Brooklyn Ballet Auditions Dancers for 2011-12 Performance Season
Brooklyn Ballet recently held auditions for our 10th Anniversary Season performances. We were looking for both male and female dancers with a range of technical ability - dancers who would feel comfortable not only in classic ballet roles but in collaborations with hip hop artists and movement in the Isadora Duncan style.
The 10th Anniversary Season will include a study of Isadora Duncan's influence on the structure and content of ballet, and Brooklyn Ballet is searching for the dancer who can embody Isadora Duncan's flowing style as well as turn heads while en pointe.
Thanks to all of the dancers who auditioned. We couldn't have asked for a more talented group of technicians and performers, and we can't wait to introduce you to this year's newest company members!
Check out more photos from auditions on our Facebook page.
Brooklyn Ballet Costume Designer Patricia Forelle Nominated For Bessie Award in NYC
Brooklyn Ballet is celebrating its 10th anniversary season this year, and we’re kicking off the season with an illuminating and entertaining lecture on ballet costume design by Patricia Forelle. Dressing For The Dance,the costume design lecture event, takes place Wednesday, October 19 at 7pm in the Actors Fund Arts Center, 160 Schermerhorn, Brooklyn NY 11201.
Brooklyn Ballet is also using this event to build support for its Costume Fund:
“For our 10th birthday, we aim to raise $10,000 for costume design for Brooklyn Ballet's 2012 Season, $10,000 for scholarships for Brooklyn's talented children and and $10,000 for community outreach to inspire Brooklyn's neediest communities with ballet. It's all about multiples of 10! 10 free performances, 10 outreach events in Brooklyn public schools, 10 new scholarship students and much more.” Founding Board Member, Geri Armine-Klein.
Patricia Forelle is a longtime collaborator of Brooklyn Ballet. In fact, Artistic Director Lynn Parkerson met her at the start of Brooklyn Ballet in 2001 and asked the New York City costume designer to design for Mystery Sonatas in 2005. Last season, Patricia was behind the costume design of the Baroque-inspired ballet costumes in Lynn’s La Folia.
Costume Design for La Folia
For La Folia, Patricia’s intention was not to reconstruct period ballet costume designs but to convey the elegance of dress and sense of magnificence and opulence of the court during the 1700s. The costume design appears in sharp contrast to the unadorned modern professional dancer of today. It is for this work that the costume designer is nominated for a Bessie Award this year.
Patricia’s Dressing For The Dance lecture evening will focus on the role of costume design within the political, social and economic life of France from Louis XIV to Louis XVI. She will share her knowledge of the subject as well as visuals of her own costume designs.
Please join us for a toast to Brooklyn Ballet’s first 10 years. We can’t think of a better way to start the season!
From Baroque to Hip Hop: First home season a success
Ballet’s fate has recently become an issue of popular debate thanks to Jennifer Homans’ Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet (November 2010). The author’s bold assertion that ballet is dying is a call to arms for choreographers like Lynn Parkerson, who has been ready and willing to answer for years. In line with this current preoccupation with ballet history and Homans' dire diagnosis, Lynn offered a curatorial nod to ballet’s past conditions and current vivacity in March.
Brooklyn Ballet celebrated its first home season, From Baroque to Hip Hop, with a timeline of dances ranging from 1700 to today, commemorating ballet’s roots and defining moments as well as showcasing possible modes of progression. (Homans was the guest of honor at the opening gala performance, signing books and conversing with audience members.)
Roslyn Sulcas of The New York Times applauded Lynn's programming, drawing attention to its “notable reconstruction of 18th-century and 19th-century dances.” A performance of Lynn and Thomas Baird’s “La Folia,” which sets Baroque style dance by Raoul Feuillet beside contemporary ballet by Lynn, highlighted the roots of balletic language and playfully demonstrated the stark differences between today’s movement and its ancestral derivation.
