This coming weekend, the Virginia Ballet Theater (VBT) will be presenting their Annual Winter Concert at ODU’s University Theater.
This performance has not one but two world premieres, as well as a celebrated classic. VBT’s Artistic Director, Ricardo Milendez, gave me some insight into the show, along with some sneak peeks.
Dragonfly Jones, a world premiere by guest choreographer Matthew Frain, will open the evening. Set to the music of The Spanish Donkey, Matthew’s contemporary ballet piece intertwines sculptural movements with the explorative sounds of the music’s guitar, percussion, and keyboard.
“Matthew Frain is a great dancer who has for the last few years taken great strides to develop his choreographic style,” Ricardo told me. “His extensive resume has afforded him exposure to many dance styles and choreographers and he is venturing towards the next step of his career. VBT is interested in developing the artists of the generation not only as dancers but as choreographers. I was searching for a contemporary young voice that could transcend styles, and a choreographer whose voice was relevant to his generation. I found it in Matthew Frain.”
The next piece in the program is a world premiere by Ricardo Milendez himself, La Casa. Inspired by the play, The House of Bernarda Alba, by Federico Garcia Lorca written in 1936, La Casa uses contemporary ballet movement and the music of the Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera to traverse themes of repression, desire, and freedom. Six dancers make up the cast: the mother, four daughters, and the man.
The music is “somber, intense, as well as dramatic and with a sense of longing,” Ricardo said. “We added set pieces that work as the windows to the house [and also] symbolize the sense of imprisonment that the characters are subject to. The result is a very eclectic contemporary ballet piece with influences of Spanish dramatic narrative involved in the somber feeling of a story of restraint and desire.”
The concert will end on a classic note, with the presentation of Les Sylphides. Choreographed by Michel Fokine to music by Frédéric Chopin, the official premiere of Les Sylphides took place in Paris in 1909, performed by the Ballets Russes. The premiere soloists included one of ballet’s most renowned ballerinas, Anna Pavlova. Though this one-act ballet does not have a true storyline, it is a romantic scene of a poet dancing with sylphs in the moonlight. The corps de ballet and soloists are on stage together for the majority of the ballet, both showcasing the essence of classical ballet.
The program’s variety is intentional; the pieces differ in style and tone and all present a different perspective. Ricardo explained that the variety is meant to “celebrate not only the beauty and romantic overtones of the classics, but also the mood and aesthetics of the current generation. I believe that in order for art to remain relevant it must connect with the immediate audience and in doing so, leave traces of our current humanity for history to judge.”
“This Concert as a whole combines the ambiguity of the symbolist art movement with surrealist undertones, and romantic nostalgia,” he continued. “Each piece might seem detached from the others, yet unified in the effort to offer an experience that echoes our present state: A collective, proud of its history, hunted by its present, and weary of its future. This performance will delight, enthrall, and spark an exchange of ideas. We hope that our audience will revel in our dancers’ strengths and marvel in the beauty and power of dance.”
The performances will take place on Friday, February 9th and Saturday, February 10th at 8pm, Sunday, February 11th at 2pm. ODU University Theater, 5115 Hampton Blvd, Norfolk, VA 23529. Click here for tickets.