THE WASHINGTON BALLET PRESENTS TOUR-DE-FORCE: BALANCHINE!

March 22, 2014

Press Releases

THE WASHINGTON BALLET PRESENTS TOUR-DE-FORCE: BALANCHINE!

The Washington Ballet (TWB) continues soaring through the 2013.14 season with Tour-de-Force: Balanchine!, a gala-style mixed repertory program that features classical and contemporary ballets, with a grand finale of the company premiere of George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations. The production opens with a preview April 23 and runs April 24 through 25, 2014 at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Eisenhower Theater.

A “tour-de-force” is defined as a feat requiring unusual strength, skill or ingenuity.

Tour-de-Force: Balanchine! is a mixed repertory program showcasing all three, demonstrating technical prowess, virtuosity and the amazing talents of TWB’s company and studio company dancers. The brilliant 2014 chapter of “Tour-de-Force” is a provocative and engaging program with show-stopping classical and contemporary excerpts from ballets including Flames of Paris, D-Construction, Momentum, Opposites Distract, As Above, So Below and Diana and Actaeon.

The Washington Ballet will perform a company premiere of George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, the magnificent tribute to his alma mater, the Imperial Russian Ballet. Balanchine originally created the work for principal dancers Alicia Alonso and Igor Youskevitch at American Ballet Theatre, premiering it in November 1947 at the City Center in New York City.

Highlighting Balanchine’s neoclassical style, Theme and Variations, according to the great choreographer himself, is intended “to evoke that great period in classical dancing when Russian ballet flourished with the aid of Tchaikovsky’s music.” Even today, Theme and Variations remains one of the most technically challenging works for a ballerina.

Set to the music of Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 3, in G, the final movement of the composer’s third orchestral suite consists of 12 ballet variations. The ballet opens to reveal a corps of twelve women and a principal couple. As the ballet moves from variation to variation, the principal ballerina tactfully moves throughout the different groups, expanding on their motions.

Theme and Variations explores classic, distilled ballet training, focusing on preparatory movements that were developed to train and warm-up a dancer’s body. Abstractly taking these steps further, Balanchine produced brilliant and most challenging choreography.

Tour-de-Force: Balanchine! will feature a pair of classical pas de deux, Diana and Actaeon and Flames of Paris. These grand pas de deux were designed for outstanding ballet dancers who have the ability to display their virtuosic classical style. In both pieces, one can expect impressive leaps, effortless turns and swift footwork to set these exciting pas de deux into fluid motion. The stunning Marius Petipa is known as the father of classical ballet, and his mythical ballet Diana and Actaeon explores the fauvist hunter personality of both characters, showcasing the strength of the female and the curious and energetic spirit of the male. Both Diana and Actaeon are inquisitive, yet competitive. Set in eighteenth-century France, Flames of Paris is known as a revolutionary-era ballet, inspired by the classical style of Petipa. Although the original four-act ballet blends classical and character dancing, court music and popular songs, solo performances and enthralling group scenes, The Washington Ballet will be presenting the electric, utterly astonishing grand pas de deux. Set to music by composer Boris Asafyev and based on songs of the French Revolution, this difficult and remarkable pas de deux is sure to excite.

Tour-de-Force: Balanchine! will also feature a revival of the first ballet ever choreographed by Septime Webre, D-Construction. Celebrating his 25th anniversary as a choreographer, Webre is revisiting this production for The Washington Ballet. First premiered in 1989 for the American Repertory Ballet Company, formerly The Princeton Ballet, this will be The Washington Ballet’s premiere of D-Construction. Webre’s work is danced to an energetic score of polyphonic drums and driving piano by John Cage and examines the deconstruction of classic ballet technique. Influenced by the work of Merce Cunningham, Webre describes his work as “very athletic and abstract.” One can expect an explosive and fast-moving mix of ballet jumps and tightfisted jazzy movements danced by four men in black shorts and tank tops.

Audiences can expect to see a continued showcase of strength, athleticism and technique in Momentum, Opposites Distract, and As Above, So Below. Choreographed by former TWB Associate Director Choo San Goh, Momentum helped Goh define The Washington Ballet at its most creative. This haunting pas de deux embodies the atmosphere and crackling creativity of ballet, a hallmark of Goh’s works. Tour-de-Force: Balanchine! sees the return of Elaine Kudo’s Opposites Distract, an effervescent and sexy piece about a pair of couples temporarily distracted by the physicality and fleeting romantic encounters with other lovers. Another pas de deux choreographed by former New York City Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater soloist Edwaard Liang from the ballet As Above, So Below will feature crisp, clean construction. The grounded and organic movement of the dancers in this pas de deux helped define Liang as a musical, dramatic choreographer.

Tour-de-Force: Balanchine! will also include additional works from The Washington Ballet repertoire.