Collaborating artists and dance scholars, Claudia Jeschke and Robert Atwood presented “The Justamant Suite,” three short but intricate works choreographed by Henri Justamant, a French ballet master heretofore unknown among historians, whose work was uncovered at the Theatersammlung in Cologne, the Bibliotheque Opera de Paris and the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library. Before Brooklyn Ballet’s performance last month, these works had not been presented in 150 years.
Thanks to the George Balanchine Trust, Brooklyn Ballet was also able to include Balanchine’s “The Four Temperaments (Themes I-III)” in the season's concerts. This seminal 1946 work encouraged audiences to note the significant role Balanchine played in shaping contemporary performance.
Last, and most current, Lynn presented the world premiere of “Close to You,” which was shown as a work-in-progress at last spring’s First Look series at The Schermerhorn. The intertwining of street dance and ballet contemporizes the genre and validates its position in the present landscape of contemporary art, with its penchant for defying classification by entertaining diverse influences.
First Look Sparks Creativity, Discussion and More
This year Brooklyn Ballet Company rehearsed in the new studio in Downtown Brooklyn, unveiled the new performance space at The Schermerhorn and premiered four sections of a work-in-progress. Talk about progress and productivity!
After a nearly two-year-long hiatus, Lynn recruited dancers and returned to the studio to continue her exploration of ballet's relationship to other dance forms, artistic mediums and broader cultural questions. Building off of a duet between Kerry Shea and Mike “Supreme” Fields, she expanded her cast and extended the work by observing improvisational exercises and playing with classical pas de deux.
Close to You was shown as a work-in-progress during the First Look performance series in the new multi-purpose performance space at The Schermerhorn in May 2010. Lynn presented and pondered during three Saturday evening concerts. The dance is set to music by Burt Bacharach, Bjork, The Kinks, Tsutchie and Kunst Oder Unfall (Art or Accident).
In one section, street dancers and ballerinas stand back to back, sharing and reacting to their partners’ weight and shifts in position. Another section sets classical pas de deux to “All Day and All of the Night” by The Kinks.
“I heard it on the radio one morning before rehearsal and there was something about connecting pas de deux work and this misogynistic rock era that struck me, and I love the song” Lynn said. “I was creating these neoclassical duets, and I wanted to inject energy into the pas de deux work because it's very controlled. When I see contemporary ballet and there’s all this manipulation of the woman’s body—it doesn’t work for me, it seems dead. But it worked if I had this music going. It made sense to me. Something about the song can push you to the extremes in a way that's exciting and energetic. I think I’ll call this section Mutual Consent.”
Like many of her other projects, Lynn used performance as part of the process, learning more about the character, tone and meaning of the dance during its debut.
“Certain ideas would emerge in the performance and since we would have one or two rehearsals in between shows, I would make a change,” she said. “I added little motifs to connect the pieces, and I thought about starting with the last section and doing it in reverse. I didn’t get any definitive answers by the last performance except that I’m not sure it has to fit together so neatly. Maybe it's kind of a collage of experiments.”
Opening the new performance space at The Schermerhorn was also a learning process. Lynn was grateful to have feedback from her audience after each show, not just about the choreography but about how it affects viewers differently in a more intimate setting. Many of First Look’s audience members enjoyed hearing the dancers' breath and seeing the effort behind the activity on stage.
With a permanent rehearsal studio and an eagerness to focus more intensely on choreography, Lynn is thrilled to fully revive Brooklyn Ballet Company. She'll continue to extend and shape Close to You, and a new piece will soon be in the works for Carnegie Hall's 120th Anniversary Festival at LIU Kumble Theater in 2012.
“The festival’s theme is the gilded and silver ages between 1891 and 1917, starting the year Carnegie was built and putting it into the context of today,” Lynn said. “Back then you had Isadora Duncan and the Nutcracker… I want to bring something to this performance that bridges then and now, provides historical information and somehow makes connections that maybe haven’t been made in the performance arena.
