Eastern Connecticut and surrounding regions are in for a rare and wonderful treat. For the first time in many years, world-class ballet will come to the stage on March 11 when the Garde Arts Center and Eastern Connecticut Ballet (ECB) present Stars of American Ballet.
Lise Reardon, founder and director of ECB, has dreamed of this event for years. “We’re committed to providing enrichment opportunities for families in our community,” she says. As her organization celebrates 25 years, Lise was motivated to go forward with the idea. “The goal is to bring really top quality ballet and artists to regions where you can’t see that type of work,” she says. The historic and beautiful Garde has been home to ECB for 21 years, and what better place for an inspiring show?
So, what is Stars of American Ballet? Created and directed by New York City Ballet principal dancer Daniel Ulbricht, the dance company is composed of principal and soloist-level dancers from major American companies. Traveling to cities that rarely host ballet performances, “the group provides first-class experiences at venues that don’t have the budget or stage size to accommodate full-blown ballets,” Lise explains. This premier performance will feature American composers, choreographers, and dancers.
For the New London event, some of the cast are well-known to audiences who attend ECB’s annual Nutcracker performance: Sara Mearns and Jared Angle, both principals with the New York City Ballet. Daniel Ulbricht himself will perform, along with three dancers who are also with NYC Ballet: Teresa Reichlen, Amar Ramasar, and Lauren King.
Artistic Director Gloria Govrin’s connection with world-renowned choreographer George Balanchine, plus the school’s strong relationship with Sara Mearns were key for putting the new project en pointe. Lise smiles and says, “When I was young, the Royal Ballet would come to St. Louis and my mother would take me. I was so inspired, I would work harder in class, stand in front of my bathroom mirror and practice my extensions.” She laughs, then becomes serious again. “You know, [ballet] just takes you to a different place. I feel that part of our role as educators is to create opportunities like that for our students.”
Gloria agrees, but acknowledges that the idea comes at a very busy time. “It’s not an easy job, especially following on the heels of Nutcracker,” she says. But having the connection with the Balanchine Foundation paved the way. “I know most of the dancers, many of whom I awarded scholarships for study at the San Francisco Ballet School.”
This exciting production will feature four ballets, three of which are choreographed by Balanchine; the fourth is a marriage of ballet and modern dance by New York City Ballet Master Peter Martins.
Stars and Stripes was choreographed in 1958 to John Philip Sousa’s original music, and reminds one of parades and celebrations of Independence Day, complete with marching, baton-twirling, and a challenging pas de deux set to Liberty Bell and El Capitan.
Who Cares, another Balanchine creation, features the music of George Gershwin, composed between 1924 and 1931. According to the NYC Ballet website, the songs were “uniquely American and, more specifically, evocative of New York City.”
Tarantella is the third piece from Balanchine’s creativity. In his own words, “It is a dazzling display piece, full of speed and high spirits. So, I hope, is the dance ... .” (from Complete Stories of the Great Ballets by George Balanchine). Inspired by Italian street folk dancers and costumes, the music is from the original composition by New Orleans composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk.
Barber Violin Concerto is the final piece in the performance and is a collision of modern and classical dance. Choreographed by Peter Martins, the dance features one pair of modern dancers and one pair of classical dancers who move through the music, switching over to pair up as one modern and one classical dancer. The music is Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, opus 14.
Founded in 2008, Stars of American Ballet has given the gift of dance to communities all over the country — Aspen, Santa Fe, Napa Valley, Florida, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Hawaii, Jacob’s Pillow, New Orleans, Pittsburg, Wyoming, and Alabama. And now? New London, Connecticut.
In a recent email to Eastern Connecticut Ballet, Daniel Ulbricht said, “I am happy to present Stars of American Ballet at The Garde. It is an honor and thrill to be able to present these choreographic masterpieces ... This is a treat for anyone who has never seen these works before.”
Stars of American Ballet
March 11, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
The Garde Arts Center
325 State Street
New London, CT 06320
860-444-7373, ext. 1
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