“The Art of Storytelling… through Dance.”
The beloved guiding principle of the Gelsey Kirkland Academy brings to mind the synonymous commitment in the mission statement, “to encourage a renaissance of dramatic storytelling in ballet”. What does this word Renaissance, refer to? One of its definitions explains it as “a movement or period of vigorous artistic and intellectual activity”. Looking into the origins of “renaissance”, we find that it comes from French, and means rebirth, (from Old French renaistre – to be born again, and Latin renasci, to be born). But why is there a need now for “renaissance of dramatic storytelling in ballet”? The Gelsey Kirkland Academy’s vision touches on this question of the future of ballet, as experienced in the current ballet performance world, speaking especially on the subject of abstract and experimental ballets: “Abstract ballet is increasingly seen as diminished or absent of meaning. Many people leave the theater after a ballet performance impressed by technique and athleticism, but disappointed, with their hearts untouched. We advocate a return to story ballet through the collaboration of world-class choreographers and dancers, librettists, dramaturges, composers, musical directors, designers and theatre directors.”
The question then becomes, do we achieve this return to story ballet? How is this art rediscovered? Quite simply, we must return to the story. Employing the skills of critical thinking and analysis, we can discover hidden treasures tucked within the ballet that help us to understand and maintain the continuity of the story being told, and how the characters interrelate within. The responsibility falls to the dancer and artist performing (employing their physical, mental, and dramatic talents) to understand the story they are telling onstage – and not just only their part alone, however small or large it may be. It is not enough to only know a piece of the puzzle in the grand design of a ballet! The delicate and complete construction of so many beloved well-known (and unknown) classical and romantic story ballets is as such, thanks to the hard work and dedication of their composers and choreographers who strove to create a complete and substantial story through its choreography, music, and mime.
The reason why the great and long-treasured ballets such as Giselle, La Sylphide, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and many others have endured is because of the power of the messages carried deep within and conveyed throughout the entire ballet. These vary from so many messages of love, commitment, hope, forgiveness, and often times, a sense of longing for the unattainable through the seeking of these truths. These physical messages, conveyed by mime and the character’s actions and movements become gestures, which when executed with understanding and commitment to what is being presented – keeping with the theme of the story and the moment to moment happenings – carry great weight. The smallest detail can be of the most vital importance, so intricately and thoroughly have these treasured ballets been constructed to carry along the story the ballet is telling from the first scene to the very end.
In our pursuit to more fully understand the importance of dramatic storytelling in ballet, we will be looking into the history and background of several great story ballets and other not as well known ballet works and pieces that the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet will perform in its upcoming spring performance and end of the year showcase, Elusive Dreams, on Friday, May 25th, 2012. As GKA prepares for the show we will take a look into some of the pieces that will be performed, learning how they were affected and shaped in their creation by surrounding historical and societal events, as well as getting a better understanding of different scenes, characters, the mime, and music. Some of these excerpts we will be focusing on the next few weeks include scenes from two beloved and well-known ballets, La Sylphide and Swan Lake. We will also be interviewing students of the Gelsey Kirkland Academy throughout the coming weeks before the performance, taking a peek at behind-the-scenes activity and sharing the dancers’ personal thoughts on their preparations for the show- what they feel about the pieces they are dancing, what they are doing for role/character preparation, challenges they have or what they find most enjoyable, what performing means to them, and more. Stayed tuned over the next few weeks before the performance and get an inside look into the collaborative effort of what goes into making a classical ballet performance and taking it from studio to stage!
Elusive Dreams: Sylphs, Swans & Suitors
Featuring Guest Artist Herman Cornejo, ABT Principle
Peter Norton Symphony Space
Friday, May 25th, 2012
The Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet presents another exciting evening of highlights from the great classical and romantic ballets including: Swan Lake, La Bayadere, and La Sylphide with guest artist Herman Cornejo, in the role of James.
To purchase tickets got to www. symphonyspace.org
For more information visit our website at www.gelseykirklandballet.org
Written by, Rachel Wunder