 

GEORGE BALANCHINE

(Choreographer) was born January 22, 1904, in St. Petersburg, Russia. After studying at the Imperial Ballet School, he left the Soviet Union in 1925 to join the Ballets Russes, where his choreography of Apollo (1928) exemplified the spare neoclassical style that became his trademark. His work impressed the impresario Lincoln Kirstein, who in 1933 invited Mr. Balanchine to form the School of American Ballet and its performing group, the American Ballet. The group became the Metropolitan Opera’s resident company in 1938 but disbanded in 1941. In 1946 Mr. Kirstein and Mr. Balanchine founded the Ballet Society, from which emerged the New York City Ballet in 1948. Mr. Balanchine created more than 150 works for the company, including The Nutcracker (1954), Don Quixote (1965), and Jewels (1967), and he also choreographed musicals and operas. He collaborated closely with the composer Igor Stravinsky, setting more than 30 works to his music. Mr. Balanchine’s work remains in the repertoires of many companies worldwide, and he is widely considered the greatest choreographer of the 20th century. Mr. Balanchine died April 30, 1983, in New York City.

MARIUS PETIPA

(Choreographer) known as the “father of classical ballet,” was born in Marseilles, France, in 1819 and educated at the Grand College in Brussels. He attended the conservatoire, where he first studied music. In 1834 Jean Petipa became the Maitre de Ballet at the theatre in Bordeaux where he finished his education. At the age of 16, he became premier danseur at the theatre in Nantes. As a principal dancer, Petipa often appeared alongside Fanny Elssler and was much acclaimed for his performances in such ballets as Paquita (which he restaged and in which made his debut), Giselle, La Peri, Armida, Catarina, Le Delire d’un peintre, Esmeralda, Le Corsaire and Faust. Considered an excellent dancer and partner, his acting, stage manners and pantomime were held up as examples for many generations of dancers.

When Giselle was revived in 1850, Petipa made some changes in the Wilis scenes, which became the Grand Pas des Wilis of 1884. In 1854 he became an instructor in the school, while continuing to dance and to restage ballets from the French repertoire. Many sources concur that his first great success was The Daughter of Pharoh (staged in six weeks), which resulted in his appointment as Choreographer-in-Chief in 1862, a position he held for nearly fifty years. In 1869 Petipa became Premier Ballet Master of the Imperial Theatre. The value of his accomplishments is inestimable: he produced more than sixty full-evening ballets and innumerable shorter works and he is considered to have laid the foundation for the entire school of Russian ballet. The ballet repertoire in the Soviet Union is still based mainly on his works. His noble classicism and consciousness of form was considered old-fashioned, and in 1903, at age 84, Petipa was forced to retire from the Imperial Theatre as a direct result of the failure of his ballet, The Magic Mirror. His last years were filled with bitterness and disillusionment because his beloved theatre had been taken away. He died in St. Petersburg in 1910. Marius Petipa is considered one of the greatest choreographers of all time. Petipa elevated the Russian ballet to international fame and laid the cornerstone for 20th Century ballet. His classicism integrated the purity of the French school with Italian virtuosity. (Appropriated from abt.org)

VASILI VAINONEN

(Choreographer), born in 1901, was a renowned Soviet choreographer, mainly for the Mariinsky Ballet, with which he worked from 1930 to 1938. On graduating from the Petrograd College of Choreography, he joined the Kirov Theatre of Opera and Ballet as dancer (1919-38), becoming choreographer with the Company in 1935; from 1946-50 and 1954-58, he was choreographer at the Bolshoi Theatre. In his ballet, The Flames of Paris (1932, Kirov Theatre, new version 1936; 1933, Bolshoi Theatre; revivals 1947 (for which he won the State Prize, 1947) and 1960; (1950 Budapest production), he choreographed dances from different regions of France at the time of the French Revolution, which became a means of characterizing the socio-historical milieu, the people en masse who, for the first time in the history of Russian ballet, were given a leading role on stage. The ballet reflected the influence of the staging of mass spectacles characteristic of the first post-revolutionary years, a tendency towards narrative action, in the guise of pantomime, which prepared the way for dramballet. (Appropriated from bolshoi.ru)

ELAINE KUDO

(Choreographer) was a member of American Ballet Theatre from 1975–89, and was promoted to soloist in 1981. She received training at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School, the School of American Ballet, and the American Ballet Theatre School. While at ABT she danced soloist and principal roles in a wide range of works, mostly in the contemporary repertory. She has worked with choreographers Anthony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Glen Tetley, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Eugene Loring, and Sir Kenneth MacMillan on featured roles in their ballets, and has had roles created for her by Twyla Tharp, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, Choo-San Goh, and David Gordon. In 1982 Ms. Kudo performed at the Spoleto Festival in Italy, in a group assembled to recreate the Jerome Robbins Company Ballet USA. She also toured extensively during summer seasons as a member of Baryshnikov & Co. from 1983–86, and was Mr. Baryshnikov’s partner in Sinatra Suite and Push Comes to Shove in the PBS Great Performances special Baryshnikov by Tharp. From 1987–88 she was a member of the Tharp Dance Co. for a national tour and tour of Australia and New Zealand. After her retirement from the stage in 1990, Ms. Kudo began staging the works of Twyla Tharp, both nationally and abroad. She continues to be one of the primary stagers of Tharp repertory.

