Guest Stager: Shelley Washington

Joining us this week is Shelley Washington, here to stage In the Upper Room for Ballet San Jose’s MasterPieces program. Performed last season, Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room enjoyed standing ovations and glowing critical acclaim. Here’s what Rita Felciano of the San Jose Mercury News had to say of the performance:

In the Upper Room in an applause machine. One moment you have four women stalking and whirling in toe shoes, the next a leisurely group jogs backwards in slippers. The choreography’s demands on speed and precision partnering kept dancers on their toes and audiences at the edge of their seats. It was quite a ride.

We are again looking forward to seeing this masterpiece performed for the 2014/2015 Season and are so lucky to have the talented Ms. Washington here to set the stage. Read below to learn more about Washington’s background and many achievements, and don’t miss Ballet San Jose’s performance of In the Upper Room, on stage at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts February 20-22, 2015.

 

Shelley Washington

Shelley Washington

 

Shelley Washington studied with Twyla Tharp at Wolftrap Academy, American University, prior to being invited to join Twyla Tharp Dance Company in 1975. She had previously danced as a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company. A graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy, Ms. Washington furthered her training at the Juilliard School. In 1977 she performed in the film “Hair” and in 1985 in “singing in the Rain” on Broadway and served as Dance Captain for that Production. In 1987 she was honored with a Bessie Award for Outstanding Performance.

From 1988 to 1992 Ms. Washington joined the American Ballet Theater in Association with Twyla Tharp as a Soloist and Rehearsal Director. In 1993 she was the Rehearsal Director for Twyla Tharp’s “Cutting Up” tour starring Ms. Tharp and Mikhail Baryshnikov, Twyla Tharp and Dancers City Center Season in New York and Tharp Dances’ International Tour. Ms. Washington continues to work with Ms. Tharp as a Repetiteur, Setting, Staging and Directing Ballets for various companies including American Ballet Theater, The Boston Ballet Company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Martha Graham Dance Company, The Australian Ballet, The Birmingham Royal Ballet, Ballet Rambert, The Royal Ballet, The Dutch National, The Zurich Ballet, Ballet British Columbia, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Kansas City Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Ballet San Jose, The Royal Danish and the Royal Swedish Ballet.

In addition, Ms. Washington spent the summer of 1999 working with Trevor Nunn’s Company “The Royal National Theater” as a Movement Director and Choreographer for the play “A Darker Face of the Earth” which opened August 5th at the Cottlesloe Theater in London, England.

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Guest Stager: Philip Neal

Today Ballet San Jose is pleased to have Philip Neal in the studio working to stage Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free for our MasterPieces program, which will be performed at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts on February 20-22, 2015. Neal will work with the Company through October 15, and we are very excited to have him in the building. Read Neal’s biography below to learn more about this talented artist.

Philip Neal

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Dancer Spotlight: Nathan Chaney

Ballet San Jose sits down with our newest company member, principal dancer Nathan Chaney. This season is Nathan’s first with Ballet San Jose. In this interview, Nathan speaks about his dance background, what inspires him, his advice for aspiring professionals, and his views about dancing with Ballet San Jose.

Nathan Chaney is Ballet San Jose's newest Principal Dancer. See him perform May 9-11 in Masterworks of Movement and Theatre

Nathan Chaney is Ballet San Jose’s newest Principal Dancer. See him perform next May 9-11, 2014 in Masterworks of Movement and Theatre.

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Review Roundup: Ballet San Jose’s Neoclassical to Now

Ballet San Jose Company members Alexsandra Meijer and Joshua Seibel in Jorma Elo’s Glow-Stop. Photo by Alejandro Gomez.

Ballet San Jose Company members Alexsandra Meijer and Joshua Seibel in Jorma Elo’s Glow-Stop. Photo by Alejandro Gomez.

This past weekend, Ballet San Jose presented Neoclassical to Now, the first program of our 2014 Repertory Season, and the reviews are in! We are already starting to prepare for our quickly approaching second program, but we thought we would take a moment to reflect on the successes that just took place on the stage. Take a look at what our reviewers said about Serenade, Glow-Stop, and Minus 16, as well as our new Artistic Director José Manuel Carreño.

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Ohad Naharin, choreographer of Minus 16

Neoclassical to Now opens in one week on Friday, February 14. This program offers a wide range of styles, from Neoclassical Serenade choreographed by George Balanchine, to Jorma Elo’s contemporary Glow-Stop. Also featured in this program is the company premiere of Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16. Each work differs dramatically from the others, and Ballet San Jose’s dancers have to quickly adapt and move from one style to the next.

Transitioning into Minus 16, the dancers remove their pointe shoes and take on a very different style of dancing called Gaga. Pioneered by Ohad Naharin, Gaga is a “movement language” emphasizing sensation and pleasure in movement. This particular style of dance is very popular in Israel, especially in Tel Aviv, and it is the main style of dance taught at Batsheva Dance Company where Naharin is artistic director. Through Gaga, our dancers are learning and discovering new ways of moving, and according to Danielle Agami, assistant to the choreographer and one of the stagers for Ballet San Jose’s performance, “some of them are beginning to understand Gaga. They have to break down the habits that have been ingrained through years of classical ballet training.”

