are connecting leitmotifs threaded throughout – complex arm movements, spiraling turns, held poses, and transitions that compress the dancers' line only to stretch it to the maximum a moment later.

The ballet currently slated to close the evening is Marcelo Gomes' KO'd to a piano sonata of his fellow king, Guillaume Coté. The music is beautiful and lushly romantic, and Gomes responds with steps that are structured, intelligent, and flow easily together. He does almost nothing that would seem forced or superfluous. His language is well developed with hints of the deep knowledge of dance history that he carries as a performer. There are intentional, albeit brief, homages to ballets by Balanchine, Wheeldon, Ratmansky – but nothing obscures Gomes' own by turns elvish and deeply romantic point of view. As a choreographer Gomes may be an emerging artist, but he is certainly an assured one.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ivan Vasiliev rehearsing for Kings of the Dance, part II

New York, City Center studios.

Rehearsal day 5. It's remarkable, but Vasiliev's entire 10 minute solo, renamed The Labyrinth of Solitude, has been set by mid-day Saturday, the 4th day of rehearsal. De Bana's response to music is organic. He listens to a few phrases and then dances through them alone. Ivan stands off to the side, watching intently. If the choreographer is satisfied (indicated by a quiet, “Yes, that's it” to himself), he proceeds to teach the steps to the dancer whose sponge-like ability to absorb and internalize every gesture is uncanny.

The next two rehearsals are spent on smoothing out transitions between sections of choreography and on details of timing and musicality. Everyone is tired, but the mood in the room is easy and jovial. Now and then, de Bana urges his dancer to soften his natural attack, at other times he asks for stronger arms - “I know they are falling off by now, but it's like you've really hit a wall here, make them really shake, make them powerful!” Up until the last moments of rehearsal nuances are layered over an existing structure of steps. As Vasiliev does the final run-through, complete with a vaulting manege of split jetes, the room is stunned. It's a breathtaking performance.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Ivan Vasiliev in Rehearsal for Kings of the Dance 2011

We are very pleased to have special guest blogger Anya Korisch writing from City Center in New York where she’s behind-the-scenes at rehearsals for Kings of the Dance 2011. For the next few weeks, we’ll be posting Anya’s insider photos and updates. Her first blog post, below, provides a front row seat to the solo piece, Labyrinth of Solitude. Kings 2011 will receive its American premiere here Oct. 21 – 23.

Sept. 8th, second day of fall rehearsals. City Center.

With the Moscow world premiere less than a month away, rehearsals for Kings of the Dance 2011 are in full swing at the City Center studios in New York.

This week, choreographer and former Compania Nacional de Danza principal dancer, Patrick de Bana, is choreographing a new solo, Labyrinth of Solitude, for the Bolshoi's youngest, and arguably brightest, star – Ivan Vasiliev. The music is a stirring orchestral version of Tomaso Antonio Vitali's Chaconne in G Minor for Violin and Piano. When finished, the solo will be 10 grueling minutes long, and de Bana and Vasiliev have only six days to complete it start to finish. It helps that Vasiliev is a quick study – by the end of second day, they have set over five minutes of the music

In keeping with the title, the piece begins with Vasiliev, his back to the audience, slowly trotting center stage, taking small bouncing steps like a bull or prize-fighter in the ring. “Use your bones, feel your bones,” de Bana tells him. The direction produces a more articulated, weightier quality of movement. At another point, demonstrating a pose of almost extreme contrapposto, de Bana tells Vasiliev to think of the Nijinsky photographs, their oppositions of lightness and weight, the suggested stillness at the heart of the movement. “When I look at you, I think of Nijinsky,” de Bana tells Vasiliev. The dancer doesn't flinch at the comparison.

The choreographer's feedback is full of imagery and he is concerned that each movement convey an emotion, a message to the audience. At the first rehearsal, trying to describe an effect he is looking for, de Bana tells Vasiliev of his own experience watching bullfighting. On day two, the choreographer says, “This is your labyrinth of solitude, but it's your own mind, you know.” Vasiliev immediately hits the right emotional tone. “He is amazing,” exclaims de Bana. “Did you always learn this fast?” Vasiliev nods.

Most of the movement is extremely fluid with huge jumps that are Vasiliev's specialty, bursting into the air like sudden gusts of wind. From day one, even while marking, he colors each movement with an emotional quality and de Bana urges him to play with the timing of the music, to feel free to go slower or faster within the phrase in order to produce the pitch that in the end will fit the music perfectly. “Be the echo,” is the last comment of the long second rehearsal day.

Text and photographs by Anya Korisch

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