Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Guest Blogger: Helgi Tomasson of San Francisco Ballet

“Dancing is surely the most basic and relevant of all forms of expression. 
Nothing else can so effectively give outward form to an inner expression.” 
  Lyall Watson 
Gifts of Unknown Things: A True Story of Nature, Healing and Initiation from Indonesia’s Dancing Island

April 26 – May 5 
Join us during National Dance Week for a special posting in Center Scene by a noted artistic director, choreographer or expert. 

San Francisco Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour © Erik Tomasson

Helgi Tomasson
By Helgi Tomasson
Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer, San Francisco Ballet

National Dance Week is always a great opportunity to pause and reflect on where the art form of ballet is currently, and how it will be sustained in the long-term. One of the most critical elements of my job as artistic director is to create balanced programming that enables audiences to not only have a taste of the past, but also of the future. Our company is lucky to have strong relationships with many of the best and innovative choreographers working today including Mark Morris, and Wayne McGregor, Alexei Ratmansky, and Christopher Wheeldon. To keep our audiences challenged and engaged, it’s important to feature historic ballets, some of which were avant-garde for their time, alongside newer works. Showing the full spectrum of what ballet can be allows us to further nurture and deepen the audience’s relationship with dance. A varied repertory also allows dancers to thrive and grow as they perform a range of styles and techniques, while honing their dramatic abilities. In San Francisco, we have wonderfully receptive audiences though occasionally new works can leave them polarized. I think that’s great—the more dialogue we can create around the art form, the better. Good programming should be diverse—a reminder of the rich history of dance that should be celebrated and remembered— while pointing us toward new work and the boundless possibilities of the future.
Yuan Yuan Tan and Vito Mazzeo in Edwaard Liang's Symphonic Dances ©Erik Tomasson
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Tune In: International Jazz Day Global Concert LIVE

Today is International Jazz Day! Tune in now (11 a.m. PDT) for the Global Concert live webcast at live.jazzday.com for live performances by Herbie Hancock and other jazz greats. 

To learn more about International Jazz Day, please read our post here or visit www.jazzday.com.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Guest Blogger: Trey McIntyre of Trey McIntyre Project

”When you dance, you can enjoy the luxury of being you.”
  Paulo Coehlho, The Witch of Portobello

April 26 – May 5 
Join us during National Dance Week for a special posting in Center Scene by a noted artistic director, choreographer or expert. 

Trey McIntyre's Sun Road 

Trey McIntyre © Otto Kitsinger
By Trey McIntyre
Artistic Director, Trey McIntyre Project

A dancer approached me recently for some advice about how to be the best participant in the process of creating a new ballet. This was my response:

I really appreciate your checking in and it speaks volumes about you that you want to learn. I can only speak from my own experience as a choreographer and what motivates me in the studio. I go right to a place of exploration and daring, and I want the dancers to do the same. I am inspired by dancers who try fearlessly. Always succeeding is not the point. I am not trying to simply bring an idea into the world that I think should happen. I am trying to discover. So, in that way, the dancer is a full participant in the creation. Whether or not you fall on your face, we don’t know what’s right or wrong yet. The important thing is to commit to it wholeheartedly. I find that dancers find ways to distance themselves from the hard, embarrassing parts of the process. Something goes wrong and you stop to laugh at it or show excessive exasperation, and, in essence say, “that mistake is not me.” But all I see is a wasted opportunity and distancing of oneself from the process…from the vulnerability and the discovery. Those mistakes are, indeed, you and need to be relished and examined. 

Trey McIntyre's Bad Winter © Liz Volles
Another thing to keep your eye on, especially with a new choreographer to you, is that the details of their way of movement are important. It may feel more comfortable to start by translating the information into what you know, but there are reasons for the specificity. So, to the extent that you can digest those things quickly and keep trying them to the point that they are uncomfortable, you are getting closer to what the choreographer is looking for. 

Finally, remember that you are helping an artist to pull something out of the ethereal into the concrete world. That is an uncertain, twisting, winding road that needs coaxing and inspiration. Study the myths of the muses because they really illustrate what I feel is the dancer’s main role in the creation process. Anything you can do to support the fantasy that is being spun … through excited presence, through reflecting the mood of the piece in your person, through doing your homework and coming in the next day better than when you left … you play a pivotal part in making art happen. 

I hope this makes sense to you and is not too big picture to be helpful. If you keep up this attitude of learning and implement what you find in a way that feels positive and growing for you, you will have a great career. Thanks again for reaching out. 