“Again, it’s about making connections. I don’t want to use the word ‘educate’ – it sounds dull in the theatrical context. I believe performance should be transcendent. Having a historical theme narrows your focus a bit and lets you explore very particular things. Not only do I want to make these connections for my audience, but I want my dancers to experience something they haven’t yet. I want to give them the tools to expand their own expressiveness and performing abilities.
“It’s about bridging, synthesizing, mothering and transcending.”
Stay tuned for more on the Company’s work with Lynn.
Kerry Shea: She's never danced like this before
Kerry Shea was sitting in a deli during Brooklyn Ballet’s auditions. A friend who was auditioning gave her a call and told her to hurry down to the borough to tryout for the Company – “You’d love it!” the friend declared.
And love it she does. Grateful she ditched her sandwich and booked it to Brooklyn, Kerry doesn’t think she’d have the opportunity to do the kind of dancing she experiences with Lynn in any other company.
Lynn’s latest duet features Kerry and pop and lock artist Mike Fields. It’s a challenging but exhilarating blend of ballet and street dance – and excavation of connections between the two distinct genres of movement.
Kerry comes from a strict technical background so it’s no wonder she’s enthusiastic about the freedom she finds in rehearsals with Lynn. She grew up in Rochester, NY, studying with the Rochester City Ballet while in high school. Upon graduation, she attended the University of Utah on scholarship and developed a professional relationship with the director of Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet. After spending some time dancing in Aspen after college, Kerry relocated to work with the Sacramento Ballet, and finally, journeyed to New York City to find more to add to her already impressive resume.
She never imagined she’d be improvising and working alongside pop and lock artists. This current project has provided more chances for choice and inventiveness than previous works in her personal repertory.
“A lot of times in ballet, everything is very exact,” Kerry says. “The counts have to be right on and the arms and positions have to be just so. You have to train your body and mind to work like that. It’s really fun to explore what can happen when things aren’t exact. It gives me so much more freedom. I’m really enjoying the process because of that.”
But with freedom comes responsibility –
“For me, at first, this was kind of scary,” she says. “I would think: ‘Is this dumb? What am I doing?’ and I was self-conscious. Then I realized that even accidents can turn into something usable. There’s nothing that is wrong. Lynn has a general idea but within that who knows what will occur with the arms, the musicality, etc.”
Despite her initial timidity in the rehearsal studio, Kerry has demonstrated ample courage performing the work-in-progress in a variety of stages of completion at several public events. Kerry and Mike performed for a small group of performers and improvisers at a Mixed Movement at The Schermerhorn and for a multitude of community leaders, including Mayor Bloomberg, at the Brooklyn State of the Borough address at Park Slope Armory.
“What’s cool about this piece is that it appeals to so many different audiences,” she says. “It doesn’t belong in just one spot.”
Musings from Munich
Mid-February, Lynn chanced upon another stepping stone in her latest choreographic exploration with collaborators Kalle and August Laar. During a week-long trip to Munich, Lynn introduced her international audience to her improvisatory discoveries from last September’s Mixed Movement as well as her working duet featuring pop and locker Mike Fields and ballet dancer Kerry Shea.
Joining Kalle and Augusta in their regular electronic poetry lounge performance at Schwere Reiter, Kunst Oder Unfall Salon, Lynn found new layers and myriad possibilities for her recent movement investigations. Lynn participated in a 50 minute improvisational performance, gathering ideas from Kalle and Augusta’s sound experiments and the group’s use of visual accompaniment.
Performers grab what they want from a storage room full of lights and sound equipment. Kalle, Augusta and Lynn set up in a small room with wallpaper purposely peeling from the walls in an aesthetically pleasing grunge-like fashion. The floor is a white Marley. Lynn marks it with black gaffer’s tape, creating dashed Baroque patterns – curves intersecting straight lines and forming pathways on the ground. Two spot lights flood the space with light. A drummer accompanies Kalle and Augusta as they playfully and skillfully tinker with various sound devices. Lynn adds to the improvisational template she created at the Mixed Movement event in Brooklyn – a long flowing skirt sways with undulating hips and her hands frantically mimic intricate sports signals. A video of a softly bobbing buoy plays on the wall then a loop of Mike popping alongside Kerry’s bourrees.
