Monday , August 21 2017
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Letter from Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Director Kevin Irving

Welcome to the opening production of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s 27th season: Giants. Beyond a thrilling evening of moving arts, think of this program of dance manifestos

kiTwo actual giants from the world of ballet, George Balanchine and William Forsythe, are represented here with iconic works that characterize each master choreographer’s unique approach to the art form: Balanchine’s Serenade and Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. These ballets have been danced by the most prestigious ballet companies the world over. The program closes with an excit- ing world premiere from Nicolo Fonte, an internationally renowned dance maker and now OBT’s resident choreographer. Back in the 90’s, OBT often referred to itself as “Your Local World-Class Dance Company”— that moniker has never been more true than now!

Serenade has come to define American ballet in the 20th Century, its lyrical romanticism and its evocation of the Balanchinian ‘ballet is woman’ ethos is perfectly in sync with the lush emotions of the score by Tchaikovsky. The opening tableau is guaranteed to make your heart skip a beat—and the entire work is a time capsule of a breakthrough moment in art, when a Georgian/Russian émigré came to the new world and forged an approach to ballet that, while rooted in the traditions of Imperial Russia, capitalized on the bold and expansive style of American dancers.

The reverberations of William Forsythe’s 1987 work In The Middle, Somewhat

Elevated—created on the Paris Opera Ballet—are still being felt today. Whereas Balanchine stripped away the elaborate sets and costumes that had come to dominate ballet, Mr. Forsythe went even further and stripped away the artifice that dancers were embodying anything other than themselves—individuals with amazing physiques, technique, and panache. The exhibition and even celebration of the power of the dancer (until then the antithesis of the classical ballet esthetic) has never been more thrilling to behold. From the shock of the very first moment to the closing crash of Thom Willems’ driv- ing electronic score—this work pushes dancers and public alike to reconsider the boundaries of ballet. What a tremendous honor for OBT to present this work for the first time ever in Portland!

OBT Resident Choreographer Nicolo Fonte is well-known to Portland audiences through works like Bolero, Never Stop Falling (in Love), and last season’s Beautiful Decay. His work consistently aims to bridge the gap between an aesthetic that emphasizes the poetry of ballet and one that emphasizes the physical prowess of the dancer. His creation for this program, Giants Before Us, takes this to a new level, as he draws on the technically virtuosic music of Franz Liszt to compose a theatrical work that is equal parts brains and brawn. A counterpart (and counterpoint) to both the feminine grace of Balanchine’s Serenade and the id-driven athleticism of Forsythe’s Middle, Fonte’s work brings us into a world of men, perhaps reminiscent of Walt Whitman, where camaraderie and curiosity drive a physical expression in the language of ballet. Celebrated Pacific Northwest pianist Hunter Noack, hovering above the stage, injects just the right note of reality into this touching closing ballet, made right here in Portland, Oregon.

This program you are experiencing is dedicated to a giant in our organization, OBT’s Director of Education Outreach, Kasandra Gruener, who is celebrating her 25th anniversary with the company this season. We are so grateful to have an artist and individual of Kasandra’s talents helping us to share the art form that we so love in our community—it’s estimated that over the past 25 years Kasandra has danced with over 25,000 school-age children! Her dedication to ballet and to education is exemplary and we celebrate her milestone with OBT at the same time we push her to keep spreading the word that dance is fun, dance is awesome, dance facilitates both linear and non-linear thinking, and that dance is an important ingredient in a well-lived life.

We hope you enjoy this program and we look forward to sharing more of Portland’s own world-class ballet with you over the coming season!


Kevin Irving
Artistic Director
Oregon Ballet Theatre

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