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STAGE

Beauty, wide awake

No longer sleeping, Orlando Ballet comes to life with new talent

Photo: Michael Cairns, License: N/A

Michael Cairns


Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre
401 W. Livingston St.
407-426-1739
orlandoballet.org

It’s all about interpretation when it comes to ballet. Each flick of a wrist, each raised chin or downward gaze – you have to read between the lines. Do the dancers leap with fury or with grace? Do they fall willingly into partners’ arms or quickly bourrée offstage? The stylized gestures are meant to evoke authentic human interaction, but perhaps all that interpretation feels like too much work; maybe the stories being told seem impenetrable; or maybe you fear being bored by the precise, predictable movements and classical music. This year, Orlando Ballet approached its programming with exactly those thoughts in mind. In fact, the entire season is designed to eliminate those preconceived notions.

Nearing his third year as Orlando Ballet’s artistic director, Robert Hill remains committed to connecting audiences to ballet on a more relevant, emotional level. While the company laments the loss of Patric Palkens (a lead in last year’s Battle of the Sexes II, Giselle and Carmen) to Cincinnati Ballet, they’re eager to feature seasoned dancers Daniel Benavides, A reum Chung and Katia Garza, and to invite former Orlando Ballet apprentice David Kiyak into the main company. Former Orlando Ballet II dancers have advanced from the second string to apprentice and main-company roles, and there are brand-new additions to the company, too: Lamin Pereira dos Santos from Brazil, Nieser Zambrana Reyes from Cuba and new apprentice Telmo Gomes Moreira from Portugal.

In addition to these new faces, Hill created a new program called the Inside Series that aims to eliminate the distance between audience and choreographer. Beginning with Inside: The Nutcracker, the company will invite the public to the Abbey for peeks at upcoming shows. They’ll explore Hill’s choreographic process – how performances evolve from classic, full-length ballets to Hill’s contemporary renditions; how his interpretive choreography translates into storylines – and attempt to narrow that persistent gap between wary audiences and ballet. It’s not just another series to add to the list, but rather a plot to advance Hill’s artistic goals.

Per usual, Orlando Ballet will stage several shorter-length, age-appropriate matinees for the Family Series, each preceded by an hour of kid-friendly activities. One new development in the Family Series: The Sleeping Beauty will be choreographed by Chiaki Yasukawa, one of last season’s stars, whose pregnancy and consequent inability to dance encouraged Hill to utilize her choreographic abilities and give himself much-needed time to further assume his role as artistic director.

Whereas many ballet companies typically hire some outside choreographers, budgetary restraints have forced Hill’s hand into each Orlando Ballet production. Yes, it’s allowed Hill to choreographically renovate the company, but it intrudes on his ability to holistically oversee the season as an artistic director traditionally does. Orlando Ballet marketing and sales manager Scottie Campbell views this as both a blessing and a curse.

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