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Media Roundup: Ballet San Jose 2013 Gala

In less than two weeks, Ballet San Jose will host its 2013 Gala in celebration of new Artistic Director José Manuel Carreño and will feature guest artists from American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and more. Our excitement is growing by the day, and so are our media mentions! Take a look below to see who else is getting hyped up for our event.

To buy tickets and to find out more about this year’s Gala, visit our Gala homepage at balletsj.org/gala.html.

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Ballet San Jose at the Napa Valley Festival del Sole Dance Gala, July 19

From Ballet San Jose Music director George Daugherty:

The Dede Wilsey Dance Gala at the Napa Valley Festival del Sole is going to be an INCREDIBLE evening on July 19. Here is the official program and casting. Extraordinary dancers will wow you, the fabulous musicians of the Russian National Orchestra will fill the air with music from the orchestra pit, a long-lost Fokine ballet will come back to the stage, a collection of breathtaking pas de deux and ballets will thrill and move you, and the rolling hills of Napa at sunset in the summertime will enchant you as you hold a perfect glass of locally-produced Napa wine. What more could you want? Please join us!

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Merce Cunningham’s “Duets”: Rehearsal Process with Patricia Lent, Merce Cunningham Trust

Master Choreographer Merce Cunningham. Photo by Annie Leibovitz.

Seminal choreographer Merce Cunningham. Photo by Annie Leibovitz.

Contributed by Harriet McMeekin, Ballet San Jose corps de ballet

 

The rehearsal process we’ve experienced so far is vastly different from our normal rehearsals at Ballet San Jose: no music. Silence. Sing-song rhythms echoing in the studio. We eventually graduate to the soft beep of a stopwatch. “And begin,” then gradually “stop,” and “cue.”

“Not bad, only 15 seconds slow,” she says.

It’s a process that’s taken getting used to but has bolstered my confidence in my inner rhythm. I am better able to connect and communicate with my partner and fellow dancers without words. This is critical, as we don’t know what music we’re performing to until we get onstage.

Ms. Lent gave us a little history about the Cunningham ideology, but Wikipedia sums it up neatly:

The most famous and controversial of these [radical innovations] concerned the relationship between dance and music, which [Merce Cunningham and John Cage] concluded may occur in the same time and space, but should be created independently of one another.

Initially the Cunningham/Cage concept of separation between choreography and music seemed sacrilegious. How do you choreograph if you’re not inspired by the music? How do you dance the steps if the music doesn’t tell you what to do? Typically, the music is the primary focus of classical ballet. You might learn the steps to start, and there might not be music at first, but the ultimate goal is to dance “with” the music. The Cunningham ideology requires getting used to a different style and method of working. Holding the music in different regard. Not relegating it but respecting it as its own separate entity.

The dance happens onstage. The music happens while the dance is happening. It’s their occurrence in time that binds them together.

 

See Ballet San Jose perform “Duets,” along with works by innovative choreographers Jorma Elo and Jessica Lang, beginning this Friday, April 19, at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts downtown. Buy tickets online at www.balletsj.org, or call our Box Office at (408) 288-2800. See you at the theater!

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Neoclassical Master: Works by Sir Frederick Ashton in Ballet San Jose’s 2013 Season

Rudy Candia and Alexsandra Meijer in Sir Frederick Ashton's "Méditation from Thaïs." Photo by Robert Shomler.

Rudy Candia and Alexsandra Meijer in Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Méditation from Thaïs.” Photo by Robert Shomler.

One week from today, Ballet San Jose’s 2013 Season will continue with our mixed repertory program, Neoclassical Masters. We’re especially thrilled to be performing two incredible ballets by legendary ballet choreographer Sir Frederick AshtonLes Rendezvous, a suite of witty, light-hearted dances set in a park; and Méditation from Thaïs, a rich and poetic pas de deux set to the beautiful violin solo “Méditation” from Massenet’s opera Thaïs.

The stagers of these incredible works–former Royal Ballet soloist Hilary Cartwright (Les Rendezvous) and former RB principal Bruce Sansom (Méditation from Thaïs)–shared their thoughts about Ashton’s choreography for our Playbill, and we want to give you a sneak peek! Read on for some interesting insights to the pieces, and don’t miss seeing them performed for the first time on the CPA stage next weekend.

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Artist Spotlight: Ballet San Jose Dancer Annali Rose

Ballet San Jose dancer Annali Rose

Ballet San Jose corps member Annali Rose

After the dazzling company premiere of Don Quixote, Ballet San Jose is gearing up for an awesome mixed repertory program in March. In preparation for Program Two, we caught up with Annali Rose (one of our new corps de ballet dancers this season) to discuss her dance history with Sacramento Ballet and Trey McIntyre Project, the academic interests she pursues in her free time, and the three words that best describe her (which she answered with a little help from her friends)!

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