The environment is cluttered and uncoordinated yet Lynn and her partners in the creative process continue to locate ideas that, though they would presumably clash, mesh together in unexpected ways. The football signals and a drum solo look cohesive and crisp. The sound clutter created by Kalle and Augusta suit the visual clutter of the space. Lynn’s movement alongside Augusta’s solo reading of original poetry could become an intimate duet.
It’s still early in the process. There’s no reason to rush this project to completion. The sense of the whole won’t come until the group has worked together more extensively, and there’s not a set schedule of rehearsals or performances. The plan for now is to try something new each time while developing the ideas that have emerged so far.
And it seems that things are developing most readily when all the creators are present.
“You just have to do it,” Lynn says. “You just have to keep going. The connections that are perhaps intrinsically there are starting to become uncovered. They only happen when we put ourselves in that situation – of being under the gun, under the lights.”
Blending the Formal with the Spontaneous
Lynn discusses her experience working with a pop and lock dancer and a ballerina in the same studio:
“Mike’s used to freestyle and Kerry’s used to being told what to do. She is exploring taking liberties with timing and whether or not she should do something. I want her to go further and further into that area. I think Kerry’s curious about other ways of being on stage. A lot of ballet dancers aren’t given enough of an opportunity to explore. There are psychological confrontations in the rehearsal process, nihilistic exploration, violent, hyper-mobile body contortion choreography — that’s something that’s almost wanted by ballet dancers, because freedom is a more challenging element.”
Still, the dance contains elements that Kerry and Lynn are familiar with seeing in ballet.
“Kerry’s the one controlling the structure. In that way it’s very traditional. I count on her to keep the form, but I count on Mike to really be present in the moment. In that way, he is learning a new way of choreography. And I really enjoy working with him, because on some level, he is as much the choreographer as I am.”
Lynn counts on both the dancers to feel through the material and be comfortable enough to suggest alterations, additions and omissions. She’s been playing with Kerry’s movement, crafting variations – now she wonders if she could do the same with Mike, a performer less likely to construct variations on themes or motifs in his material.
“I want to learn and create some variations of Mike’s stuff – it would be very inorganic for him. There is a whole direction of hip hop that is very choreographic and in unison, but that hasn’t been our focus. Sometimes I want to be able to grab a hold of the material and play with it myself. It just never seemed appropriate – what Mike does on his own seems better than what I can come up with at this point…”
Lynn’s crafted dances using different disciplines before, but never has it been so intimate a pairing.
“As I’ve approached street dancing and ballet and modern dance coming together, I’ve worked with a lot of people in the space. Not so in this piece. This is super intimate. There’s this weird, awkward intimacy about this dance. They aren’t just coexisting in the space, there’s a new element of exploration. There are two people here, as opposed to a more abstract connection among a larger group.”
Stay tuned to Brooklyn Ballet’s blog to meet Kerry and Mike and see what they’re gaining from this process and the obstacles they’ve encountered so far.
You Can't Hurry Love. Or Dance.
Lynn’s latest choreographic journey involves multiple dance disciplines and techniques for generating movement. Kalle Laar, her friend and co-conspirator in creating art, expresses his thoughts on how they started working on their current project:
“We bring together the different skills that we have — dance, poetry, music, sound art — and see what comes out of it. We decided to collaborate without necessarily having an idea for the piece. We just know we like to work together. At first, that’s enough, and we work without any clear direction. Direction evolves very quickly and we come to a few points of interest. Lynn’s interest in Baroque music, for example. The idea of game came up through sign language and thinking of signs used in sports – then we’re connecting this type of popularity with our project… These become reference points.”
Kalle is interested in the juxtaposition of old and new. He finds Lynn’s work with the duet engaging because of its seemingly inherent quest for the qualities shared between its multiple disciplines.
