Tag Archives: 2012

Unraveling Jerome Robbins’s ‘Interplay’

With Interplay/Jerome Robbins Week winding down over at the Ballet San Jose Facebook page, I sat down to write this blog post with only a vague idea in mind. I had spoken to Ballet San Jose Artistic Consultant Wes Chapman a couple of weeks ago about Interplay. Armed with a few insightful quotes from Wes and a vague, surface-level idea of the life and times of Jerome Robbins, I put my fingers to the keyboard and wondered if this blog post would be at all interesting to fans of Ballet San Jose.

After all, Interplay holds a different weight and importance for our company than Graduation Ball does (see: recent blog posts by BSJS Ballet Mistress Dalia Rawson and Ballet San Jose Principal Ballet Master Raymond Rodriguez). Interplay is a company premiere, not a revival. Whereas a few of our dancers and staff have experienced Graduation Ball once before, everyone has had to approach Interplay with totally fresh eyes. I write from the point of view of the Marketing staff — a couple of floors away from the dancers — but I can at least imagine how simultaneously paralyzing and exciting that might be for any artist.

Sometimes it is helpful to take a look at the history of a new piece. I can think of no better candidate for this blog post than Interplay, especially given Jerome Robbins’s fame and the overwhelming popularity of West Side Story even now, over 50 years after its initial film release to a mainstream audience in 1961.

Robbins initially choreographed Interplay for Billy Rose’s Concert Varieties, and the piece premiered June 1, 1945, at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. The American Ballet Theatre premiere took place at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on October 17, 1945, while the New York City Ballet premiere came 7 years later on December 23, 1952. Like all of Jerome Robbins’s works, Interplay is very distinctly New York…and also distinctly American. (The piece is set to composer Morton Gould’s “American Concertette.”)

For the reasons mentioned above, it’s little wonder that Interplay is considered by many in the ballet world to be an American masterpiece. Without Interplay, it is doubtful that Robbins would have brought us the 1957 Broadway production of West Side Story we know and love. And West Side Story itself is at once a celebration of America’s virtues and its problems.

When I asked Wes Chapman to contribute some introductory information, he told me that “Robbins’s most famous choreography, West Side Story, displays elements and common themes from Interplay. You might think of Interplay as a precursor to West Side Story.” Wes explained that if you looked at the pieces side by side, you’d see pretty clearly the development of Robbins’s choreography over time. The elements that are now familiar to most of us as the Sharks-vs.-Jets rivalry from West Side Story, which first premiered on Broadway in 1957, can be easily traced back to Fancy Free (1944) and Interplay (1945), ballets that Robbins had choreographed over a decade earlier.

Wes is certainly excited to have the opportunity to stage Interplay for Program 1 of Ballet San Jose’s 2012 Season (March 2-4, 2012). Since he first saw the piece performed by the Boston Ballet years ago, Wes said he has had an ongoing relationship with Interplay. As Artistic Director of ABT II, now American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company, he brought Interplay into the ABT II repertory.

Wes emphasized that Interplay is a “good representation of Robbins’s work. It’s a show that the audience always seems to enjoy very much. It’s set on a playground, so the costumes are fun as well — the girls wear ponytails and lots of bright colors. It’s a very youthful piece.”

As contemporary ballets go, Interplay is said to be one of the best. As a representation of American youth in 1940s New York, Interplay is more than a ballet — it’s a slice of history. Today, the work remains in the American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet repertories. And now, because of our recent partnership with ABT, Ballet San Jose has the chance to put its own spin on a Jerome Robbins classic.

Erica, Social Media Coordinator


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BSJ Principal Ballet Master Raymond Rodriguez Talks ‘Graduation Ball’

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LAST FRIDAY we caught up with Ballet San Jose‘s Principal Ballet Master Raymond Rodriguez and talked to him briefly about his experience staging — and performing in — Graduation Ball.

Born in New York City and trained at the American Ballet Theatre School, Raymond joined Cleveland Ballet (now Ballet San Jose) in 1981, where he danced principal roles for many years. Most recently, Raymond served as Régisseur with Ballet San Jose until this year, when he was appointed Principal Ballet Master of the Company. When Ballet San Jose last performed David Lichine’s Graduation Ball in February 2002, Raymond appeared as The General — a role he will reprise this season! But this time, Raymond will also stage the ballet himself.

When we asked him about the difference between performing Graduation Ball and staging it, Raymond said: “When staging a ballet, I have to know every single role. At this point, I could put on a one-man show. [When I’m just] dancing, I worry about my own role, as opposed to when I’m staging a ballet, which means I have to worry about everyone!”

Sounds stressful! But Raymond said he is also extremely excited to be playing the role of The General again this year.

“As soon as I put on the wig and the fat suit, my whole personality is transformed,” he said. “When I tried on the wig for the first time the other day, my body suddenly hunched over. I started making faces. I felt like I was becoming The General.”

He added: “I think that’s the case for a lot of the dancers — once they are in costume and makeup, they really immerse themselves in their roles.”

In fact, that magical transformation is one of the things Raymond said he loves most about Graduation Ball as a ballet and as a story.

Graduation Ball is a great company piece for storytelling,” he explained. “It’s great for both children and adults because it tells a story of being a young college student at a ball. Adults can relate because it brings them back to a time when they were first dating and falling in love. It’s an amazing acting opportunity for all the dancers in the company.”

With its lighthearted storytelling, cast of quirky characters and evocation of first loves, Graduation Ball is the perfect complement to the rest of Program 1 of the 2012 Season: the iconic classical ballet Paquita and Jerome Robbins’ contemporary American masterpiece Interplay. Given that Graduation Ball is the only company revival in the 2012 Season, you can see why we were so eager to bring it back. The piece has found its niche in Ballet San Jose’s repertoire as a much beloved story ballet and comedy extravaganza.

