Professional dancers in Ballet Quad Cities say they are re-energized for this weekend's program at the Capitol Theatre after spending a valuable weekend in New York City.|
Eight BQC dancers were the only ones from outside of New York to participate in this year's Ballet Builders at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Manhattan. The 20-year-old program highlights the newest work of emerging and established choreographers from across the country. BQC resident choreographer Deanna Carter was among five -- out of more than 200 choreographers who applied -- chosen to present a ballet, and the only woman.
Soaking it in
"It went really well," said Heidi Dunn, who will dance the title role in this weekend's "Carmen." "I was a little hesitant, wondering how they were going to accept a small company. They were all really happy to have us there. It was a really good experience to know we're not so different."
Ms. Dunn, 28, grew up in Rock Island and graduated from Bettendorf High School. "We're not in New York, (but) we're doing completely valid work here that is appreciated in New York as well."
"We were definitely not out of place," agreed dancerJake Lyon, 31, who is in his eighth season at BQC. "We felt we really held our own with some really powerful dancers. Even the really famous dancers are still really people, regardless of what they do on the dance floor. They still have to work hard. They were really nice. We had a great time."
Other dancers who took part in last week's classes and three weekend performances were from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Alvin Ailey. The schedule included a class with world-renowned teacher Willie Berman of the New York City Ballet.
"It definitely did help in my confidence," Ms. Dunn said. "I grew up here, and it was my first real major experience going somewhere else, to experience dance in a completely different venue.
"By seeing other dancers, being exposed to that, you just learn a lot. You can soak in what's going on in new ways."
Not like everyone else
"New York is the capital for dance," said Ms. Carter, who has choreographed around the world. " If you dance in New York, it is something. What set Ballet Quad Cities apart -- they had gorgeous, connected, fluid movement. They looked different than everybody else, more sensual movement. The dancers in Ballet Quad Cities are assorted shapes and sizes, and they looked like a cohesive group.
"I'm thrilled Ballet Quad Cities is not a cookie-cutter match of everybody else's company," she said. "That's actually what should be happening with regional ballet -- create your own identity, demonstrate the strength of what the company has to offer.
"They're going to come back, going to challenge themselves more, continue to grow, continue to improve," Ms. Carter said. "I'm sure people were quite surprised by the quality of the choreography, the quality of the dancing. It's important for the Quad-Cities region to realize they have a top-quality company."
"Dance, I wish, was as loved as much as sports. It's more difficult," she said. "It's amazing to dance because you're challenging your body, challenging your mind and challenging your spirit. It gives you tools to enjoy living in the moment."
Next up: 'Carmen'
"I wish more people from the community would come out and see the company," said Ms. Carter, who choreographed this weekend's new 45-minute version of "Carmen," based on the famous Bizet opera. "It's fun, not highbrow or elitist. With live performance, it's never going to be the same each time. The dancers feed off energy of the public. It's collaborative. It's really an outstanding company."
A story of passion, jealousy, obsession and death, "Carmen" is the timeless tale of a feisty gypsy involved in an ill-fated love triangle. Ms. Carter spent 45 hours selecting and mixing the instrumental music for the program, which will be complemented by "Ash to Glass" (the work BQC did in New York) and "Unknown Love," both pieces from its February performances.
"It's really fun," Ms. Dunn said. "I enjoy the very dramatic roles. The experience has been a joy as usual. Deanna's choreography feels really natural."
Even without words sung or spoken, "I feel like if you are doing your job as a dancer, there should be no problem,"she added. "It's all in your face. You can see the emotional change, even though you don't have to say anything."
"I appreciate how much memorization it takes to remember an hour of choreography," Ms. Carter said. "As you're performing it, you have to be aware of where you're traveling. If you're standing in the wrong place, if some snafu happens, you have to be flexible enough in the moment to solve it.
"For me, dancers are supercomputers. It's amazing what we ask them to do -- how challenging, how many things, and they have to look like it's easy."
Going away for the weekend before this program was a challenge, "but part of our job as professional dancers is to be able to switch gears, change and do different roles quickly," Mr. Lyon said. "It was nice to be exposed to the wider dance world."
If you go
-- What: Ballet Quad Cities' “Carmen,” with encore performances of “Unknown Love” and “Ash to Glass.”
-- When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.
-- Where: Capitol Theatre, 330 W. 3rd St., Davenport.
-- Tickets: $22; seniors, $15; children, $10. Available at Capitol box office, 311 Ripley St., thecapdavenport.frontgatetickets.com, or (563) 326-8820.
-- More information: balletquadcities.com.
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