“What I liked from the very beginning was the idea of the very traditional represented by Baroque music or dancing en pointe with the very new. I like this clash — not trying to clash these things but instead seeing what the common ground can be. Maybe we can come up with the common ground.”
Because Kalle works and lives in Munich and Lynn is making strides on the project here in Brooklyn, the collaborative process will be lengthy and happen in parts.
“We don’t want to do just another piece in the usual way — make it and then it’s finished. We decided to conceive it as a process where we’re creating content in a year or longer; sending bits and pieces back and forth, whenever we can we get together.”
Kalle visited Brooklyn to attend the Mixed Movement session hosted at Brooklyn Ballet in mid-December and Lynn will be in Munich in mid-February. She wants to find a way to bring the duet with her to Germany, either by incorporating it in a performance by projection or some other type of showing. She plans to showcase her work in “Raw Barre,” Brooklyn Ballet’s first home season series of performances in April, but she’s not set on that showing being the project’s final phase. She suggests that this duet may grow in stages, referencing the late Merce Cunningham’s inclination to number things – Event 1, Event 2, etc. April’s performance may be World Premiere, Phase 1, indicating that it exists in time and place without it needing to be more than that.
Kalle agrees with this approach for this particular work. Lynn’s improvised solo at last September’s Mixed Movement was a complete dance on its own. The last few showings of the progressing duet were also complete in their own way.
“I have nothing against a finished product at the end,” Kalle says.
But this collaborative team doesn’t want to rush to a result and miss out on the magic of the process itself.
Inspiration in Improvisation
Last September, Lynn Parkerson attended a Mixed Movement event at St. Mark’s Church at the suggestion of some of her dancers. Swept away with the spirit of the evening’s dancing, Lynn found herself performing an improvised solo. Check it out here:
Inspired by the gestural movement and multiple dance genres that arose in her improvisation, Lynn and long-time collaborator Kalle Laar decided to join forces again to create a new dance. Kalle produces art in many mediums but primarily focuses on sound installations created by his husband and wife team “Art or Accident” based out of Munich, Germany.
Lynn and Kalle have collaborated on projects before — one piece they conceived together was titled “Nervous,” based on an epic poem written by a mutual friend Jeffrey Gustavson. The work featured three ballet dancers and a couple practicing contact improvisation while Gustavson sat in the middle of the stage. This work fed Kalle and Lynn's fascination with finding connections between different movement styles.
Lynn, in particular, is moved to create based on her discovery of these kinds of connections. She has been working with street dancers since 2005, investigating how the improvisatory practice of breakdance, pop and lock and other street styles can coincide with the more structured format of ballet. Her current work features popper Michael Fields and ballet dancer Kerry Shea. One of the discrepancies she’s found in choreographing using multiple mediums is the way in which her dancers generate movement.
Lynn has grown comfortable in the roles of director, teacher and choreographer, but recently rediscovered the virtues of performing. Finding it easy to slip back into the spotlight in the impulsive atmosphere of September's Mixed Movement, she remembered that the performance space can act as a location for creation.
The rehearsal studio is more foreign to the street performer than it is the ballerina, so to work with both types of artists, Lynn finds herself working against the norm to generate a work in a way that suits (and challenges!) each of her dancers' needs. Molding this duet both in rehearsals in the studio at Schermerhorn House, and more spontaneously, within public performance, Lynn is facing new obstacles and greeting new revelations with this project.
The choreography generated thus far was well-received at multiple showings last fall and continues to develop rapidly with the introduction of new ideas in music and sound-scores, cross-discipline dancing, performance quality and more.
So the performance space is becoming the place where the composition cements itself. A lot of detail gets sorted out in that tension involved in being in front of an audience. With only landmarks, not finished products, the dancers can let the audience in and let the moment lead to their next choices.
Tag along with Lynn, Kalle, Mike and Kerry as the work progresses from improvised solo to … well, who knows? Keep up with us at the Brooklyn Ballet blog!