We can’t wait to see what Raymond and the dancers make of it this year!

Ballet San Jose 

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Notes from Talia: Ballet San Jose Moves Forward

Ethan Stiefel and Ashley Tuttle featured in American Ballet Theatre’s 1998 performance of Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 (1998 WNET PBS Telecast — Great Performances: DANCE IN AMERICA)

Note: Starting today, Talia the Marketing Intern will begin contributing posts to the Ballet San Jose blog.

BALLET SAN JOSE is moving forward with leaps and bounds! Yesterday was a different kind of day at Ballet San Jose as I got to take a sneak peek at the dancers as they worked on the upcoming Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 (Program 2, April 13-15). It was quite the experience. I couldn’t believe my luck when Lee stopped by my cubicle and told me I’d be allowed to watch some rehearsal upstairs. And the Ballet San Jose dancers didn’t disappoint.

It’s true that you can never really know how good something will really be until you see the finished product. But I could already tell that these pieces from the 2012 season are going to be spectacular. It was great to be able to get a look behind the scenes of the productions, to see the dancers working hard to learn new steps for some really exciting shows.

Clark Tippet’s choreography for Bruch is so elegant, and watching Wes and David Richardson work with the dancers was a treat! David even cracked a couple of jokes that had the dancers laughing and smiling at each other. The camaraderie was obvious, and it made those ten minutes of rehearsal a real joy to watch.

The dancers look so much more regal in person, too! Their poise is astounding, and they hold themselves very elegantly–even when they are walking to get a drink of water. Next door, rehearsals for Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante (also Program 2, April 13-15) were in full swing. That’s one of the pieces I can’t wait to see on stage.

Keep up the great work, guys! We won’t see the finished Bruch until the middle of April, but I look forward to the beginning of the season in March. Can’t wait!

Peace out!

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Tales from the City: San Jose’s Arts Culture

Ballet San Jose packs up the roadboxes for another show.

Ballet San Jose packs up the road boxes for another show. Photo by Ballet San Jose.

WHEN YOU THINK of a city brimming with culture and diversity, San Jose may not be the first metropolis that comes to mind. After all, San Francisco, New York and Chicago are old cities; their places in national memory are characterized by everything from world expositions to groundbreaking political movements to entire decades in United States history.

San Jose may not be San Francisco, but we do have a culture that is unique to our area. Much like Ballet San Jose’s dancers, the people who make up San Jose’s diverse population hail from all parts of the world. It is an important piece of the Silicon Valley puzzle, a symbol of that elusive entrepreneurial spirit.

In some ways, nothing characterizes the essence of San Jose better than its local arts programs. As we look ahead to Ballet San Jose’s 2012 Season, which begins this March, these things are always on our minds. When the curtain rises, we aren’t just putting on a show for the audience — we, along with organizations such as Symphony Silicon Valley and Opera San Jose, are functioning as parts of a larger arts culture.

Talia, a marketing intern here at Ballet San Jose, said it best when she wrote about walking into our building at 40 North First Street for the first time:

Interview day. Burgundy red carpet, white worn-down walls, wall to wall pictures elegantly hung along the stairways. Though it may not seem like much, the front lobby of the Ballet San Jose building looked beautiful to me. It was full of memory. At that moment, something told me that I was going to like it here at Ballet San Jose — not because this vintage building reminded me of New York but because of the warm, historical vibe that washed over me as soon as I stepped through the door.

I snapped back to reality and pressed the button for floor number two. (If I listened carefully, I could hear the dancers upstairs, practicing their routines.) As I waited for the elevator door to open, I didn’t know exactly what would happen. I did know that my day was about to take a whole new turn.

Since starting my internship at Ballet San Jose, I have accomplished many things. Whether I am creating engaging videos that draw people to our Nutcracker, sorting through stacks of mail, or exercising my creativity to develop an archival binder of striking news-clippings, candid pictures, engaging blog posts and reviews about our Nutcracker…I feel like I am creating something, like I am participating in the Silicon Valley arts culture — like I’m really a part of San Jose.

Until next time,
Ballet San Jose

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Ballet San Jose Officially Announces 2012 Season

Ballet San Jose officially announced its 2012 season today. The season begins March 2 and will include a number of exciting new pieces:

PROGRAM ONE (March 2-4, 2012)
Paquita (Company Premiere)
Choreography: After Marius Petipa
Composers: Ludwig Minkus (original music by Edouard Deldevez)

Interplay (Company Premiere)
Choreography: Jerome Robbins
Composer: Morton Gould

Graduation Ball (Company Revival)
Choreography: David Lichine
Composer: Johann Strauss

PROGRAM TWO (April 13-15, 2012)

Allegro Brillante (Company Premiere)
Choreography: George Balanchine
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Splendid Isolation III (Company Premiere)
Choreography: Jessica Lang
Composer: Gustav Mahler

TBA (An additional work To Be Announced)

Bruch Violin Concerto (Company Premiere)
Choreography: Clark Tippet
Composer: Max Bruch

PROGRAM THREE (May 4-6, 2012)

Cinderella (Company Premiere)
Choreography: Ben Stevenson
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev

Subscriptions to the 2012 season will go on sale TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, and single ticket sales for the first program will open MONDAY, FEBRUARY 6. Visit the balletsj.org press page to read the FULL news release, which contains detailed information about our 2012 pieces. Or, you can download the PDF directly.

Once again, thank you for your continued support of Ballet San Jose and its wonderful dancers. The company is ready to move forward with the new season, and we can’t wait to bring these exciting shows to the Silicon Valley arts community!

We hope you’ll join us.

Best wishes,
Ballet San Jose

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