EDWAARD LIANG

(Choreographer) was born in Taipei, Taiwan and was raised in Marin County, California. He began his dance training at the age of five at Marin Ballet. In 1989, Mr. Liang entered the School of American Ballet. He joined New York City Ballet in the spring of 1993, and that same year, was a medal  winner at the Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition and the Mae L. Wien Award. He was promoted to Soloist in 1998. In 2001, Liang joined the Tony Award winning Broadway cast of Fosse, performing a leading principle role. In 2002, he was invited by Jiří Kylián to become a member of the acclaimed Nederlands Dans Theater. Dancing with NDT is where he discovered his passion and love for choreography. After returning from The Netherlands, he danced with the New York City Ballet from 2004-07. Liang started his choreographic career with the Nederlands Dans Theater 1 workshop.

Some of the recent companies that have performed his works include Mariinsky Ballet, New York City Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, Shanghai Ballet, The Washington Ballet, Hubbard Street 2, Singapore Dance Theatre, Dortmund Ballet and National Theatre in Beijing. In 2006, Edwaard was named one of the “Top 25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine for choreography. He was the winner of the 2006 National Choreographic Competition, and invited to be a part of the 2007 National Choreographers Initiative. Liang currently serves as Artistic Director at Balletmet in Columbus, Ohio.

CHOO-SAN GOH (Choreographer) was born in 1948. In 1970 Goh travelled to Europe and was offered a place with the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam after first dancing in Lausanne, Switzerland and with the Scarpino Ballet in Amsterdam. Goh joined as a member of the corps de ballet and was eventually elevated to soloist with the company during his five years with the company. While still a dancer with the company, Goh created his first small ballets in a workshop environment. These ballets brought him to the attention of Mary Day, director of The Washington School of Ballet in Washington, DC. Believing in his talent, she offered him a position with her newly founded The Washington Ballet in 1976. Over the course of the next few years his work became increasingly sophisticated and definitive works like Fives (1978), using Ernest Bloch’s Concerto Grosso began to emerge. Many noted that his work was filled with a usage of classical ballet vocabulary that seemed influenced by his Asian heritage. His vision was more “symphonic” in that he utilized numerous soloist dancers in a ballet rather than the traditional principal dancer/corps de ballet arrangement typical in classical choreography. For the Houston Ballet he created two new works (1979 & 1980) and for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater he created Spectrum (1981). American Ballet Theatre commissioned Configurations to be created for Mikhail Baryshnikov soon after. His only full length work, Romeo and Juliet, to Prokofiev’s famous score, was created for the Boston Ballet in 1984. Goh maintained his work with The Washington Ballet as a primary commitment, and was given the position of associate director of the company in addition to retaining his title as resident choreographer. The city of Washington presented him with the Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1986. The Washington Ballet gained international notice due to Goh’s work, and Alan M. Kriegsman, Dance critic for The Washington Post, wrote that Goh “has propelled The Washington Ballet to international status on the jetstream of his talent…” (February 21, 1985) The company conducted its first large scale overseas tour in 1984 and over the next few years performed in Europe, South America, and the Far East repeatedly, featuring programmes of Goh’s choreography. In addition to Fives, some of the most well-known works he created for the Washington Ballet include Variations Serieuses, Double Contrasts, Birds of Paradise, In the Glow of the Night, Unknown Territory and Schubert Symphony. All of these ballets went on to enjoy performances with other companies worldwide. He remained committed to The Washington Ballet and gave a substantial portion of each year to his work with them. Goh’s demanding schedule in the 1980s included ballets with Bat Dor Dance Company, the Paris Opera Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and the Royal Swedish Ballet. Singapore recognized his talent as a choreographer by presenting him with the Cultural Medallion in 1987, the country’s highest award for artistic achievement.

Tickets for Tour-de-Force: Balanchine!, priced from $25 to $125, are available at www.washingtonballet.org, www.kennedy-center.org, by calling 202.467.4600 or visiting the Kennedy Center box office. The Kennedy Center is located at 2700 F Street NW, Washington, DC.

Tour-de-Force: Balanchine! This gala-style program features excerpts from classical and contemporary ballets with a grand finale of the company premiere of Balanchine’s Theme and Variations April 23, 24 and 25. Highlighting Balanchine’s “neoclassical” style, Theme and Variations according to the great choreographer himself, is intended “to evoke that great period in classical dancing when Russian ballet flourished with the aid of Tchaikovsky’s music.” Originally choreographed in 1947 for Alicia Alonso and Igor Yousevitch, Themes and Variations remains one of the most challenging works for a ballerina.

Wednesday, April 23, 7:30PM

Thursday, April 24, 7:30PM

Friday, April 25, 7:30PM

Choreography:

Flames of Paris/Vasili Vainonen, Momentum/Choo San Goh, Opposites Distract/Elaine Kudo, D-Constuction/Septime Webre, As Above, So Below/Edwaard Liang, Diana and Actaeon/Marius Petipa, Theme and Variations/George Balanchine

Music:

Flames of Paris/Boris Asafyev, Momentum/Sergei Prokofiev, Opposites Distract/Ottmar Leibert, D-Constuction/ John Cage, As Above, So Below/Johann Sebastian Bach and Alessandro Marcello, Diana and Actaeon/Cesare Pugni, Theme and Variations/Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

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