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Guest Blogger: Boris Eifman of Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg

“You have to love dancing to stick to it. 
It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, 
no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, 
no poems to be printed and sold, 
nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.”
– Merce Cunningham

April 26 – May 5 
Join us during National Dance Week for new postings in Center Scene by noted artistic directors, choreographers and experts. 

Boris Eifman's Onegin © Valentin Baranovsky
Boris Eifman
By Boris Eifman
Artistic Director, Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg

The language of body is one of the most ancient. It fixed the memory of sensual life of our ancestors’ many generations, making dance a unique way to express the emotional world of the human. With plastic, feelings, movements of human nature and the most complex intellectual and philosophical ideas cannot be displayed. So, in the artist’s hands, dance is a very delicate tool that can be used as a means to cognize the secrets of being. 

Boris Eifman's Onegin © Gene Schiavone
I have been engaged in the development of human body’s expressiveness for many decades, using it to investigate the individual’s inner and mental world. One of the most important creative tasks for me is to restore the lines that always united the ballet and psychological theatre, but were lost in the 20th century, an era of choreographic abstraction. Psychology must be inherent not only in drama, but also in dance. Keeping this fundamental approach, I create major ballet performances that are distinguished by acute intensity of emotions, serious dramatic basis and deep philosophical content. Coming to our ballets, the spectator finds the most important thing – catharsis, a powerful emotional shock that cleanses the soul. The concealed, true magic of art is expressed with similar impact. 

Dance is a universal language of spiritual communication, rejecting cultural, national or any other barriers. Reflecting on the eternal themes of freedom, love, human passions, our company performs with equal success in America, Asia, Europe, and Australia and constantly evokes in hearts of the audience the most vivid emotional response. I am delighted that, owing to the support of Ardani Artists Management and direction of Segerstrom Center for the Arts our theatre has an opportunity to perform its art on this excellent modern stage for interested and appreciative audience in America, every meeting with which becomes truly memorable for us. 

Boris Eifman's Russian Hamlet 

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Guest Blogger: Robert Battle of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

“All that is important is this one moment in movement. 
Make the moment important, vital and worth living. 
Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.” 
– Martha Graham

April 26 – May 5 
Join us during National Dance Week for a special posting in Center Scene by a noted artistic director, choreographer or expert. 
AAADT's Linda Celese Sims, Alicia Graf Mack and Glenn Allen Sims
in Alvin Ailey's Revelations © Andrew Eccles

Artistic Director Robert Battle
© Andrew Eccles
By Robert Battle
Artistic Director, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

It’s important to keep the past of the Ailey company alive, because the past is the present. I don’t see any distance between then and now. When I think about a great work of art, it endures, and it is timeless. If it was true then, then it is true now, and it speaks to the audience as it speaks to me. The past is not a burden; it’s the reason why we are here in the first place, so I embrace this rich history of this marvelous company. How do I achieve that? By always challenging and engaging the audience, challenging and engaging the dancers, and finding work that falls in line with that mission. 

AAADT's Antonio Douthit and Alicia Graf Mack
in Paul Taylor's Arden Court 
© Andrew Eccles
Incorporating the arts in education is also essential. Growing up in Miami, I had singing classes, a music teacher, and I learned to write music in school. We know the arts make a difference in young peoples’ lives. The fact that the Ailey programs are able to make a positive impact on the community is very important to me and the Company. We step off the stage and into the communities we serve. Mr. Ailey said he believed that “dance came from the people and should always be delivered back to the people.” Judith Jamison carried that torch, and now I carry it. I try to do things that come from my own instinct and heart, and that’s how I achieve it.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Celebrate National Dance Week April 26 - May 5

 “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” 
  Friedrich Nietzsche 

During National Dance Week, the Center will post a special Center Scene entry from a noted artistic director, choreographer or expert. 

Diana Vishneva as Giselle © M. Logvinov
The Pointe of Dance
By Elizabeth Kaye
Author of American Ballet Theatre: A Twenty-Five Year Retrospective 
Ms. Kaye will conduct many of the Center’s preview talks prior to performances in the International Dance Season. She will be the guest speaker for the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg May 3, 4 5 in Segerstrom Hall.  

Curiously enough, no one knows precisely how the pointe shoe came into being. What is known is that, on March 12, 1832, the pointe shoe transformed ballet when Marie Taglioni, dancing the Sylph in La Sylphide, rose to her toes and floated across the Paris Opera’s stage, enchanting an audience that had never seen such a wondrous, exquisite and mystical creature. 

