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Program mixes ballet classics, new choreography

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published April 4, 2013 at 2:51 a.m.

Leslie Dodge (left), Sean Porter and Anna Kirkes in Mobile.

Artistic adviser Michael Bearden isn’t dancing in Ballet Arkansas’ Spring Into Motion concerts this weekend at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, but as the show’s director he takes enormous pride in its content.

The program features bits of classic ballet and world-premiere choreography.

“I’m trying to give the audience some variety,” explains Bearden, a Ballet Arkansas alumnus and a principal dancer at Ballet West in Salt Lake City. On the one hand, he’s honoring a ballet tradition that goes back a couple of centuries, and on the other hand, “it’s important to be current in the dance world.”

Bearden found two New York choreographers - Darrell Grand Moultrie and Peter Zweifel - to put together the two world premieres. Although he has never worked with them personally, he says, he got excellent recommendations from peers.

“Moultrie’s Spring” will feature seven of the nine company members - Paul Tillman, Toby Lewellen, Sean Porter, Anna Kirkes, Katchiri Tillman, Laurel Dix and Leslie Dodge - in a piece Moultrie set to music by guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela (Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero, whom PBS’ Austin City Limits describes as a “dynamic hybrid of metal, Latin and jazz”) and C.U.B.A., a six piece Cuban orchestra.

Eight company members (Lewellen, Paul and Katchiri Tillman, Dodge, Lauren McCarty Horak, Dix, Amanda Sewell and Kirkes) will dance Zweifel’s Visions From Within, set to music by baroque composers J.S. Bach and Antonio Vivaldi.

“When I began to work on Visions From Within, I was first inspired by Bach’s Prelude VII in e-flat minor,” Zweifel says in an artist’s statement for the program. “The mood of this piece is what spoke to me; it is a mood that evokes both a sense of promise and a sense of tragedy.

“Listening to it, I intuitively knew that a full ballet existed beyond the borders of that single piece of music. … This is what Visions From Within means. It is the internal inspiration and imagination that seeps out into the world in bits and pieces, waiting and hoping to be reassembled.”

Bearden also chose another contemporary work, Tomm Ruud’s Mobile, which Ruud created in 1969, and set on music from another ballet, the “Adagio” from Gayne by Aram Khachaturian. (The music is perhaps more familiar to moviegoers than ballet audiences - director Stanley Kubrick used it in a scene in his 1968 movie 2001, and Bearden says he suspects that’s how it came to the attention of Ruud, who had initially conceived the movements without music.)

The title is actually an acronym deriving from the concept that inspired it - Moving Objects Behaving In Linear Equipoise, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which described the work for three dancers “who move in slow parallelograms, literally mobiles that evolve into other mobiles” as “ fascinating, striking, exquisitely conceived.”

Porter, Kirkes and Dodge will dance the piece Friday night and Sunday afternoon; Lewellen, Horak and Sewell will take it on Saturday.

Bearden says the piece has been popular with ballet companies the world over, including just recently the Joffrey and Stuttgart ballets, which puts his company in pretty good company: “It helps to put Ballet Arkansas on the map in the greater dance community.”

The classic ballet portion of the program includes the famous pas de deux from Leon Minkus’ Don Quixote, using the original choreography by the legendary Russian Marius Petipa (Lewellen and Horak on Friday and Sunday, Paul Tillman and Sewell on Saturday) and four excerpts from Act III of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, including the “Black Swan” (Paul and Katchiri Tillman on Friday and Sunday, Lewellen and Dodge on Saturday).

The “Czardas” will feature four members of the ballet’s young company, Akiko Kyong-McClain, Misti Kirkpatrick, Rachael Schwartz and Haley Jones, as the corps de ballet.

“We’re not big enough to do all of Act III,” Bearden says. “That would be the next progress on down the road.”

The concert is also the first “act” in a new cooperative partnership with the Arkansas Rep. “It’s a big step for the company,” Bearden says. “This venue is one of the pillars of the state’s art community.”Spring Into Motion 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, 601 Main St., Little Rock.

Ballet Arkansas Professional Company performs two world-premiere works choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie and Peter Zweifel and portions of classic ballets Don Quixote and Swan Lake.

Tickets: $35, $30 (501) 378-0405

Weekend, Pages 34 on 04/04/2013

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