Ballet Arizona Struggles to Find The Nutcracker Sweet Spot This Holiday Season

Categories: Dance, Review

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Lynn Trimble
Marzipan scene in the Ballet Arizona production of The Nutcracker.
Those attending this year's opening night performance of Ballet Arizona's The Nutcracker, choreographed by artistic director Ib Andersen, must have thought they'd been treated to a two-for-one special.

The ballet we witnessed during the first act bore little resemblance to the ballet we watched during the second -- leaving us eager to ask: Will the real Nutcracker please stand up?

There is no "real" production of The Nutcracker, of course. It's been performed countless ways by all sorts of companies through the years. It premiered in Russia in 1892, choreographed by Marius Petipa, who commissioned Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky to write the music.


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Center Dance Ensemble's Snow Queen Is a Pre-Frozen Winter Tradition in Phoenix

Categories: Dance, Review

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Tim Fuller
Amber Robins (Snow Queen) perform in Center Dance Ensemble's Snow Queen.
Fans of Disney's 2013 film Frozen take note: Center Dance Ensemble has been telling the Hans Christian Andersen tale that inspired the movie for more than 20 years in a production called Snow Queen.

Performances continue through Sunday, December 21, at Herberger Theater Center, where CDE is the resident dance company. It's directed and choreographed by CDE artistic director Frances Smith Cohen. Susan Silverman, who heads the Dance Theater West studio and is related to New Times' Amy Silverman, is assistant director/choreographer.

Frozen explores the divergent lives of two sisters, including one who becomes the icy, isolated Snow Queen. But there's double the sister power in Cohen's Snow Queen, which has sisters representing each of the four seasons.


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Breaking Ground 2015 Artist Lineup Announced

Categories: Dance, News

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Katrina Montgomery
Anna McClellan's casting your imagination to the depths of sleep at Breaking Ground 2014.

Though this winter's dance calendar promises much in the way of tradition and holiday spirit, those looking for more cutting edge offerings have something to look forward to in the spring.

CONDER/dance founder Carley Conder has announced the artist lineup for the eighth annual Breaking Ground contemporary dance festival, slated for March 20 and 21.

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Choreographer Jessica Lang Finds Inspiration in Arizona Landscape

Categories: Dance, Interviews

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Jessica Lang Dance
Performance by Jessica Lang Dance, which performs this month at Mesa Arts Center.
New York choreographer Jessica Lang, artistic director for Jessica Lang Dance founded in 2011, has been spending time on Arizona stages of late. Recently the company performed in Tucson and in Wickenburg, and they'll perform this month at Mesa Arts Center, with a touring program that includes five dance works and one film.

Lang received the 2014 Bessie Award for outstanding emerging choreographer, joining a list of Bessie honorees that includes choreographers Merce Cunningham, Garth Fagan, Bill T. Jones, and Mark Morris. It was Morris, the artistic director for Mark Morris Dance Group, who encouraged Lang to start her own dance company -- and Lang considers him a mentor.


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Ballet Arizona's Dancers' Choice Blends Classic Ballet, Contemporary Choreography

Categories: Dance, Events

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Kenna Draxton
Ballet Arizona dancers rehearsing for Dancers' Choice
Full-length story ballets like Swan Lake are all good and fine, but there's something to be said for mixing it up a bit. Hence the appeal of Dancers' Choice, a program being presented this Friday by Ballet Arizona inside their own Dorrance Theatre.

It's a one-night only affair that raises money for an Artist Relief Fund headed by Ballet Arizona company member Kenna Draxton. The fund provides tuition assistance and financial support to Ballet Arizona dancers in emergency situations.

Draxton's own Storia d'amore campione is one of several pieces included in the program, which includes dancer-choreographed works and excerpts from well-known ballets including La Sylphide, La Sonnambula, and Le Corsaire.

Ballet Arizona performs La Sonnambula, a ballet they describe as "the dark mysterious tale of the beautiful sleepwalker who entrances a poet with tragic consequences," next spring as part of its 2014-15 season.


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The Bolshoi Ballet Comes to Phoenix Art Museum -- Well, Sort Of

Categories: Dance, Events

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Gabriel Saldana
The Bolshoi Ballet comes to Phoenix via a series of televised specials presented by the Phoenix Art Museum.

This fall Phoenix Art Museum will feature something a little bit different from its normal exhibitions: Ballet.

Through a partnership with the Bolshoi Ballet, the Museum will stream live-captured performances by the well-established Russian dance troupe.


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Ballet Arizona's Swan Lake Is a Visual Feast

Categories: Dance, Review

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Alexander Iziliaev
Brian Leonard (Prince Siegfried) and Jillian Barrell (Odette/Odile) perform in Swan Lake with Ballet Arizona.
When the curtain opens on Ballet Arizona's Swan Lake, the audience is transported to a world reminiscent of Grimm's fairy tales. Layers of elaborate trees, looking like a cross between delicate ink drawings and woodcuts used to illustrate storybooks long ago, line each side of the stage.

Scenic design by David Walker, courtesy of Texas Ballet Theater, is one of several elements making this Swan Lake a visual feast. The production features two acts, each with two scenes. For each one, the curtain rises on a new setting: garden palace, forest, ballroom and lakeside.

So too are costumes -- including the Von Rothbart costume designed by Leonor Texidor and Ballet Arizona artistic director Ib Andersen. It's all about the expansive wings -- fluid but strong and rich with deep shades of blue and green.

Von Rothbart is the bad guy in Swan Lake, a classic tale of good and evil that reminds us love can't always have a happy ending. The good guy is Prince Siegfried, who heads into the woods on his 21st birthday, eager to try the crossbow gifted by this mother.

Soon sorcery meets soap opera.


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The Bad and The Beautiful Fuses Contemporary and Modern Dance at Herberger Theater

Categories: Dance, Review

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Tim Fuller
Center Dance Ensemble performs Night of Moonlit Wild at Herberger Dance Center in Phoenix.
We're used to seeing dancing vampires this time of year, thanks to A Vampire Tale choreographed by Lisa Starry for her Scorpius Dance Theatre. Now Valley audiences can also enjoy the première of a new Starry work titled Fade, which is part of The Bad and The Beautiful program for Center Dance Ensemble (CDE) of Phoenix.

Center Dance Ensemble opened its 2014-15 season Thursday, October 23, with a five-piece program that includes four world première dances, including Fade, in addition to the ballet Billy the Kid choreographed by CDE artistic director Frances Smith Cohen.


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Movement Source to Present Danse Macabre at Crescent Ballroom

Categories: Dance, Events

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Paul Markow Photography
The Movement Source Dance Company prepares to unleash its undead side.
The Movement Source Dance Company returns for a second year with The Danse Macabre, an hourlong mash-up of dance, music, and illusion in the spirit of Halloween.

It's being performed at both Willo North Gallery and Crescent Ballroom, thanks to some decidedly undead hustle by Mary Anne Fernandez-Herding, founder and director of the dance group.

"I heard the Crescent Ballroom wanted to offer more than music so I went and talked to them," she says. "They've got nice raked seating so you can see the dance, and it's an intimate venue."


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Scorpius Dance Theatre's A Vampire Tale Keeps the Cult in "Cult Classic"

Categories: Dance, Review

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Scorpius Dance Theatre
A Vampire Tale kicks off its 11th Season.

This is the story of the time I brought my boyfriend to a dance play about vampires during post-season baseball. More specifically, this is a story about the time I peeled the aforementioned man off the couch and dragged him to Scorpius Dance Theatre's A Vampire Tale during longest playoff game in the history of the world, or something.


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