Until that night, ballet was dominated by men, whose good fortune it was to dance in tunics and tights that freed them to leap and swirl, while women were encumbered by massive headdresses and skirts, corsets and shoes with heels. 

This changed in the early 19th century when the public’s preoccupation with the supernatural permeated ballet and led, in turn, to its Romantic era. The great Romantic ballets – La Sylphide, Giselle and Ondine – told of mortal men who fall tragically in love with gossamer, supernal females. 

LAC  (after Swan Lake) by Jean-Christophe Maillot
© Angela Sterling
To portray such delicate beings the pointe shoe was essential, for it allowed a ballerina to move in ways that endowed her with an otherworldly aspect and transformed her into an extraordinary amalgam of woman and goddess, sprite and spirit. Such a dainty creature required feather light attire, so heavy, floor-length costumes were abandoned in favor of skirts contrived from graceful layers of tulle that fell just to the calf, thus revealing, and highlighting, the arching beauty of dancing feet. 

Taglioni, all air and light, made an art of this new way of dancing; she took what could have seemed no more than a trick, and made it a style. As a result, the cult of the ballerina was born; ballerinas became ballet’s dominant force and were worshipped. Taglioni’s own followers were so fanatic that they ritually boiled her pointe shoes, cut them up, and ate them! 

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Celebrate Jazz Around the World

Wynton Marsalis
Tuesday, April 30 is International Jazz Day, designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This international art form is recognized for promoting peace, dialogue among cultures, diversity, respect for human rights and human dignity, eradicating discrimination, promoting freedom of expression, fostering gender equality and reinforcing the role of youth for social change. Jazz artists will perform and workshops will be held to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe. 

International Jazz Day is chaired and led by Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General, and celebrated jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, who serves as a UNESCO Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. 

For more information about International Jazz Day or to watch live streaming of concerts, visit www.jazzday.com

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club® © Alejandro Perez
Don’t miss the Center’s 2013 – 2014 Jazz Season: 

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club® featuring Omara Portuondo, Eliades Ochoa, Guajiro Mirabal & Barbarito Torres with special guest Roberto Fonseca 
September 17, 2013 

ACS: Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington and Esperanza Spalding
October 25 & 26, 2013 

McCoy Tyner and Joe Lovano 
December 13 & 14, 2013 

Dr. Lonnie Smith 
February 21 & 22, 2014 

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 
March 14, 2014 

Fred Hersch Trio 
May 2 & 3, 2014

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Friday, April 5, 2013

85 Birthday Wishes for Barbara Cook

Send your personalized birthday wish to Broadway legend Barbara Cook! 

Segerstrom Center is creating a large Happy Birthday card that will be presented to Ms. Cook during her performance on April 13 in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. The first 85 wishes will be included on this special keepsake. 

To enter your message, please visit SCFTA.org/Happy85th. The deadline for submission is April 11 at noon. Be sure to check back after April 13 to see Ms. Cook and her card. 

For more details about the Barbara Cook’s 85th Birthday Concert and to purchase tickets, please visit SCFTA.org

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Billy Elliot: More Than Ballet

Billy Elliot The Musical is the story of a young boy who aspires to a career in ballet, but people are often surprised that the show also encompasses tap, hip hop, jazz, acrobatics and folk dancing. Even walking becomes a form of expression. 

The diversity was very deliberate. Said choreographer Peter Darling, “I didn’t want to convey the notion that only one form of movement is of value. I wanted to use as many different forms of movement as possible. We’re celebrating dance; dance is worthy of celebration and all forms of dance can tell a narrative.” 

Darling infused the ballet choreography with contemporary movement, steps that would contradict traditional classical dance. When Billy auditions for The Royal Ballet in the number “Electricity,” the ballet he performs includes street dance, hip hop and acrobatics. “The idea is that The Royal Ballet is looking for young dancers with potential, who are phenomenal movers,” says Darling. “And Billy shows that he’s a phenomenal mover who can also turn three pirouettes. Ballet can be one of the most thrilling things you’ll ever see, because of the amount of training, technique, and strength required to do it. The training enables the body to do things that are phenomenally difficult. You’re able to travel through the air. It’s got a great freedom to it.” 

To learn more about Billy Elliot The Musical, please visit SCFTA.org

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